Every fall, tens of thousands of college students descend upon the city of Boston. From shiny new freshman to seasoned upper classmen to graduate students, all return from their summer vacations, internships and studies abroad.
With more than 50 schools in Greater Boston, you don’t have to strain your ears to hear people grumbling about all the students and the problems they cause. This is to be expected. They crowd the T. They’re too loud. They’re drunk and obnoxious. They make the line at Dunks three times as long. The list goes on.
I’m not saying these are legitimate grievances. And I’m not claiming I haven’t been guilty myself of whining about “the return of the students” after quiet and peaceful summers in a not-quite-so-crowded city.
Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the last year working among them in higher education, but I’m realizing more and more that these complaints are a bit unfair. Here’s why:
1) Boston wouldn’t be Boston without its colleges and universities and they can’t exist without students. Boston has a long history as a center of education. Being a college town is a huge part of a the city’s identity – and its economy. Boston’s balance of academia and industry make it the hub that it truly is. I also love how important education is to so many Bostonians. And how fiercely loyal to our schools we often become. I think most of us hear “Where did you go to school?” just as much as “Where are you from?”
2) Students make meaningful contributions to Boston and the world beyond. Students are a steady source of youth, energy, creativity and innovation in our fair city. They do some remarkable things in terms of research, service projects and other impressive academic and extracurricular activities. Boston’s distinguished institutions draw students from all over the country and the world, bringing fresh ideas and perspectives with them. They boost local business and when they graduate, many stick around and join Boston’s professional workforce.
3) You were them once. If not here, then somewhere else. Sure, you find their drunken antics annoying now, but chances are, you pulled the same shenanigans in your day. And if you weren’t acting a fool on the Green Line or at Faneuil Hall, you were causing trouble somewhere between the ages of 18 and 22. So roll your eyes if you must, but just appreciate the entertainment and remember fondly your own days of youth and irresponsibility.