The Mark Side of UCSB: Activism Is for the True of Heart

Thursday, January 25, 2007

UCSB is one of the most politically active campuses in the state. However, I see some of the activists we have on campus and can’t help but suspect them of having ulterior motives. The specific organization is irrelevant because it can apply to any of them.

While there are some activists who truly care for the causes they have invested in, others use these issues to further inflate their egos. These characters are the ones who are simply motivated by their desire to garner attention and publicity for themselves. These people not only want to be the hero who saves the day, they also want everyone else to acknowledge it.

I despise these political mongers and attention whores, not just for their hypocrisy, but for the damage that they bring upon these important social issues. These phonies and their continued presence within an organization devalue the cause of other organizations. These people shift the focus away from an ideal so they can gain notoriety. Some are even willing to go so far as to martyr themselves to achieve their goals. But what happens when these people don’t get their Tiananmen Square or their Kent State? Will they continue pursuing their cause with the same passion or give up on it completely? Is a cause any less relevant just because it doesn’t lead to some climactic battle between good and evil?

This phenomenon isn’t limited to the local level. It can be extrapolated to a wide range of situations. Think about the Bush administration’s continued insistence on military presence in Iraq, or even Madonna’s attempt to adopt a Malawian child. Are their motives genuine or have they solely taken up their causes because they desire praise?

To be honest, I myself am not currently involved with any activist groups because I don’t believe that I have the true concern necessary to resolve some of our society’s most pressing issues. Still, I don’t think that makes me a selfish, uncaring villain. On the contrary, it means that I’m trying to remain genuine to myself and to others.

The closest I’ve come to becoming an activist was when I signed up to be an International Student Volunteer. I did so because I wanted to tour Australia rather than help conserve the indigenous wildlife. I know I wasn’t the only person, since I talked to several other volunteers who felt the same way. I came back feeling the same way about wildlife conservation as I did prior to my stay in Australia. However, that’s not to say I didn’t come away with a different outlook on life. What differentiates me from the phonies I’m writing about is that I was completely aware of my stance and didn’t pretend to feel otherwise. Many phonies have been active for so long that they are in denial of their insincerity.

I am not going to point out the specific people I suspect of being dishonest. I do hope, however, that the activists reading this column can take a moment to determine their exact motivations.

Take this insightful quote I got from “Futurama”: “If you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.” If you feel comfortable with not being recognized for your actions, if you don’t care that your cause isn’t tomorrow’s headline and if you don’t mind being on the losing side of a fight, then perhaps there’s still hope for you.

During his trip, Daily Nexus columnist Mark Batalla learned that his previous notions of Australia, as molded by early ’90s Nickelodeon programming, were untrue: Koalas do not, in fact, have magical powers.

Art Dump

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Trying some new angles, textures and such. I'm pretty satisfied with the results.

The Mark Side of UCSB: GPA Woes Are Not Allowed in College

Friday, January 12, 2007

A student goes home and shows an A- grade to his father.

“Are you proud of me?”

“Very proud,” the father responds. “Minus.”

What this absurd example shows, aside from the comedic writing of "Arrested Development," is that people tend to give grades far more clout than they deserve. Many of us grew up on this type of conditioning. As adults, it’s important to realize just how little grades mean in relation to the rest of our lives.

It’s understandable when it comes from ignorant freshmen. They’re still trying to get over the traumatic events of high school and college admissions. But once they’re in, their high school grade point average becomes meaningless. College students therefore need to find another reason to justify getting straight A’s. Some literally need them to qualify for financial aid. Same goes for those hoping to get into graduate school. As for the rest of us, all we need to worry about is academic probation and disqualification. It certainly takes a good amount of slacking to find oneself in danger of these two conditions.

Once you eliminate mandatory reasons like qualification criteria, grades become another excuse for people to brag or whine about themselves. Grades certainly aren’t very accurate in gauging a person’s level of knowledge. There are so many variables that affect academic scoring, such as assignment percentages, grading curves and uptight professors and teaching assistants. A philosophy major who carefully exploits the university’s pass/no pass system can end up with a higher GPA than an electrical engineer. But that’s not to say the philosophy student is any better at academics than the engineer.

Don’t get me wrong; I still give praise to those who plan on graduating with honors and such. So long as these people do so in order to gain some sense of accomplishment from college. I respect that type of passion. But it’s a different story once they start comparing themselves to the rest of their peers. Nobody cares and nobody should, considering that one honor student’s accomplishment has no bearing on the next student’s.

It’s even more unfortunate when UCSB graduates fail to realize the meaninglessness of grades after college. I know of at least one person who resents her coming to this university because her academic record became tarnished by anything less than a B. On top of that, she actually goes so far as to blame her transition from “honor to dis-honor” student on the Isla Vista lifestyle. Even if I.V. is the 24-hour party zone of her exaggerated imagination, many students wisely choose to travel to the library and other study hotspots when their residential environments become too hectic.

There’s nothing more pathetic than a student trying to shift the blame for their academic performance away from themselves. Missing a final because you drank too much the night before or because another car is blocking your driveway isn’t much of an excuse. I’ve shown up an hour late to a final with barely a clue about the exam’s contents and still scraped by enough to pass the class. I didn’t care about the class, but I cared enough not to fail it. The grades a person receives rely solely on their willingness to earn them.

So take a moment to figure out your post-college plans. What exactly do grades mean to you now, and what will they mean in your future? You’ll find it easier to enjoy taking classes in a university atmosphere. At the very least, you’ll quit obsessing over arbitrary scores that have little bearing on your possible career.

Daily Nexus columnist Mark Batalla will make a quirky pun at his graduation regarding his diploma and a copy of 1994’s “With Honors.”