Every morning I wake up and gaze out my dormitory window at a gorgeous campus with modern buildings surrounded by clean fields of clean-cut grass. The only thing that might appear odd to any average SU student about this sight is that this beautiful looking campus was not their own. As I explore the surrounding campus near my dorm, Sadler Hall, there are several observations made which helped to determine the areas of “trivial conflict” and areas which seem to reflect social norms.
One major observation made in this activity was the small community known as ESF (College of Environmental Science and Forestry). Several subtle and some obvious observations were looked at to determine how this area fit in with our community. There are several vital facts one should know about SUNY ESF. The college is located directly behind the Carrier Dome and is a separate school from Syracuse University. My dorm, Sadler Hall, is one of the few buildings which surround ESF near the edge of campus.
In order to drive into ESF, or even Sadler Hall, there is a security shack where you must first check in with a guard. The ESF campus is strikingly different from the SU campus in that the majority of the buildings are very modern and the community as a whole is much smaller. The campus houses no dormitories or eating quarters, so all ESF students share these facilities with SU students. While doing further research I also found that most of the other recreational services are shared with SU students.
One of the major preconceptions of ESF students is that they are all tie-die wearing, tree hugging, pot-smoking hippies. When first realizing that ESF existed, I found myself picking out in my head the ESF students from the SU students. The student diversity at ESF is in fact immense for having such a small community of students. Matt Renkas, my RA and an ESF student, informed me of what it is like being an ESF student and living on SU campus. ESF and SU both offer a choice for freshman to have Learning Communities. These are organized groups living together in the same dorm that share similar majors.
Learning Communities for ESF are fairly small and only exist on the eighth floor of Sadler, and on the third floor of Day. It is an interesting idea that while at the same time that SU is trying to stray from having students rooming with similar character, those ESF and SU students in learning communities are being isolated from the rest of the school. The major question that arose from my observations was that if ESF and SU students are living and eating in the same quarters, why should they have a social advantage over others?
I came to the conclusion that SU and ESF students therefore see each other as a separate community and social group. There are several other observations and facts that support this idea of separation between SU and ESF students. At the 2004 Freshman Convocation, a clear separation allowed first year students to identify who was SU and who was ESF. On the top pear of the stands, one could see a small group of students all wearing tie-die shirts. During the middle of the chancellors speech she made a reference to the ESF students and they all cheered with excitement.
At that point I realized what a small population of freshman there are in ESF, and also how separated they seemed from the SU students. With such a small community of students, it made sense that they had so much pride and excitement to be freshman. Not only is ESF one of the hardest SUNY’s in New York to get into, but the ESF students also graduate together in the same ceremony as the SU students. Once again this creates a separation between two social groups that are supposed to be one community. In addition, a way that SU students themselves exclude ESF student is in Greek Life.
Only 4% of ESF students belong to a sorority or fraternity. This percentage is extremely low even if the community is not very large. Ultimately, this problem spawns from the fact that these two groups are so far apart in social habits. Although ESF shares several facilities with SU campus, the ESF campus appears to first year students, like myself, as an area designated for ESF students only. These boundaries that exist in our community are designated for the people for whom they were built.
This idea goes hand in hand with what Sibley states, “What I hope to do is to clarify some of the spatial and social boundary processes which separate some groups and individuals from society and render deviant those who are different”. As a freshman in Sadler Hall, I sometimes wonder if there will ever be a time when I need to use the ESF campus?
Although it is an understanding that ESF provides a wonderful amount of resource for SU students, at appearance it seems almost like an annex. It’s separated by stone walls labeled SUNY ESF, and a glance at the architecture reveals a distinct separation from the still diverse SU campus.
Students even possess different ID cards that are green that distinguish them as ESF and not SU. After analyzing the ESF campus, I decided to take a closer look at the social life of ESF students on my floor. I decided that I was going to find out who on my floor was an SU students and who was an ESF student. This means I was going to have to go beyond fieldwork, and start talking to all the people on my floor. It really never occurred to me that anybody on my floor was in ESF, but I had some idea about who may or may not be.
After talking to Matt, my Resident Advisor from ESF, I was informed that there were people on my floor in ESF, but I was not told who they were. I know almost all the people on my floor, except for a few, and I decided I was going to find out the ones in ESF. As I closely observed the hallways, I began to notice several promotional signs from the ESF Office of Student Activities. I never really took time to read them or even notice they existed. One of my floor mates named Kathryn, who I had recently made friends with, was my first guess for someone who was in ESF.
She was a stereotypical hippie and she boasted about it all the time. When I asked her what school she was in, I was surprised to find she was a student at SU. All of my stereotypical preconceptions failed my attempt to guess the ESF students and made my realize how much I really don’t know about the people around me. I came away from this exercise realizing that there really wasn’t a stereotypical ESF students and that people with different lifestyles and backgrounds can be found everywhere, even at SU. The point of this essay is not to try and change the relationship between the SU and ESF campus.
Like Luthra states on page two of his essay, all I am trying to do is to recognize and distinguish what the differences are but not change them. By identifying these differences, the purpose is to essentially provide an alternative reading of the ESF and SU campus’. From much observational analysis, I think it is safe to say that the ESF campus, set apart and isolated from that of the SU campus, can be classified as a place of social isolation. Other forms of exclusion are made through programs such as the Learning Communities which maybe need to become larger in order to function accordingly.
In conclusion, there were several observations made which helped to determine the areas of “trivial conflict” and areas that seemed to reflect social norms. These areas of conflict in the end became question for what society or community accepted. If there is any more to learn about the separated and shared areas of the two campus’, it is that in order to create a more diverse and equal society, there can be no separate boundaries that restrict access for either party. These prohibitions discussed are maintained in practice by the community and society which continue to clearly separate a person from a certain place.