Proud of Hampshire & Students are the Future!

I just came back from the 2010 Five College Film festival. The film fest showed 25 short films selected from over 80 submissions. Among the 25 films, 12 of them are from Hampshire! The passion and creativity of Hampshire students blew me away once again. I am very proud of Hampshire!

While watching the "College Collage" by "Team Believe", Ella and I simultaneously said that this film should be put on the admission website. It wonderfully demonstrated Hampshire's academic diversity and energy, and the film itself is a great work. Or the school can fund students to produce more creative work like this. That would be the best investment and advertising for Hampshire.

Throughout the film I am thinking why the school is so uncreative as we address the crisis. Maybe the administration is too far away from students. Maybe they are too high up there and lose sense of what the students are thinking or doing. People are only familiar with the tools they have, and trust only those things that are familiar to them. When the administration face a financial issues, they think of recruiting more new students, cut pays, fire people etc. But students think in a different way and we have different "tools". And I believe students has more creativity in saving the college. In the end, this is our college.


Some Random notes on Machiavelli

It is a great fun to read Machiavelli because he is not beating around the bush. Nor is he trying to cover the dark side of human nature, since politics is just an extension of human nature. Machiavelli is telling the truth, or he is telling the part of the truth which has not been exposed enough. People are shocked to read "the Prince" because we are surrounded by too much "high morality" and rosy talks. We rush to defend our vanity and refuse to recognize or openly discuss what is really going on.

Machiavelli did not write "The Prince" to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He wrote the book to impress "the magnificent Lorenzo" in order to get promoted into crucial positions. Machiavelli's hard personal experiences and unsuccessful political life also explains why he holds so much negative views. At the same time, I found that Machiavelli is not as biased as the word "Machiavellian" usually suggests. Most of the time, I found him pretty fair and neutral.


A Letter to Admitted International Students

First of all, congratulations on your achievement! Your most exciting days are just about to begin! I can very well remember how I felt a year ago when I was sitting in front of my table with my offers spread out.

A year later, I know that I have made the right choice, one of the best choices in life. I hope to share this experience with you, from the coolest college on earth.

A bit about myself: I’m Zilong from China. I study politics and economics. I play flute and do workshops on Confucius for other Hampshire students.

Yes, at Hampshire, all bathrooms are co-ed, laundry is free and we have no tests, but that’s not the reason I come here. I choose Hampshire College for its freedom, its endless energy and creativity. At other places, people tell you that the students there are passionate about what they are doing. At Hampshire, people are CRAZY about what they love! This applies not only to students, but also to all professors as well as the old lady in the dining hall who has been swiping cards there for four decades.

In our dictionary, there are no words like “embarrassing”, “difficult” or “impossible”. We don’t grow up with them. Instead, our vocabulary is filled with phrases like “why”, “why not”, “what else”, “can we do it another way” and so on. In our discussions, there are more questions than answers. After every class and brainstorm, we don’t feel that we know more, we feel that we know less. If these characters describe you, then you are so lucky to have found the right place.

We love Hampshire’s academics structure because it has actually no structure. You design your own concentration, and you go out and find the best professors from Hampshire, from the other members in the Five College Consortium and beyond. The school is here to assist you, guide you, finance you and cheer and cry for you.

As an international student, I feel very comfortable---even privileged----at Hampshire. We have a lovely Cultural Center, a safe space (with best food) for all multicultural students. We have the loveliest staffs that turn us into a big family. Every international student can have a host family to help you in your life as a foreigner in a foreign land. My host family bought me so much tasty instant noodles that I am still eating them now. You will have a peer mentor to guide you through all the Hampshire-related and non-academic issues, like who’s the coolest professor and where’s the best pizza etc. You will have access to tons of extra information and help from different offices in the school. Obviously, they love us.

Let me be very honest: Hampshire is a very young institution, and we have a tiny endowment. Like all institutions, we are facing many issues and problems. But that’s another reason I love this place so much. Other schools are like finished buildings. You are just one more guest. But Hampshire is a huge open ground, with bricks and materials laying everywhere. You are the architect, you are the magician. It is extremely easy for any individual to leave his/her mark here because everything just started!

If this sounds like what you have been looking for deep in your heart, then I hope to see you this fall!


It's a Wonderful Life

I'm very grateful that I can watch a great movie with great people. "It's a Wonderful Life", this old black and white film is more powerful than most of the multi-million-dollar productions these days. I will benefit my whole life from this film.

Everyone would agree after watching this film that love, friendship, family is the most beautiful thing in the end, but why do we keep forgetting it? I think that's because we are surrounded by them so much and so deeply that we fail to realize that they exist. We take too many things for granted that their importance fades and they drop off our priority list.

Success, wealth, power, these things are more rare for ordinary people, thus they seem more precious. And the media and public opinion make things worse. "Rare is precious", this is a very crucial line of code in the programing of human brain. We need to realize it, control it, and use it in a good way.

The film remind me of something that I have repeatedly written down in my diary. "Mr. Potter" in the film is cold blooded and cruel and business oriented. That's why he can do business well. Mr Potter said George's father is a man of high ideal, but without enough common sense. This resonate with me.

Good will, high ideals, they are very important. They are the anchor. But they are far from enough. Without a powerful fist and brilliant practice, I will only be a "good person". That's not me. In order to practice good on a higher level, you have to first accept evil as it is, learn about evil, and then be stronger than the evil. That's what I am doing. That's why I want to keep both good and evil inside me. Good is my sword, and evil is my shield.

The film also reminds me that a good partner is a blessing. No matter it is a partner in life or a partner in business, good partners can change the law of nature: 1+1>2. When you have two great spirits working or living together, all good things will be amplified, and bad things cut in half.


The State of my beloved Hampshire College

I attended three meetings this afternoon. They are all very rewarding and entertaining, but definitely not easy. Meeting different group of people gives me a better idea of the whole state of my beloved Hampshire College.

We are facing many crisis, and financial issues are on the top of my list. Finance has become a bottle neck of Hampshire: we start to enlarge our classes from 15 students to 25. We stop hiring new faculties. We start to let in less qualified students because their parents pay. The lack of financial capacity is really changing the way people think. All departments are striving for survival. This really destroys the atmosphere in a sense.

There are other soft dangers: lack of participation and attention. Prof. Stan Warner said on the meeting that this is not the first time Hampshire faces huge crisis, but this time, we don't seem to have the right spirit. From what I can see, the administration is not making things any better. This judgment is not based on comparison to other places, since the Hampshire is the only place I've been. Still, I can see why faculties and students are frustrated with the administration, and these things are not really difficult to fix if the key people has the proper attitude. And there is a lack of engagement on the side of students. I'm really surprised that so few people care about the place where they live and breathe. If people don't care, then I think they don't get to complain.

I don't know enough to make a final statement, but I already know enough that I will start to make changes. I receive full financial aid from Hampshire, and I love this place so much. I feel not only obliged but also passionate to build the college into what it should be like. And I have great platforms to work on and awesome people to work with. I am very hopeful about this lovely place, the very unique paradise for a bunch of crazy human beings.


Where to save my money?!

Today I did a little research about savings in US. I am trying to figure out how I should distribute my tuition money for next year. I want to save $5,000 in a 100% safe place (because I need the money in June), and do some simple investment with the rest.

I looked at two of the safest investment: treasury bill and certificate of deposit.

Treasury bill is issued by the government to raise money from individuals. The interest rate can be as low as zero. Under the best circumstance, the interest rate is still below 0.5% annually. So it does not make sense for me to lend $5,000 to US government and get around $10 of interest after half a year (and think about all the troubles to register and bid and buy and sell!). Then I was thinking: does it make sense for Chinese government to lend trillions of dollar to the US government?

The bank deposit is equally depressing. The rate is no better than T-bills. And I don't even want to think about lending money to Bank of America, even though it is only $5,000.

Then I looked at the increase of CPI in US. The CPI indicates how expensive things are, or how much the cost of living has changed. The average increase of CPI in recent years range from 3%-4%, which is much higher than the interests from either Treasury bill or bank deposit. This means, if I don't make more than 4% profit with my money every year, I am actually losing money! This means that if I don't want to lose money, I have to invest my money into one of the many risky markets.

When you think about this, it is quite absurd. You have already worked hard enough to earn the money. Then you have to fight even harder to keep the money from being robbed by the system! If you don't move, you will just keep losing money at a 3% annual rate. After 20 years, you will lose half of the value of your savings. So no matter how tired you are, you have to get up and invest your money into the market. Once you do that, you find yourself in a even more dangerous situation. You can lose more money even faster! But you have no choice.

For me, I believe (or hope) that I am smart enough to make money from the market. But most people don't have the time and expertise to navigate through the dangerous market place. They have two choice: save the money and let it shrink, or invest the money and pray. Most people who invest the money into the market (and expecting a high return) will lose it.

So isn't there any way that people can just safely save their salary without being secretly and slowly robbed? Or this world is too dangerous a place for honest people? Maybe one day I can start something to fill the gap.


My courses this semester

I need to write it down for a balance. I'm taking five courses this semester plus an OPRA Outdoor Sampler class. Among them, three stands out as my main targets: International Monetary Economics, World Politics and German. Intro to MacroEcon is background course that assists my understanding of International Monetary Econ. Structure of Randomness fulfills all my requirement to finish Div I, and this is a really fun and cool course. I like Prof. Hoffman a lot, too.

So as you can see, all these courses is under one guideline: understanding the real function of the world. World Politics give me understanding of the mainstream political debates that shapes the world international relations. International Monetary Econ tells me the working of international coordination through monetary means. German is a natural extension after one year exchange in Germany, a country fascinates me a lot. And Randomness gives me a fun and brand-new perspective in understanding my chances.

All of the are great! I'm very excited about all my course. But at the same time, I have also spread my focus pretty wide. I need to prioritize.

Besides academics, I'm also working on FiCom, which is fun. I'm working for Spiritual Life, which is refreshing. I'm working on China, too. I mean I launch my student group "Hampshire Confucius", and I will have workshops, I will work on 2010 World Expo. These are time consuming, too.

Do more, try harder, when we are still young.