To improve student life, look to film director Bong Joon-ho

By ALANNA MARGULIES | February 13, 2020

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DICK THOMAS JOHNSON/CC BY 2.0

Margulies encourages students to take pride in their accomplishments as Bong does in his.

This past Sunday, the Oscars honored a historically excellent year of movies and recognized a group of artists at least somewhat more diverse than award shows of recent memory. From Tom Hanks announcing the opening of the Academy Museum, to the many award-winners who sobbed out their “thank you”s, to an emotional “In Memoriam” section, the show was truly a celebration of the passion for storytelling and dedication to their craft exhibited by the filmmaking community. 

In between bouts of trying to get my shoddy stream of the event to work, I was struck not only by the seriousness with which this community took its accomplishments, but also the time that each of the honorees took to bask in the glory of their rewarded labor. Each of them was proud of the hard work that had brought them to that point.

The stand-out awardee on this front was South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, who perhaps had the most to be proud of that night. His film Parasite won four awards, breaking record after record along the way.

Each of Bong’s acceptance speeches demonstrated how fully prepared he was to revel in his accomplishments. After winning “Best Director,” he dedicated the award to legendary director Martin Scorsese. He led the crowd in applauding his hero and recognized how meaningful the award was for him.

Following each of his speeches, Bong added to the amount of alcohol consumption he told the crowd he’d partake in after the show to celebrate. Ultimately, he settled on drinking all night and into the morning. He seemed cognizant and proud of the scope of his accomplishments and was intent on giving the hard work that got him to that point the reverence it deserved.

Meanwhile at Hopkins, Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI) recently decided to audit and overhaul student organizations. At the same time, JHUnions vowed to improve campus culture. Both actions indicate that the Hopkins administration has taken up the mantle of increasing student satisfaction.

The initiatives they have proposed, at least from the co-curricular side, seem to involve lowering the barrier of entry for students to join organizations. They also create generic programming that falls under the umbrella of “self care.” 

While I believe that these pursuits are genuine and earnest attempts to improve student satisfaction, trying to change the dogma of a group of hyper-motivated and high-achieving students is an unrealistic way to solve this problem. Instead, Hopkins could benefit from taking a page out of Bong’s book. 

I am not (necessarily) arguing that we use JHUnions funding for students to get trashed following successful exams. Nor should we give out phony awards to make students feel validated. But in the spirit of relishing in the results of hard work, the Hopkins administration and student body can do a better job of recognizing student achievements.

We dedicate countless hours to the student organizations and academic fields we are a part of while the school seems to try to make these pursuits more difficult with added restrictions and bureaucracy at every turn. We deserve at least the benefit of the doubt about the integrity of our efforts, not to mention recognition for all of the incredible things our student groups accomplish.

Hopkins is full of the current and future “Bong Joon-ho”s of their fields: hardworking, talented, relentless and motivated leaders. The University is not going to change these qualities or the inevitable stress that comes with being a part of a community of this type and caliber. 

Why would a Hopkins student who has six more problem sets due tonight, a lab meeting tomorrow morning and curing cancer pencilled in for Sunday afternoon have time to even think about attending trivia hosted by the LaB on Monday night? Once the Hopkins student is done with one accomplishment, they are expected to have yet another mountainous task to conquer immediately afterwards.

This is not to say that Hopkins students don’t need to relax more; we certainly do. However, the administration is not going to drastically increase student satisfaction by providing more opportunities to “chill” in a University-sanctioned setting.

What the administration can do is be proud of the type of students that make up their University and the causes and initiatives that we devote so much time and energy towards.

Maybe the reason that students don’t end their four years at this University feeling content and fulfilled is because we rush from one Herculean task to the next without ever being told that what we’re doing is worthwhile, laudable or worth celebrating. Maybe instead of trying to create a campus culture where students work less hard or guarding the student organizations we care about less closely, Hopkins should create an environment in which people feel more comfortable being proud of what they accomplish.

Maybe we should even drink into the morning in joyous celebration once in a while like Bong Joon-ho.

Alanna Margulies is a sophomore studying International Studies and History from Watchung, New Jersey.

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