Gates: Students should step up event attendance


Matt Gates, Columnist

We’ve heard it a million times before: students come from all over the world to get a Northwestern education. But an education goes far beyond a degree. College is meant to be about expanding our knowledge and experience beyond the small worlds most of us grew up in. NU students should value the educational opportunities afforded to them outside the classroom as much as they value those offered inside the classroom.

The wide variety of flyers that cover the sidewalks across campus are a physical testament to the depth and breadth of events offered on campus. From theatrical performances to concerts to sporting events to lectures, this school has it all. But not all events at NU are as widely attended as they could be.

NU has a highly regarded theater department that regularly puts on performances for the community. Hollywood Reporter ranked the university’s theater department among the top 25 in the entire world. The department puts on unique productions. A notable example is that each winter, NU students write, direct, act in and produce the largest student-produced musical in the nation, called the Dolphin Show. With this rare event within a square mile, why not take the time to go see it?

Meanwhile, campus groups bring in experts to lecture on a wide variety of topics. Speakers can inspire students to get involved in areas they would never have thought to be of interest. NU students who don’t go to such events are missing out on a rare opportunity. Students should take advantage of these rare opportunities during their short four years here.

For instance, the College Democrats brought former Congressman Barney Frank to campus as its fall speaker. Frank lectured about his political career and growing up gay and Jewish in less tolerant times. Meanwhile, former Senator Richard Lugar came to NU on November 13 to discuss the current state of United States foreign policy. Although the lecture was attended by just more than 125 students, NU boasts a student body of about 8,000 highly motivated and intellectually curious students. Where were the other 7,800? These four years at NU might be the last that students have such easy access to speakers of such great importance.

Although some performances and speeches are well-attended, not all are. From talking to my friends at other schools, I can tell that this is not a problem unique to NU. However, it is understandable why this would occur at college, especially a college like NU. Students are extremely busy, especially on weeknights when many of these events occur. We rush to finish our chemistry lab within the allotted 24 hours instead of going to see a speaker. We cram for our never-ending string of midterms instead of going to see our friends’ show. We put the finishing touches on that essay instead of going to a concert.

It is also easy to see that we have far too much to choose from. NU boasts the athletics of a Big Ten school, the academics of a highly selective university, and top programs in fields like theater to boot. We often attend sporting events on the weekends, A&O Blowout attracted a large crowd and some large fundraisers like Dance Marathon draw a massive chunk of the student body. However, we could pay more attention to theatrical productions, concerts and speakers.

Attending a diverse array of events will give students the best education at Northwestern, inside and outside of the classroom. I know I do not always abide by this rule, but I think it is one that strengthens the college experience. An NU education should go beyond just a degree: students should take the opportunity to learn as much as possible from their peers during their time here.

Matt Gates is a Weinberg freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].