A editorial for my school newspaper regarding my university's despicable use of their money
01.02.2011 - 03.02.2011 3 °C
Tumblr, BitTorrent, MySpace, Mashable, Facebook. Many of today’s most successful companies came to fruition on college campuses. Echoing a zuckerburgian innovative spirit, last year some friends of mine founded the Big Dog Barber Shop, a space where young aspiring barbers on campus could unleash their talents on crunchy Wesleyan students. We may have been unlicensed, but we had the eye for enhancing the beauty of our compatriots. If someone wanted a haircut and was willing to go under the blades of our Rite Aid scissors, we put our heart and soul into the project. Once we had established ourselves as a legitimate enterprise, we started suggesting $5 a head to compensate our time. People held out their Andrew Jacksons without hesitation. It seemed like a fair price.
When Ezra, Ashik, and Al, founders of Big Dog graduated, the project hung in limbo. Where would we house the barber shop? Would it be able to stand without the guiding hands of its creators? This semester, upon my return from a leave of absence, I thought my new home on Fountain would provide the perfect space for a new chapter of Big Dog. My roommate Miles Bukiet thought we might call the shop Ivan’s Cuts, after the legendary Ivan Maulana (he flew the coop early to help Drunkie the monkey join the circus). Ivan’s Cuts hit the ground running, posting flyers all around campus, making announcements on Wesleying, and launching a Facebook page. Business was looking good: we spotted several students wearing their winter-break mullets with shame, indicating that the market for haircuts on campus was alive and well. And then, disaster struck. Miles and I received an email from ResLife, explaining that we needed to set up a meeting regarding “our barbershop services”.
I discovered that the university has a policy banning students from running businesses out of Wesleyan housing. I was also informed that my “services have come to the attention of the university legal counsel and it probably would be a wise decision to stop offering your services.” Wait, hold on a sec, sir. You mean to tell me that Ivan’s Cuts is enough of a concern that the university legal counsel gives a shit? I open once a week, for a couple of hours. I cut maybe 4 heads during that time, maximum. If we assume $10 a cut, that’s $40 per week, or $160 per month. This is the same amount of money that I can make if I work only HALF MY SHIFTS at Pi Café. You’re telling me your legal counsel is preoccupied with businesses that generate the same amount of money as a single less-than-part-time-worker at the campus coffee shop?
And another thing. Wesleyan contacts my parents regularly asking for money, and already calls friends of mine who graduated last May asking for contributions. This university doesn’t have Amherst or Williams’ endowment, and if graduates keep taking public service jobs or go to graduate school, where will the funding come from to build more idiotic structures like Usdan? However menial my business venture was, it was an attempt to provide a service on campus catering to a visible market. I know Ivan’s Cuts isn’t going to pay for the new Science Center, but at some point in my life I’m going to start some sort of business, and when I strike it big you can bet that I won’t be writing philanthropic checks to a place that threatened my first idea with legal action.
Finally, I understand that Wesleyan trembles at the thought that I might cut someone’s ear off on school premises and that someone’s parents will sue. I understand that I am living in Residential Housing and that perhaps there are zoning laws that prohibit me from having a business under this roof. But Public Safety doesn’t enforce jaywalking when people walk across High Street. Wesleyan doesn’t patrol campus on a Saturday nights, stopping stumbling students to see if they are underage. So why clamp down on my little barbershop?
One would think that our 55k per year would be used to stimulate thought, entrepreneurial enterprise, thinking out of the box -- not using those funds to employ people to harass me for cutting hair in my Woodframe kitchen which is kept up by the same department like a slum lord crack pad.