Forum

#CarnegieState carries harmful, elitist implications

Credit: Rebecca Enright/Art Editor Credit: Rebecca Enright/Art Editor

When Carnival Weekend rolls around every April, some typical things show up on campus: the fair machinery, the booth construction area, and the white tents on the Cut for alumni. As students, we hope for some blue sky and spring weather, but with two days off and a four-day weekend, not even rain or cold temperatures can truly dampen our spirits.

Each year when Carnival is here, the campus is busier with alumni and Pittsburgh residents coming to campus for events and activities, but more students also come out of their hidden places, minds away from midterms and papers and projects for a couple of days. It’s a wonderful thing, to be able to destress and enjoy ourselves.

When we scroll through our Instagram feeds, we see photos of our classmates having fun, checking out the booths, and partying somewhere. But accompanying many of these posts is the hashtag #CarnegieState. Essentially, the hashtag represents the idea that Carnival is the one time during the year Carnegie Mellon students can go all out and party, that the campus becomes cool for a couple of days, and students can “have fun like a state school.”

It's great that Carnival is a time when students get to take a break, have some fun in the (hopefully) nice weather and enjoy themselves before the final stretch of the semester hits and everyone becomes completely consumed by school. Alumni return, parents make a visit, or students might travel for a couple of days. Everyone is thankful for Carnival — sometimes it feels like the recharging period we all need. And if part of that is going to parties and living it up with friends, more power to you.

But #CarnegieState (or the extended version, #CarnegieStateUniversity) is concerning in what it implies about how Carnegie Mellon students view themselves and other schools. This is not just confined to Carnival; it is a toxic attitude that says quite a lot about us as a student body. We are saying that for a couple of days, during which we don’t have classes and we can party and have fun and enjoy ourselves, we become an "inferior" state school.

First, it is very sad that there is a constant atmosphere of stoic suffering at Carnegie Mellon. It’s all work, work, work, paired with piles of stress and expectations. Yes, Carnegie Mellon is a great university that challenges its students, but it’s also just another school. What we do is our choice — what we study, what classes we take (except for GenEds, of course), who ourfriends are, what clubs and extracurriculars we do, that we’re here in the first place — and what we do should build us up, not bring us down. We shouldn’t feel that Carnival is the only time we can be a school with fun and cheer.

However, the more dangerous aspect of #CarnegieState is what it says about our views on other schools. Yes, Carnegie Mellon is a great university that we should be proud to attend, but that should never allow us to look down on other universities, and like it or not, intentional or not, that is what the hashtag implies.

If Carnegie Mellon “becomes” a state school during Carnival, it implies that state schools are all about party and play, with no classes, responsibilities, or expectations. State schools do generally have more parties and more opportunities to do different things because they are different schools. They are larger, with larger student bodies, which means more diversity in its students overall (something Carnegie Mellon could use).

#CarnegieState in this context is an extension of a common on-campus perception regarding other schools, a sense of elitism and entitlement. We make jokes about our hefty tuition, but there are individuals who see that high price tag as a badge of honor, implying that they are better than others for going to an expensive school. Beyond that however is simply the idea that we are better than other schools, especially state schools. Pitt, our next-door neighbor, might be lower on the U.S. News & World Report’s National Universities list, but that in no way means we’re a better school. They have a stellar medical program, something Carnegie Mellon lacks, and also an upper hand in variety in the humanities.

Even if we are placing a college's value solely on such rankings (which we shouldn't), we aren’t better than some state schools. The University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Berkeley are ranked at #19 and #22, respectively, which is higher than Carnegie Mellon at #25 (tied with University of Virginia). The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor isn’t far behind at #27. So if we’re getting technical about it, as Carnegie Mellon students are wont to do, we’re not better than public institutions in the U.S. These schools serve as a base for essential publically funded research. Additionally, they are part of the idea that high-quality education should be open and attainable to all, even as they are often unappreciated and underfunded.

Interestingly, this sense of entitlement is also paired with some wishful dreaming, that going to a state school would’ve been so much more fun. In a nutshell: people look down on others going to state schools, but secretly wish they had the same experiences. And maybe it would be; they tend to have more of everything, especially compared to our small school If you genuinely feel that way, then let’s pose this question: why are you here? Why are you at Carnegie Mellon? Take that answer and hold onto it. Have your fun and enjoy yourselves during Carnival, but let’s leave #CarnegieState in the past.