Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Clearing Philodemic’s Hot Air

Tuesday, September 21, 2004 Clearing Philodemic’s Hot Air By aya Noronha

Hastik jant naka, my grandmother used to say. Roughly translated, this old Indian proverb means “an elephant does not need a bell.”

To all those who needlessly bragged about their accomplishments and successes, this was her response.

Simple, yet to the point, this phrase sadly sums up a wide majority of student organizations on campus. There are far too many bells and not enough elephants.

Too many student organizations have been swallowed into a deep abyss of incompetence because of competing personal interests. The communal aspect of student organizations has been obliterated, and the losers are really the student organizations themselves.

My experience with the Philodemic Society is just one example of this infection that invades our school. The Society kept terribly disorganized records, but the name of the record-keeper was always neatly identified – a seeming obsession with having one’s name on one’s deeds, whether to build one’s resume or just for one’s own self-aggrandizement. This name-dropping went far beyond taking credit for one’s accomplishments.

I was not naive to think a school like Georgetown would not have excessive name-droppers. Far too many of us were the Ivy League rejects who used Georgetown as our safety or number two school.

The prime example of this Georgetown syndrome is our most (in)famous graduate, William Jefferson Clinton. Clinton hardly put work into anything. He crammed the night before exams and was known for making up speeches off the cuff. Consider the Democratic convention in 2000 where Gore should have been the centerpiece. Instead, Clinton took 10 full minutes of primetime television just to walk down the aisle to the speech. Clinton cultivated a cult of personality.

But I must give credit where credit is due.

Clinton was an elephant. He could put his money where his mouth was. He was a Rhodes Scholar. He was a superb student. He went to Yale Law School. Far too many of our Georgetown students cannot do the same, but say they do.

I’ve spent many hours sitting at Philodemic debates – I’ve never missed one since my freshman year. Watching two debaters challenge each other has been intellectually and emotionally stimulating.

However, I never came early or stayed behind after debates to socialize with these individuals as a freshman, and forced myself to do so after I became an officer. The ridiculous way in which some of these debaters listed their resume week after week was baffling. Perhaps it was the style of the debate that lent itself to these types of speakers. I don’t know. I wanted to quit so many times.

As a conservative woman of color, I was out of place among the largely libertarian white males of the Society. But I stuck through the fumes of hot air and climbed the ranks of an officer. I only truly began to enjoy myself, and found that others enjoyed the debates too, when more work was put into them.

It was shocking how easy it was to defeat my most vociferous opponents just by being more competent than they were. I did not take credit for much of the work I did – I did it because I liked doing it, not because someone congratulated me for doing it. To my surprise, I discovered that others recognized my hard work and took the time to praise me for it.

I imagine the cult of personality is a syndrome of many student organizations here. It has infected far more than just the Philodemic Society. Sadly, these organizations are hurt by it. But it takes just one hard worker to change the cycle.

My grandmother was right. Work to become the elephant. Someone else will ring the bell for you.

Maya Noronha is a senior in the College, a contributing editor of The Hoya and chancellor of the Philodemic Society.

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