Beauty over Brains?

A Question Scripps Students Should Not Have to Ask By Catherine Schetina '14 Staff Writer

Recently, all of campus has been buzzing with pride over Forbes’ ranking of Scripps as the fourth most beautiful campus in the world. While certainly an honorable distinction, it may be time for the Scripps administration to step back and think about what is being sacrificed in order to get that coveted ranking.

I’m certainly not arguing that Scripps isn’t beautiful, or that it isn’t lovely to go to school at such an elegant establishment. In fact, part of the reason I wanted to come to Scripps was because of the sense of calm and peace I felt when I walked on the campus. And I do believe that the environment a person influences the way they learn. Having countless tranquil gardens to choose from for conversations or homework is a bonus of being a Scripps student, and ties into the way learning is addressed here as a holistic and enriching experience.

That being said, students don’t come to Scripps to admire the shrubbery. Wouldn’t a more worthy distinction be an award for the number of Fulbright Scholars we have? Or the number of students involved in community service? It seems that the ranking places unnecessary worth on our appearance, a fact that, as women, society has already done a very thorough job of, and which is the idea that the Scripps administration is trying to undo in all their work here at school? Or is it simply an inescapable fact that we are valued based on the way the world sees us?

Granted, this is not the point of the list; the rest of the ranked schools were co-ed institutions, so it is not a case of societal bias. However, as a women’s college, I feel that Scripps should be more careful in the value they place on other people’s judgments of our image.

Additionally, there is the immense concern over the impact on the environment that maintaining this beauty brings about. In a study by The Roberts Environmental Center of Claremont McKenna College that looked at the amount of information available to students about sustainability on the school website, Scripps was ranked in the bottom five of the country. While the school has responded with the formation of a Sustainability Committee, this seems to be a reaction more out of concern for bad press then actual concern about Scripps’ environmental impact. In an era of global warming and a California drought, it seems absurdly irresponsible to waste thousands of gallons of water to ensure that we have lush green landscaping. I doubt that any horrible fate would befall us all if we had a few brown spots on the lawns, or if we followed Pitzer’s example of introducing native, drought-resistance California plants on campus.

This careless waste of resources, coupled with the rumor that we have more groundskeepers than professors here, indicates that Scripps has lost site of its true purpose. We’re here to learn, not for a Home & Garden magazine shoot. If Scripps can find a way to maintain the beauty of the campus while remembering to place more weight on academics than image and being environmentally responsible, that Forbes ranking would be a lot more meaningful.