Friday, December 21, 2012

The downside to the college bubble

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 3:52 PM

The College Blog is a partnership between City Newspaper and Rochester Institute of Technology Assistant Professor Dr. HindaMandell. Each week City will post blog posts from several of Mandell's journalism students, who will write about what concerns Rochester-area college students, both on and off campus.

As RIT students know, the campus itself is like its own little community. Everything that students need is all within the 1,300 acres that make up the campus.

"I think that we're in this little college bubble," said second-year student Caitlin Hoey.

With more than 20 dining locations, and shops ranging from an electronic store to a hair salon, students have access to everything that they could ever need.

The only thing that's lacking at RIT? The chance to get off campus regularly.

As someone who grew up in Washington state, a place where it was not only easy but common to take the bus 25 miles from Everett to Seattle, I've become accustomed to good public transportation. When I came to RIT, I was expecting public transportation to be equal to that of New York City's public transportation. Boy, was I wrong.

Twice have I taken a bus from RIT to Barnes and Noble in Henrietta (a 45-second commute) in which the bus driver stopped the bus so he could take a "15-minute break." Both times this little "break" turned into more than 20 minutes, sitting in a cold bus, with about 30 other people fiddling their thumbs.

"I appreciate that RIT has a free public transportation system, however there were many times I had to call friends or walk to get home because it was more convenient for me than the bus," said former RIT student Brittany Burke. "The reason I never moved off campus was because of lack of transportation to and from campus at all hours."

This lack of transportation is common for RIT students, especially younger students who may not have access to a car on campus.

"I don't get off campus very often," said Colleen Cambier, a freshman at RIT. "When I do I usually just get rides from friends or [sorority] sisters or my boyfriend."

Cambier said that she usually doesn't take the bus when she does go off campus.

"It's not always on time and the schedule is very confusing," she added.

RIT may have everything that a student could ever need right within its bubble, but college students can't - and shouldn't - stay in that bubble forever.

"I can't tell you how many times I have been to Jo-Ann Fabric, the mall, and Wegmans. Not because I needed anything, but because I needed an escape from RIT's campus," said Burke. "Sometimes you need to get away from that [campus] environment."

Photo by Jake Jones

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Gimme pizza: considering the student diet

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 3:43 PM

The College Blog is a partnership between City Newspaper and Rochester Institute of Technology Assistant Professor Dr. Hinda Mandell. Each week City will post blogs from several of Mandell’s journalism students, who will write about what concerns Rochester-area college students, both on and off campus.

When new college students first move into their on-campus housing, one new responsibility sets in above all others: control over their diet.

No one is there to make dinner for them. No one is there to tell them they shouldn't eat pizza three times a day, or that each meal doesn't need to end with ice cream.

On top of this, students are granted a meal plan. This is essentially a large sum of money usable only at on-campus restaurants and cafeterias.

Naturally, it's not uncommon for students to go wild at first. With no voice of reason, it can be hard for a student to turn down tasty fried foods when they are presented to them. Salad or a vegetable side might be completely glanced over in favor of French fries. Or to make room in a take-out box for a stack of cookies.

All too soon, these seemingly wonderful choices come back to bite the student. And the fabled "freshman 15" is suddenly a reality, rather than a joke.

It's no fault of the colleges. As many students can testify, there are a number of healthy options. Many cafeterias are equipped with vegetarian bars and salad bars. Pasta, sandwiches, and other non-fried dishes are served. These healthier options are available - in plain sight - in the cafeteria.

And we can't blame student proclivity toward junk on a lack of food variety. The Gracie's cafeteria at RIT, the main stop for hungry freshmen on campus, has two sections that change their menu day to day. They range from Mexican cuisine and Southern comfort food, to grills and sushi bars. Options abound. But for some, it's easier to grab a couple slices of pizza and a soda than to piece together a healthier meal.

Speaking on a personal note, during my freshman year there was a point where I was eating pizza four nights a week -- sometimes more. It wasn't healthy, but it was all that was open when I got out of class at night. It was quick and convenient.

When it comes down to it, students just need to take some responsibility for their diets. They need to make time in their schedules for meals, and they need to eat more healthily.

But as time passes, most students learn how to take care of themselves and they fix their mistakes. It's part of the college experience. And it's part of growing up.

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