Letters to the editor

What’s the point of couples?

When I saw the email advertising the contest for “Amherst’s Cutest Couple,” I mused to myself that you could have an equally interesting contest here by removing the word “cutest” from the title. It is a well-known fact of life at colleges around the country that there just aren’t any couples. This is particularly depressing to me, someone who has been told for his entire life that he’d probably meet his future wife in college. At this rate, we’ll be on cruises to the Bahamas in the year 2050, musing to ourselves how we’ll meet our future mates in the nursing home where we both live. However, backing up to the here and now, there must be a reason that couples are few and far-between here and at elite institutions everywhere.

Perhaps the more important question is “why DO couples exist?” If you take the evolutionary point of view, people need sex, and up until a few decades ago, the only way to get sex was to be in a serious relationship. The strength of the desire for monogamous relationships was increased by the fact that many Americans were more religious in the years past than today. This translated into social mores, and it was unacceptable to have sex outside of a serious relationship. Over the years, as religion’s grip weakens, people have begun to notice that they can get the sex without the serious relationship. Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?

In a recent conversation I had with my former roommate, he suggested that a belief in God translates to one in love. If we take a couple of famous quotes, and apply the transitive property, we see what he is saying. “God is love.” To me, that means that the idealistic belief in God makes possible the idealistic belief in love. Without God, we are animals looking to continue the species; love has nothing to do with it. Now the second quote: “God is dead”. The belief in something as ideal as God has ceased to be a part of our consciousness in general. The inevitable conclusion here is that love is dead. Two human beings probably could not stand to be in an intimate relationship with one another for any length of time unless they loved each other. This spells the demise of the couple.

I have to wonder, though � is the couple something that’s even desirable to keep around? Sure, we would all like to be in a couple, but are couples socially efficient? I think another reason for the demise of the couple in college is that people are just too busy to do couple things. If two people love each other, they find time for one another, but in a world where love is dead, it just doesn’t happen. Sex remains a basic human need, and we have found the most efficient way to have it. As Russell Crowe’s character said in A Beautiful Mind in a bar scene in which he is expected to buy a lady a drink, “I don’t know exactly what I have to say to get you to sleep with me; could we just skip right ahead to the fluid exchange?” Amherst students work all the time, and make sex as detached as possible. We contribute to society (education is assumed to contribute to society) and fulfill our basic human urges.

This sex without relationships is eerily reminiscent of Brave New World. In that book, it was even considered a social wrong to be too faithful to one sexual partner. The common interpretation of Brave New World is to see it as an example of central planning gone wrong. The “beauty” of capitalism is that it requires no central planner to achieve the effects of central planning. The frightening thing is when people like Joe Stiglitz do economic studies that find that the family is not an economically efficient unit. It stands to reason that Amherst College students would be on the cutting edge of what works and what doesn’t work in today’s form of capitalism. Who knows? We may be a generation or two away from baby factories.

The couple is not compatible with the society in which we live. Amherst College had better save all of the pictures of cute couples that it gets this week; they will soon be valuable museum exhibits. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Joseph Caissie ’05

Weekly editorial fails to convince

Weekly editorial fails to convince

I am most disappointed by the impotence of the editorial, “Affirmative action is the most effective solution” (Jan. 29.) One could interpret The Student staff’s inability to put forth a strong, coherent defense of affirmative action as evidence that race-based preferences are hard to excuse, but I don’t think that’s it. Instead, The Student staff’s inability to put forth a strong, coherent defense of affirmative action demonstrates something sadder: the inability of the neophyte Student staff to develop strong, coherent arguments.

The bulk of the piece was devoted to a quick overview of the affirmative action landscape; only the last handful of sentences even attempted to take a stand. However, the argument was painfully weak. The Student’s line of reasoning-“[Race] is and should remain a consideration … thus, the checkbox for race/ethnicity should remain”-displayed the same puerile non-logic that one wouldn’t accept from an eight-year-old. The Student’s tautologous position boiled down to “it should therefore it should,” or, as a second grader would say, “Because.”

The remainder of the editorial made several claims without providing any justifications. Why is affirmative action irrelevant to Amherst? Why is affirmative action a “necessary evil”? Why is racial diversity beneficial at any college or university? The Student’s piece didn’t advance an argument; it merely plopped statements on a page and passed them off as contentions. “Because.”

I expect more from my schoolmates.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether or not race-based preferences are prudent, constitutional and right. I, for one, renounce the determinist logic in which affirmative action has its roots. The placement of a value-positive or negative-on a minority applicant based on his or her skin color suggests that the applicant exists not as an individual, but rather as a member of a homogeneous group. Then, in an unabashed act of racism, admissions officers surmise an applicant’s intelligence, socioeconomic status, attitudes and interests by knowing something about people of color in the aggregate.

A discussion about preferences, discrimination, and determinism has a definite place in our academic community. All I would ask is for the discussion to be intelligent.

Theodore Hertzberg ’04