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COLUMN: College students will remain second-class citizens as long as we call them ‘kids’

By Lis Stewart
On April 14, 2014

Juliet postulated “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” It’s true. A college student by any other name would still be a college student — I’m not sure about how sweet we smell this close to finals week — but there’s a whole different meaning when you place the majority of people on campus in a group of second-class citizens with one word.

As I head to graduation and reflect on my years here, the message is clear that we need to stop calling college students “kids.”

It happens everywhere. In five years at USU, I met with university administration high and low, interviewed professors in every college, attended more city council meetings than most people do in their lifetime and chatted with hundreds of people about what’s going on at USU. A common thread I’ve noticed in the community and on campus is that we refer to all college students as “the kids.”

Case in point: I was in a Logan Planning Commission meeting last year when a developer was talking to the commission about his company’s project to renovate a student housing complex. The whole conversation was uncomfortable for me as city officials and the developer kept talking about “the kids” and what “kids want these days.”

I kept thinking to myself, “Why don’t you talk to ‘the kids’ about what they want instead of planning it all for them?”

By calling college students “kids,” you are placing low expectations on them. You are saying you do not look at them as equals. Instead, they are second-class citizens and will be treated as such until they’ve paid a lot of money and receive a fancy piece of paper that enables them to get a real job.

That may not be the way most university officials and community members actually feel, but that is the impression they give.

I get it. By and large, college students are not as mature as older folks. We 20-somethings like to play. However, not counting those few brilliant ones who graduated high school early, we are all legal adults. We pay taxes, though not as much as those with large paychecks. We can and occasionally do vote.

Those reasons may not convince you, but here’s something that should: We are the reason you have a job. We are also the future, and if you coddle the future, you will get soft results.

And good grief: The university has a sizeable population of nontraditional students. Some of them are older than those who run the university, and many are raising kids. They have more life experience than you do, and yet you completely ignore them because they are attending college. A friend once commented on this topic, telling me how frustrating it was to be going to school while raising her kids as a single mother, with plenty of life experience already under her belt, and yet she felt like a second-class citizen until she got her diploma.

Looking back through my freshman year pictures, I can see why people in this community and in university administration refer to students like they are children. We college students do not always have the best reputation because we are midway between teenagers and adulthood — at least, that is true for the traditional students.

Don’t tell me, “If they want to be treated like adults, they should act like adults.” Since those in charge at the university and everywhere else are in a position of power, change is going to have to start with them. We pay you money to teach us. Why not try teaching us how to be adults instead of treating us like we are children?

I don’t guarantee we will stop holding chariot races down 800 East or that engineering students aren’t going to do something crazy like build a swing in their livingroom using rope and clamps so they can jump onto a giant bean bag — true story — but students might just grow up a little faster.

Plus, they will have better role models to build the future with.

Lis Stewart is a senior graduating in print journalism and political science this May. Though still a crazy 20-something, she does not attend rock concerts anymore because she finally realized it will affect her hearing as she gets older. You can reach her on Twitter: @CarpetComm, or by email:

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