Take That, Neustadt

Rarely does TSL publish truly shocking material, but there was one sentence I found in last week’s paper so flabbergasting that it temporarily shut down my brain. “The students at Pomona do not follow through on passions and commitments,” said Mark Neustadt of Neustadt Creative Marketing, quoted in the article by Wes Haas PO '15, “because follow-through would interfere with the prevailing culture.”

Every time I read this sentence, I think I hear a few of my neurons shrieking in their death throes. Has Mark Neustadt ever been to Pomona? Does he even know where it is? Has he ever met one Pomona student? 

I’m offended that, if Neustadt really did spend some time on campus, he didn’t come hang out with me for a day. It would have been super awesome. Sure, he would have had to wake up early to work out with me at Rains before we went to my advanced Japanese class, and computer science class, and piano lesson, and statistics class, and dance class, and writing class. And yeah, he might have gotten a little bored waiting for me to finish homework and music practice. But hey, think of what he might have had to suffer through if I actually followed through on my passions and commitments! I guess I could have dropped him off with some of my friends, so he could have waited around somewhere else as they finished their own classes, extracurriculars, and homework. That sounds pretty fun.

But wait! Neustadt said more things!

“If you take [a successful high school student] and bring that student to Pomona, and tell that student that the prevailing expectation of the community is that they maintain balance and ease as the path to success, they will completely buy into that,” Neustadt said. As a former successful high school student, I have to admit that this is totally true. I do buy into that. I foolishly believe that learning how to balance one’s academic pursuits with one’s social life, work, and extracurricular interests is an extremely important part of learning how to be a functioning adult in society. I think, naïvely, that a pleasant and cooperative undergraduate experience can be a better preparation for life than four years of grade-grubbing and backstabbing. Just like a five-year-old, I like being happy, since I don’t understand the truth: Happiness is inversely proportional to success. After all, I’m the type of person who would pick an “easy” college like Pomona over a chance at Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. With my kind of attitude, I’m clearly never going to get to name a marketing firm after myself. What a failure.

Luckily for us poor slackers, Neustadt has already proposed a solution. Since “every year, you’ve got a new batch of new students with unformed expectations ... you can begin to mold their expectations over the course of the admissions process.” We’ve been emphasizing happiness and balance to our incoming students for years, so current Pomona students are pretty much done for, but when the newest batch comes in, we can get to work on their soft, malleable little minds. They will understand that they’re not here to make friends, or find a balance, or enjoy their undergraduate years. They are here to work, and work, and work some more, and then rack up some achievements that will look nice in 12-point Garamond on their chic, slightly off-white resumés.

I hope they’ll be happy.