My acceptance into Arizona State University was one of the best days of my life. I was spending my lunch in the library, as I had for the last three weeks of school after submitting my application, and when I saw that I was admitted, my jaw dropped to the keyboard. The school I had hand-chosen as the one for me, that I wanted so badly, wanted me back. And that felt awesome. Three years later, I'm more entrenched in my life as a Sun Devil than I ever have been.
From my interactions over those three years with parents of ASU students, alumni of the university, or even just my fellow students here at ASU, my experience isn't unique at all. Those in the ASU community love the school, and through that we've created one of the strongest alumni networks across the country.
So why do we care so much that ASU's often the butt of people's jokes?
When somebody insults your favorite sports team, it's rarely even taken as an insult. Sure an argument could ensue and maybe a person who was your friend five minutes ago may have crossed a line, but regardless of how the interaction goes you'll still leave the conversation with the same mindset you had earlier.
Just because a person can make judgement doesn't mean their judgement is based in fact. And when that judgement is made on something as inconsequential as sports, it's rarely taken seriously and often says more about the person that's making assumptions or rash judgements than it does what they are criticizing.
But in the academic world, there's a much higher concentration of sensitivity regarding the quality of education one receives from a university. So when Stephen Colbert calls ASU a "degree mill," adding to the plethora of jokes made about ASU's reputation in academia, the reaction isn't to laugh it off as misinformed jargon. Rather, people take to social media as the self-appointed department of defense and articles are published with the sole purpose of proving their school isn't actually at the bottom of the academic barrel.
Complaining about what Seth MacFarlane writes in his movies isn't going to change people's opinions of ASU. Instead, it only further entrenches us in the mindset of inferiority, one where we feel we have to justify our decision to become Sun Devils. We know Michael Crow has drastically improved the quality of education that ASU provides, making the degrees of those who came before me more valuable and the degrees of those who come after me more coveted.
But when we make a concerted effort to let other people outside of the ASU bubble know that, it shows that we do have an insecurity about our choice of school. Taking time to tell someone over the internet about how ASU is one of the country's most innovative schools or whatever other measure of competency we resort to only further perpetuates the school's inferiority complex.
I'm not a perfect man, I get frustrated when I see talk show hosts and TV shows clowning on ASU. When a talking teddy bear takes jabs at my school, I'm not laughing. But I've learned first-hand that perception is rarely reality, and the only way to combat outside criticism is to be happy from the inside.
We're Sun Devils, anyone who isn't just won't understand.