Bill Gates? donation has undoubtedly been covered thoroughly by campus and local publications, but it has also inspired a private reaction that isn?t receiving much coverage at all. Admit it, you?ve speculated about what you?d do with $20 million. This simple act of daydreaming should not be easily dismissed.
At first, we might think about how much fun we could have with that money to spend on ourselves. Trips to exotic countries, fancy cars, gigantic mansions replete with servants. We might envision some futuristic and unrealistic goals: jet packs, time travel, you name it. While this kind of daydreaming can be a good release, I?d like to focus on another kind of wishing.
How would you spend 20 million dollars to make Carnegie Mellon a better place? This question is significantly different from the idle wishing that we practice when we dream of jet packs.
When we begin to wonder how we could use this donation, we are beginning to practice a specific kind of daydreaming. While time travel might belong to the world of the fantastic, thinking of ways that we could improve our campus belongs to what German social theorist Ernst Bloch called the ?objectively real possibility.?
Bloch felt that you could divide wishful thinking into a number of categories. To him, the most important were those he felt were objectively possible. Bloch was less interested in daydreams in which world peace was magically obtained and much more interested in thinking about concrete ways to attain world peace.
Thinking how we could objectively improve the world around us is a truly radical act. Without this constant questioning, we would never know what a better world would look like. We ought to be constantly wondering about what changes are possible.
Grounding our daydreaming in the objective reality of the present gives us the ability to know what we?re fighting for.
So how would you spend $20 million to make this campus a better place? Would you put it toward financial aid to reduce the debt that many students are shouldering? Would you put it toward renovating and improving our housing facilities so that all first-years could live on campus? Would you endow chairs for renowned faculty members in areas in which you feel Carnegie Mellon could be more prominent? Would you build us luxurious playing fields for our varsity, club, and intramural sports teams?
All of these ideas and more are objectively possible. In fact, there are many ways that money could be invested into CMU to make it a better place. The challenge then is prioritizing, thinking of the most crucial improvements we could make to change the CMU experience.
Furthermore, we needn?t limit ourselves to thinking about how we could use donations. Imagine what this University could be with a different college structure, with a different approach to interdisciplinarity, with different distribution requirements, with different requirements on course loads. Imagine if the stadium were packed with rabid fans every week; if students passionately debated issues.
We could sit idly dreaming what it would b e like if CMU were located in the South Pacific and the weather were always beautiful; if Pittsburgh had all the amenities of New York City; or if we had jet packs. Yet when we wonder about making small incremental changes and how we could improve this school through ?objectively real possible? daydreams, we are asking the kind of questions that lead to action. We invite you to daydream out loud every week in The Tartan. Share your ideas for a better CMU with us.