Everything I’ve been feeling judgmental about for the past week or so, in list form:
1. Consulting firms. How I feel about everyone going into consulting after graduation: “You need something to get yourself out of bed in the morning and to work, and I can only get so excited about making old rich white men older, richer and whiter.” via @cblatts.
2. Community service snobs. Every year there’s a surge of discussion (mid-fall, as the Community Involvement Center ramps up their advertising to attract adjusting freshmen) on the notion of service at Rice. The most frequent offenders are those straight out of Urban Immersion (guilty) and/or just accepted to alternative spring break – and then there’s the Standard or Thresher article asking why more people here don’t volunteer, on how we’re limited by the hedges and short-sightedly, selfishly overwhelmed by problem sets.
Those people make me want to punch so many walls. Service is not limited to venturing out to Habitat at 9 a.m. on a Saturday, not to spending one of your few weeks off taking a pseudovacation so you can feel good about yourself for not drinking on a beach. If you want to help people as a university student, do something you’re good at, and preferably something that helps you get better at it so you can do more. Obscure language (or any, really)? Translate at the medical center. Good at design? Volunteer to work on marketing materials for a flailing nonprofit. Engineer? Well, I wouldn’t want to talk myself up, but we’ve got one hell of a global health program. Great example: the tsunami in Japan invigorated disaster invention: robust survival pods, projection systems to broadcast messages in the sky. So cool. And, you know, actually helpful; life-saving, even. I don’t intend to demean more casual means of service, but I think doing some truly impactful public good often requires skill. We’ve got a lot of that here – let’s use it well.
3. Freshmen who are at pub every night. Who ARE you?! What are you up to? You’re taking a second semester senior’s job, and it’s awkward because I don’t know any of you.
4. Excited people who are bad at things. I’m not a huge fan of most Harvard Business Review articles – I generally find them toolish and posturing – but this is spot on. After a month of meetings and workshops and hearing the word “entrepreneur” over and over for design/startup shenanigans – after hearing a wealth of ideas during spring election season – after pulling my hair out over how repulsively inefficient or ineffective so many organizations are at one of the best universities in the nation – I think this is the core of the problem. Passion is not competence. Passion is NOT competence, and we are bad as a society at sorting those two things apart. At the level of the university student, we are also generally not confrontational enough to say no to people who are passionate but incompetent. That last bit is fixed to some extent when we graduate and hit business, because money is on the line (and I imagine everyone has more free time). I dream of an instant fix to this problem that doesn’t involve uncomfortable conversations. For now I’ll settle for blatantly texting during bad meetings, and maybe working hard at everything else.