University students should refrain from using language which creates homogenizing stereotypes
I consider most college vernacular such as "pre-gaming" or "townee" rather benign, but there is one category of phrases which \ninfuriates me to no end. Some students occasionally feel the need to comment on particular situations by adding, "That's such a UVA thing to do." I have typically found correlation between the use of phrases similar to this and pretentious actions, such as ostentatiously affixing Vineyard Vines whales to one's computer. Although this trend exists, I have yet to find causation, or reason why.
Phrases such as "only at UVA would this happen," or "typical UVA student" are not intended to carry negative connotations, and in most cases do not. What phrases like these do carry, however, is the implication of homogeneity among all University students. In addition, although superficially innocent, these phrases tend to imply elitism as a custom.
One such example is the situation in which one enumerates to friends the activities one is involved with around Grounds, only to be assaulted by the summary, "Only at UVA would someone try to be such an over-achieving individual."
I am certainly not bent on stopping school spirit - the University is a fine place - but I do urge students to cease using the phrases which hint of a homogeneity at the University. I know there is not any one individual at the University who embodies all of the qualities that make up a "typical UVA student." As such, when someone describes something I do as "such a UVA thing," I wince because I think about how the goal of diversity which we strive to fulfill is marginalized by a one-size-fits-all mold. Each of our individualities is eradicated by such statements, which should bother you too.
My other qualm is that the use of these phrases can seem pretentious to those who are not part of the community. By declaring, "Only at UVA would this happen," we are subtly excluding outsiders from having the right to claim ownership in whatever "this" is. In addition, the reference is typically false; in regards to dressing up for football games, I have overheard that this is something exclusive to the University. This is incorrect because there are other schools that dress "guys in ties, girls in pearls," such as the University of Georgia and University of Alabama.
Suppose, instead, you were to replace "UVA" with a reference to yourself. I proffer that others would view you as ignorant or pompous, or as having lived your whole life in a well-insulated bubble, because you would be implying that nobody else does what you do. Likewise, phrases implying the University has such absolute characteristics give off a sense of ignorance rivaling such self-obsession.
From the perspective of prospective students, this vernacular can tarnish the experience of a visit to Grounds. At an official visit to Williams College for a weekend, I became so fed up with hearing about all of the things that supposedly happen "only at Williams," that I was turned off by the impression of a well-forested bubble. Even as one of the highest ranked liberal arts colleges in the United States, I knew that these apparently exclusive "Williams" traits were customary at many other universities I had toured.
I have heard English teachers say, "Show, not tell," because a story left open to interpretation is much more convincing than morals shoved in one's face. Rather than packaging up a situation by describing it as "typical," more meaning can be lifted by allowing visitors to glean their own interpretations. It is our duty to other students of the University, past, present and future to represent this place as accurately as possible. I implore you to cancel all usage of elitist, narrow-minded and seemingly innocuous vernacular, and encourage friends to do the same.
Andrew Kouri's column appears biweekly Thursdays in The Cavalier Daily. \nHe can be reached at \email@example.com.