Contracts We Sign

Long nights in libraries, cafeteria food, and binge drinking constitute the average college experience in most cases. Thousands of students across the globe pack their bags and head to their University without much of a fleeting concern.

Central Campus

Living where you are forced to eat second rate food, walk for miles on end in what could possible be horrid weather, deprived of sleep, and forced to learn seems sadistic at best. Each of us are engaging in a contract with the university, whether we like it or not, essentially controlling how we act, where we sleep, and spend our free time.  But we accept such terms on one condition, we receive a quality education. I believe these conditions of compensation  entail a social contact, not just monetarily, but that of a social context which one can compare and contrast with known contracts to conclude which is suitable to describe what all collegiate student is engaged in.

Hobbes belief follow the ideas of one large  entity that protects  us from the brutish and destructive true nature of ourselves. While I do believe murder  and pillaging would not be the main concern on campus, without the University streets would be lined with many more empty fifths and used condoms. Though the state of nature is different, I do feel that their are glaring similarities between the University and Hobbes “Leviathan”. Although power not be invested in a single power, I trust my money, education, decisions of curriculum, look of my campus, to a faceless board of trustees I doubt most people on campus could even name. With little to no input by students on issues, the universities seems to be judiciary, judge, and prosecutor. Hobbes discusses this point : ” is, to confer all their power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly

Hobbes, philosopher, writer of Leviathan

of men, that may reduce all their wills, by plurality of voices, unto one will: which is as much as to say, to appoint one man, or assembly of men, to bear their person; and every one to own, and acknowledge himself to be author of whatsoever he that so beareth their person”(153,Hobbes) . University students fall into a place where they are having to engage in a social contract of this manner; bearing all trust into a committee for the future of their education, and the well being of their money, otherwise they may not attend.

An alternative view would be that campus is run in a Lock style commonwealth. where in their social contracts all members come together and form a commonwealth, in order to “for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it”(8 Locke). This view of life and the social contract  I believe is not recognized formally, but is one society perpetuates among its members. The childhood ideal of “Teat others as you want to be treated” is very much ingrained in the brains, especially of the youth. This continues to the idea that most people don’t commit crimes against others, leave others property alone, and ensure others safety because it ensures all of these things for himself. No government is implemented by this agreement, but forms a commonwealth between people ensuring these liberties for the community. Locks writings do not align with the institutionalized practices of Michigan as a university, but follow societal norms well, but not a perfect fit to ascribe to our learning institution and city.

The final theories we covered were those of the french philosopher Rousseau. With a take on humans nature diverging so much from the other two thinkers, one where man should live a solitary almost brutish lifestyle, captured my attention more so than the other two we covered. He believes that man got so caught up in societies thoughts of himself that it brought about conflict by forcing someone to conform to norms that may not be suitable for them. Rousseau’s ideas for social contracts were anything but new, but were brought forward in a time of instability for France, and were taken up by the revolution quickly. The belltoll of the revolution : equality. “For first of all, since each person gives himself whole and entire, the condition is equal for everyone; and since the condition is equal for everyone, no one has an interest in making it burdensome for the others”(p 148, Rousseau). Being the main component behind his ideals, Rosseau urged for a direct democracy where every single persons vote weighed equally in a decision. Ideals such as these are American life blood. Thought s that every single person is equal, that they have a lasting impact on their governing body and their future. Unfortunately such hopes are a bit fantastical, such goals not being achieved in America, and especially not at the

Rousseau believed in a direct democracy!

university. Such an idea seems nice, but with a large student body, and huge campus, any decision making would be done at an almost nonexistent pace. With each theorist contributing bits and pieces of ideas, its hard to determine which one is the most applicable to our day to day lives.

A university that is constantly expanding and growing, be that more students, programs, or technologies, I am not one to put boundaries on what this school “is”.  We are ever changing as a society, and as a place of education so I believe no social contract or state of nature can define what is found in Ann Arbor.  Bits and pieces of each are found is greater and lesser prevalence around campus, such as power struggles, who is in charge, and how we interact with each other, but we cannot be contained into one category, and that is what I believe makes us special.