UMBC is not a typical college. It is exemplified by innumerable, extraordinary qualities that turn it bright red in the blue sea of higher education in the western world. However, UMBC does have some issues providing an environment that fosters students’ independence.
According to current pop culture, going to college is a golden gate in which students are undoubtedly exposed to riches beyond their dreams. The 1978 film on college party life, “Animal House,” may have been entertaining, but it did not employ a narrative of realism. People think that college is going to be this grand experience, but it can really be one of the loneliest times in a person’s life.
Even with that loneliness acknowledged, we are also aware that a university becoming a nerd desert every weekend cannot be good for student body morale. And while it is often unhelpful to judge a situation based on what is perceived as common, the environment that UMBC transforms to on the weekends is not normal.
Most western colleges in 2016 are not “Animal House.” But they also are not UMBC. Operating on what is essentially a five-day-week campus schedule cannot be good for building a strong campus community. Accordingly, it erodes the bonds that current students feel with the campus as a whole.
Stephanie Renich, a sophmore information systems major, states, “I spend a lot of weekends on campus. When I do, there isn’t a whole lot to do besides stay in my room and play video games or find somewhere to go off-campus for the day and then come back and play video games. There’s also limited choices when it comes to food, since the dining hall has limited hours and no late night on weekends… the campus feels like a ghost town, especially in the winter when no one wants to be outside.”
If we want our Retrievers to feel at home away from home, then we need to provide them with the right environment. Anyone who has ever been present on a weekend here on campus can testify to not just the lack of “things to do,” but most importantly the lack of survival means.
UMBC is pretty isolated from resources. The restaurants and stores on campus are vital for students. If campus businesses are not accessible to students who need them, then students should not be expected to stay on campus when their household is likely not that far of a drive.
On the other hand, with UMBC students going home every weekend, the campus should not be expected to maintain its normal restaurant hours. If UMBC wants to create an active campus community, one that can support its current Retrievers and work to attract new ones, then it needs to push to create an environment where students can thrive on the weekends.
Waiting for college kids to find their own means of food and entertainment on the weekend is not conducive to creating a lively student body. Unless UMBC takes initiative to make more dining options available during the weekend and sponsor more on-campus activities, then this campus will remain a weekend ghost town.