A virus of discontent is spreading.
Watch out, it might get you, too. Actually, you might have already been gotten.
For most of us, SCAD Atlanta is a great place to learn and practice our craft. Students come here to grow, experiment, be challenged and excel.
But if you listen closely, you’ll hear it. Pay attention before class, after class, around the Hub or in the library. Too many of us have found comfort in the exercise of complaining. We’re all guilty of it from time to time. Naturally, I feel the need to complain about it.
Does any of this sound familiar? Professor so-and-so did this. The facilities aren’t that. The guest speakers aren’t good/popular/entertaining enough. MySCAD has a poor layout. The shuttle driver has an attitude problem. And so on.
Are we becoming a university of demanding, victimized Veruca Salt-types? I’m afraid the answer is yes.
The Oxford American Dictionary states that the verb “to complain” means to “express dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or an event.” Note that the definition doesn’t say anything about achieving a solution as a result.
So why do we do it? What do we get out of crying a river that yields no reward? Some scientists say it’s because we’re truly unhappy. Others say we complain about the little things to unburden ourselves, which in turn, makes us happy. Did you get that? By dumping on everyone else, we avail ourselves to a more positive way of life. I think that’s sad. And yet, I go on.
Here’s the thing. College is not just a place in terms of a brick-and-mortar building. It’s also a period of life when we define who we are as individuals. This time of growth and development is spent not just learning how to be an artist, but learning how to communicate. Students quickly discover that it doesn’t work to talk to your roommate the way you talk to your little brother. Your professor is not your mother, and has probably told you so. Although the SCAD staff is here to serve the student community, they are not servants. Shocking, I know.
Lack of exposure is part of the problem. At SCAD, we have it really good. Don’t think so? The next time you want to complain about the facilities, take a weekend to visit some other colleges. Everything we have isn’t perfect, but there’s a reason jaws drop when walking through the different buildings. Sure, that same Mac might be having problems (again). But then, pick another Mac! Or, could you email Tech Support? Still no response? Ask your professor to follow up. If that doesn’t solve the problem, put it in your course evaluations at the end of the quarter (they do count), and mention it to your dean.
By the way, just consider that knowing who your dean is, is a real perk of being at SCAD Atlanta. The notion that our deans recognize our names and work conveys the close-knit relationships that are available to us. That is not common at most universities. But no one is going to chase you down. If you want something, you have to go get it.
Which brings us to the issue of guest speakers. Let’s just get something straight — the designers, photographers, writers and other art professionals who come to SCAD aren’t doing it for themselves.
Sure, they receive an honorarium for their visit — but their time here is not for their own satisfaction. They come here to be a resource for us. After paying $50,000 a year to train as an artist and have access to such opportunities, why wouldn’t you want to meet people who’ve had some success doing what you want to do? If you don’t bother showing up to these events, consider you might be the reason their visit didn’t bowl you over.
It may be hard at first. Listening to an illustrator who works for a magazine you don’t read, or a designer who makes clothes in a style you can’t stand, might seem pointless. But that’s exactly why we should care. There is always something to learn from people who came before us, for better or worse. I try to lean towards the better.
Take, for example, last quarter, when the famed mystery writer Martha Grimes visited as part of the Ivy Hall Writers Series. I have no interest in writing mysteries, and had never read Grimes’ work. But I prepared for and went to the roundtable discussion, because this woman has been writing professionally for over 25 years. Mystery fan or not, she’s got something I don’t have — experience and international success. I sat my butt in the chair and attentively listened to what she had to say. My life didn’t end. And I actually learned a few things.
And as far as the professors, shouldn’t we cut them a little slack? Sure, some of them are more organized than others. But they’re people, too. They have artistic dreams and families, bills to pay and heads that hurt after hearing all of our complaints. When it’s time to fill out the course evaluations, think about what it would have been like to teach yourself.
Letting off some steam is fine. We all need to vent. As of this writing, it’s working pretty well for me. Still, some of us may be doing more than our fair share.
One way or another, SCAD students invest a great deal by attending this school. Our money, our time, our effort — it matters. We have so many resources available to us — this is an incredible learning environment. But we have to do our part to get the most out of being here. When things fall short, there are avenues to go about addressing it. We must keep in mind, empty complaining won’t get us far, here or out there. And lest we forget, well — just remember how things fared for Veruca.
Contact Osayi Endolyn, editor-in-chief.