‘You go to Ball State’: A joke turns into an insult

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KENNEDI ULMAN | OPINION COLUMNIST | kulman@butler.edu

Over winter break, I reunited with some of my friends from high school. One friend complained about how people we went to high school with — who are now Indiana University or Purdue University students — try to diminish her phenomenal academic achievements by remarking deridingly, “You go to Ball State.” 

Some Ball State students will make jokes about how they’re “slackers” and that’s the sole reason they go to Ball State. If you’re a high schooler in Indiana, this is a joke you’ve heard a million times before. 

Of course, the stuck-up people who take everything too seriously treat this joke as gospel, using it to boost their ego. Despite what people say, Ball State is a good school. And more importantly, its students need to give themselves more credit. 

My aforementioned friend is a pre-law and women and gender studies double major on the dean’s list. The people that try to belittle her can’t manage to perform at the same level she does. Success has little to do with school prestige and more with motivation.

There are appropriate contexts to show school pride and to make jokes about a rival school. But using the name of a university as an insult to its students’ intelligence is not OK. 

Once students make their college decisions, it’s easy to forget everything that went into determining the right place for them. There’s more to choosing a college than the location of the campus and program strength. 

The reality for many students today is that they can’t afford to attend their dream school. Some students can’t take the risk of going into tens — if not hundreds — of thousands of dollars in debt. This is especially true for students of color, whose student loan rates are almost double that of white students. 

A school isn’t automatically inferior because they don’t have a strong program in the field of study you’re pursuing. Butler has the third-best dance program in the country, while Purdue is known for engineering. Those are completely different areas of study, which makes it difficult to say that one school is better than the other.

If a student can get into an outstanding program, that’s great! But what will a degree in that program do for someone who’s unmotivated?

It’s true: Mark Cuban and Neil Armstrong didn’t go to Ball State, but David Letterman and Angela Ahrendts did. Wanting to go to a school where you know people have utilized their education to make an impact on the world is completely valid. Every school has people who use their education to better the lives of themselves and others. At the end of the day, people are going to do what they think is best for themselves.

Tearing down people who are trying to better themselves stands in direct opposition to the point of a college degree: to learn critical thinking, yes, but also to learn to be a better human.

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