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Don’t bench creativity

Photo: Tom Tian/The Chicago Maroon

I don’t see what’s wrong with building a bench.

As a student at the University of Chicago, I expected my class to contribute money toward a concrete legacy to leave as our class gift—Some firm structure, emblazoned with “Class of 2008,” so that for years to come, U of C students could wonder what kind of wild and crazy exploits were being commemorated by a bench.

Unfortunately, according to the Senior Class Gift Committee, our contribution will instead be used to help pay for tuition and student programs for future students. Can something so boring even be called a gift? When asked why they’re not using the money to, I don’t know, build something awesome, the typical reply from the anti-joy bureaucrats on the Committee is that the last several times a class has built some sort of structure with its money, said structures have failed to be useful.

Is this the U of C spirit? Fail a few times and then give up? And who says that the previous gifts weren’t actually successes? The swing was pretty cool until it broke, and that clock in front of the Reg serves as a landmark. Sure, it occasionally gives the “wrong” time, but that’s what watches are for. If just one person I don’t like has been late for something because of the Regenstein clock, then I say it was a worthy expenditure.

The issue is not that previous classes have built things that don’t work; the real problem facing us seems to be a lack of inspiration. Why don’t we dare to dream again? I would happily give the recommended $20.08 if it went to something fantastic. And so, Senior Class Gift Committee, I humbly offer a few suggestions for what our gift should be:

Another bench. Adam Niermann, assistant director of youth giving at the University, declared, “You know, we have enough benches…but they don’t really support students directly.” First of all, Mr. Niermann, benches are just about the only things that do support students directly (thank you, thank you).

Sure, we have a lot of benches on campus, but look at the good they do: The C-Bench (courtesy of the class of 1903) is an unabashed success, providing a natural habitat for all of the pretentiously dressed, cigarette-smoking “hipsters” who are always inexplicably in front of Cobb. They get a suitably “cool” place to hang out, and I don’t have to interact with them. Think of all the other benches we could add to remove bothersome University of Chicago students from our sight: A large bench in front of the Reg could support 10 to 15 smokers, preventing them from standing on the steps and casting their miserable gazes at us non-smokers as we walk through their haze.

Robot employees to staff Cobb coffee shop. Imagine, if you will, a world in which Cobb coffee shop employees acknowledge your existence, and possibly even smile. Class of 2008, after four years of indifferent, disaffected Cobb employees handing us our coffee, we must realize that such a world is impossible without programmable robots. Not only would robotic employees be polite and express a personality other than that of “ironic, apathetic college student,” but they would also be pleasantly shiny and last for decades to come. Also, with the money the University would save on wages, it could purchase some recognizable music to play in the coffee shop, freeing us from listening to yet another obscure 1980s Czech punk band as we get our morning caffeine fix.

Mirrors in every classroom. Just picture it: A nervous first-year one year hence walks into Cobb 204, ready for his first day of Sosc. The room is dazzling and bright, as it is lined wall to wall with mirrors. This would perhaps be the most fitting gift for the student body. After decades of pretending to speak to advance the conversation or say something worthwhile, the University of Chicago student could finally make eye contact with his intended audience: himself.

If you want my $20.08, Senior Class Gift Committee, you’re going to have to try a bit harder. Drop this boring nonsense of helping future generations with financial aid, and come up with something that will inform the world that, whatever our faults may have been, the Class of 2008 was pretty cool. And really, consider building a few benches. Sometimes I want to sit outside when it’s nice out, and I can never find an empty seat.

Zack Hill, a member of the Maroon Editorial Board, is a fourth-year in the College majoring in NELC. His regular column appears on alternate Fridays.

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