February 12, 2009
By Kelsey Adams
Associate A&E Editor - The Daily Campus
The February 2009 issue of Texas Monthly re-explores the death of Jake Stiles. Stiles' parents feel SMU Police, who work for the Board of Trustees, held back on the case in order to save the university from a "public relations nightmare." Throughout the article, SMU is portrayed as a playground for drugs and partying. One particularly offensive portion holds little to no relevance in the case of Stiles' unfortunate overdose:
"Nestled among the tree-lined streets and stately homes of the twin enclaves of University Park and Highland Park, the SMU campus has a regal beauty, with Georgian Revival-inspired buildings of red brick and neatly manicured lawns on which students rarely walk, sunbathe, or throw Frisbees. The endowment, fueled by gifts from the school's army of wealthy and well-connected alumni, is impressive, and the annual cost of tuition, room and board, and fees-$43,000 last year-is comparable to that of the Ivy League.
But SMU does not have the academic tradition of the Ivy League. It has long battled its reputation as a place where wealthy families send their coddled, underachieving children." )"An Isolated Incident" Nate Blakeslee, Texas Monthly, February 2009).
According to the facts presented in the article, it sounds as if Stiles' parents have a legitimate reason to be concerned about the extent - or lack thereof - of the investigation of their son's death. However, there seems to be no valid grounds for this completely berating tangent on SMU students and their families.
In response to Blakeslee's comments about the campus, I hate to break it, but I walk across the "neatly manicured lawns" every day. The cold weather creates a sense of urgency to find the most direct route to class and crossing the grass can greatly reduce total time spent outside.
Between tornadoes and torrential rain and ice, the weather lately has been a bit too inclement to sunbathe. Another reason for lack of sun-seekers on the Boulevard may be that the area is completely shady due to the large trees on either side, which greatly contribute to its overall beauty. When it is warm enough to lay outside, many people may prefer to do so at the pool which is not only sunny, but also offers a respite from the Dallas heat. I may have seen a few people tossing a Frisbee around, but why does is it matter? How do any of these things relate to the death of Stiles?
And those are just the petty insults. Not that any of the others seem to be more relative to subject of the article in which they appear. SMU does have a large endowment, which means many students are here on scholarship. Generous academic and need-based financial aid plays a part in a lot of students' decisions to attend the school. All colleges, especially private and not just Ivy League schools, are expensive which is why many students jump at the chance to attend SMU at a discount. The fact that Blakeslee even compares SMU and the Ivy League seems to bring SMU some facsimile, albeit unintentional, form of praise by association.
Some of the friends I have made at SMU are from Dallas, others come from California, Hawaii or Amsterdam. They are socially, religiously and economically diverse. Sure I know a few "coddled" rich kids here, but I also know a lot more who don't go here. To suggest that SMU is where "wealthy families send … underachieving children" is highly offensive to the multitude of talented, intelligent students who attend the school. What are the grounds for these outrageous claims?
I truly feel for the Stiles family's loss and the pain they have suffered. However, what good comes from attacking the school their son chose to attend?
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