College is A Dystopia…Unless…No…Kinda?

The Western higher education system is fairly dystopian in nature. Several themes that pervade dystopian literature like 1984 are present in the ways that colleges and universities operate throughout the country. While these dystopian elements are not as strictly imposed as one would thinkMuch like the society of 1984, college campuses propagate social stratification. In the first place, students receive preferential treatment based on seniority as it relates to living spaces on campus. The college system also commodifies knowledge much like dystopias do. For example, students are conditioned to believe that by following the course prescribed by the college, they will have a better chance at living a successful life because they will have gained special knowledge that is otherwise inaccessible. Also, in times of crisis within the campus community, the story told by the administration of the university may be a rosier depiction of what the students may know to be true. Finally, the most pervasive dystopian undercurrent is the paternalistic approach that authority figures take when dealing with students. Though significant progress has been made, generally, when administrators make decisions, students do not necessarily get a chance to voice their concerns with the expectation that they would be heard. Oftentimes, administrators in  higher education treat students like children and assure the students that their decisions were in their best interest, even if they do not share an explanation of why they feel this way. The government of 1984 operated in a similar fashion. The inherent paternalism of Oceania was reflected in the fact that the model citizen was Big Brother, a character who was both male and seemingly older than the citizens of Oceania. While the university system may not oppress students in the same way that the Inner Party oppresses Winston and his contemporaries, it is worth noting that many of the guiding principles of dystopian thought can be found in the way that a college system operates.

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