Penn is the only Ivy that props up its status by directly trashing the name of another university.
We’ve all seen the “Not Penn State” motto. We bear the moniker like a creed or a battle cry. When people get us confused with Penn State, we could choose to simply correct them, but instead we enjoy demeaning another institution. It’s pretentious.
I never bought a “Not Penn State” shirt, but I did chuckle when I first saw it. That’s because I was also disappointed with that confusion when I was accepted into Penn. My great-grandmother, who has been fortunate enough to live a very long life, does not understand the difference between the schools, though she celebrates my decision to go to college.
In fact, every one of us has experienced that moment — being accepted into Penn, only to be met by somewhat underwhelming praise: “Congrats on Penn State!”
But after a year on campus, I have changed my perspective, and I am now appalled at how upperclassmen still insult a school simply because it’s a state school and not an Ivy one. That attitude is arrogant and definitely supports accusations made by students at non-Ivy schools who refer to Ivy League students as pompous.
From the outside, many students at other colleges perceive Ivy League students as self-righteous. To us, attending Penn and its counterparts is an academic opportunity. However, in reality, we are seeking a level of prestige.
Though we would all like to claim that we applied to Penn simply for its academic excellence, name recognition played a huge factor in our own admissions decisions — it is what made us want to attend an “Ivy” in the first place.
But that doesn’t excuse the fact that we still embrace that joke and insult the home of other future entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers and intellectuals — some of whom might have had dreams of coming to Penn, but went down another route because they were not accepted or received more money from Penn State.
What’s wrong with us? Is it an inferiority complex, revolving around the fact that we are the most unrecognized Ivy?
How would Penn kids enjoy it if students at Princeton, along with kids at Harvard and Yale — all “bigger name” Ivies — insulted our students as second-tier rejects, simply due to the fact that there are kids who go to Penn who were not accepted at the HYP Ivies?
On campus, we have the miraculous ability to insult those “lower” than us (in U.S. News rankings, at least) and attempt to associate ourselves with those “above” us.
I am not saying that we should avoid clarifying the difference. We all know that going to Penn is a wonderful accomplishment. And yes, we do deserve the freedom to clarify that Penn is different from Penn State — we are two different institutions.
However, parading around in apparel that demeans another academic institution because their standardized test scores are lower than ours only seems to reflect our own insecurities. Demeaning the Penn State name is just another identity crisis of our University.
In ridiculing the Penn State brand, the “Not Penn State” motto often reflects our own frustrations. The underlying truth is that many of us become exhausted in having to correct family members and friends. Transferring our dissatisfaction about being an unrecognized Ivy into harassing the name of another university to boost our own ego is immature.
This obsession we have of bragging about our accolades is dangerous. Stop wearing shirts clarifying the difference and just relax. Who cares if a couple of people think you go to Penn State? It’s an ego check.
The truth is, Penn could have admitted a completely different group of applicants, and it would be just as diverse and intelligent as our own.
Of course, most students on campus wouldn’t characterize themselves as egotistical and arrogant. It’s the fact that we forget to consider the feelings of the ridiculed party that makes us look pretentious.
Ola Osinaike is a College and Wharton sophomore from Chicago. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. “Aristeia” appears every other Thursday.
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