By Shea Stevenson
After a year as a student at Brooklyn College, I’m setting out for greener pastures, or the hope of finding them, because this cannot be it. Having started here during the first in-person semester since the start of the pandemic in mid-2020, I’ve seen and held a fair share of optimism with regard to a re-emergence of the things that I’m told BC used to have. All that optimism has been in reaction to the underfunding-malaise that hangs over the student body. I haven’t given up on recovery; I like this school. But I’d rather watch it from some miles away. These are some of the things that are keeping me away.
As has been mentioned multiple times by now in this opinions section, there’s no food on campus. Vending machines are different. $15 Belgian waffle trucks are different. We don’t have a cafeteria, and it’s almost winter. I have no doubt that the administration is trying, but that reflects pretty poorly on how much power they have. This is, it’s worth keeping in mind, not the case with a vast majority of college campuses.
When my friends and I started planning our BC schedules for the spring, we were each taken aback by how many classes were listed but are not happening next year. It only tells you once you try to put them on your schedule, which both adds to the annoyance and obscures exactly how many classes are cardboard facades and how many are real possible courses. The roster of classes has been filled out as the registration date creeps up, now looking decent with only days to go. Regardless, the sight of it (again, this isn’t the case with the other CUNYs) was enough for me to change my mind about making a BC schedule at all.
This school is obsessed with locked doors: the iron gate between Whitehead and Boylan (perfectly fine, chained up since the pandemic), the shock barriers rolled down in the cafeteria, the gates still up on the upper floors of the library for no discernable purpose (the signs say to walk around them, as there’s another door right next to them. Why? Open this one, too. Or are they all broken?). Hopefully, the latter will be solved quietly between my writing this and you reading it, but it happened for at least a week. The cops and security guards, when they are scared of the students at protests, sometimes decide to block the alternative exits to the street, filtering you through the main gates. These things add up, this sense that the campus is literally shrinking and bending its course to impede you.
On a broader scale, it is worth remembering that this school has been beset by literal espionage from the U.S. government at least twice. Once: when it was revealed that former BC dean, Harry D. Gideonse, was a 1950s MacCarthy era FBI informant, according to Columbia Journalism Review; and twice: when an NYPD agent went undercover to infiltrate Muslim student organizations from 2011-2015, per Vice.
It can be assumed that this college likes cops, and we can see it when they swarm for each pro-Palestinian protest. When their helicopters circle campus, and when, as a passerby on Nov. 9 as the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Club held a walkout, you too may have seen the cops hanging out and chatting near the campus gates, already outnumbering the protesters whom they kept behind an iron fence, while the waffle truck was sitting without any patrons, a stone’s throw away.
There is an extent to which this campus has a fascination with solving its financial problems by gutting itself and selling the organs. The music students will be charged for keeping their instruments at the college, and the cafeteria will be replaced (for however long) with overpriced mercenary food trucks. It seems like every club is keeping its head above water only with considerable effort and lots of begging.
This is not to say that the faculty is bad; in fact, quite the opposite. I love my professors, and I think we have a great English Department (I can’t speak much about the others). I love the events they put on. But sometimes, they mention that the ceiling has caved in on them once or twice. They are failed by the campus and its tangles of apathy and nonsense.
It is remarkable the sorts of things you can get used to when, at least, you’re getting your credits. And as I see it, the trend is unfortunately downwards. The students deserve better most of all. It’s not like this everywhere, not even at other CUNYs.
I’m going someplace with a dining hall – maybe even more than one! Wouldn’t that be nice? I hope Brooklyn College has a Grinch-like change of heart and becomes a utopian super-campus in the next couple of years. Unfortunately, we are transient in college as in life, and you deserve a good college right now, not just as you go. Good luck, everybody.