Rhodes and Its Snobs


Jay Chatterjee

Liberal arts colleges are known for several things: the incredible depth of their curriculum, peacoat-wearing professors with at least three lines of degrees from prestigious Ivies, neo-Gothic campuses, and snobby, pretentious students who feel that they can change the world. Rhodes is no different.

Snobbery at Rhodes is of several forms. We wear a New Yorker Tote Bag to remind you that our money from our “work-study” on campus goes towards that coveted subscription. We feel the need to carry around a hard-bound copy of Infinite Jest because we are intellectually superior to you lesser mortals. Case in point: us Art history majors with our Van Cleef and Arpels bracelet, or our grandfather’s leather bomber jacket that we got as a 12th birthday present after spending the summer in Florence; us political economy majors who somehow find a new Brooks Brothers sweater to wear every day while standing up for the need for “progressive” education policy for public schools (which we obviously never attended); or us neuroscience majors who remind you at the lunch table at the Rat that our prospect of working at St. Jude’s this coming summer seems high. Not to mention, us Bernie Sanders stans wearing a $100 slogan sweatshirt, because obviously, or us philosophy majors who quote Socrates while smoking our American Spirit we stole from our heartbroken roommate. 

Central to this subtle or not-so-subtle elitism at Rhodes is the fact that we all live in a bubble. That bubble is most definitely of academic brilliance and a disconnect from the world, specifically from Memphis. Memphis is a case study for social scientists worldwide due to its steep history of racial discrimination and segregation. Outside of the campus gates, us performative activists restrict our activism to the occasional infographic on our carefully curated Instagram stories or a special edition tote bag or T-shirt with a “special message.” White-savior comments or feigned ignorance is not an uncommon phenomenon, especially at the artsy wine and cheese nights we host in our dorm rooms or our inexpensive apartment at Crosstown to facilitate stimulating conversations. The world beyond Rhodes is a space we pick and choose to be a part of. As the Greek Gods with the ugly hoodies at the Rat often comment, “that’s f*ed up.” 

The easiest and most productive way to go ahead is to acknowledge our privilege and try and make a mark on the greater community. This includes taking our lofty ideas and putting them to good use. It means seeking out organizations that are doing the groundwork and highlighting them on campus for the greater community. Let’s not get too crazy; doing our social obligation after a chai run at Vice & Virtue and reminiscing about the Warhol exhibit at Brooks won’t hurt.