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Occidental has the kind of campus community that is very easy to be a part of. Joining campus interest groups or organizations, with some natural exceptions, is as easy as checking campus news listings or just sending out an e-mail. I joined the newspaper originally simply by e-mailing someone I knew on it and asking if I could write for them. The same works for just about every other club I've seen on campus. As for social community, the campus has a college party scene which is also very easy to fall into so long as you're genuine and simply enjoy a good time, and there's more than enough else to find to do on the campus if the college party scene isn't your thing. The school brings speakers on campus regularly, the theater department puts on several shows throughout the year, and the music department puts on shows both by students and others throughout the year as well. Finally, the campus is located in Los Angeles, right between Pasadena and Glendale, a stone's throw from Dodger's Stadium and just a few minutes further from Burbank and Hollywood. If you can't find something in a city like this to entertain yourself with, then you should probably be Amish.
Most people haven't heard of Occidental which is incredibly FRUSTRATING!! They ask question like "Occidental? Is that a dental school?" or "Did you get in by 'occident'?" Haha funny... no. Once you can get over that, the school is amazing. The classes are small and typically discussion-based, and the professors are smart and accessible. Not to mention, while this may sound silly, the weather is a huge boost. There is always something going on in the quad during lunch and everyone is always in good spirits. The music in the quad during lunch hour is guaranteed to perk you up. Huge paper due tomorrow that you haven't started? Don't stress - go write it on Stewie Beach and soak up the sun.
It takes about 15 minutes to walk from any end of campus to the opposite corner. There are about 1800 students who, for the most part live either on-campus or within a mile radius from the school. There are many aspects of Oxy that remind me of my high school, such as the handholding the school provides to help guide their students through their four years, the wildfire gossip that bounces around, and the dances that are school-sponsored. Sometimes refered to as "the Oxy Bubble" for some of the annoyances that come with a small school, Oxy's a mix of positives and negatives. If those are aspects aren't your cup of tea, then Oxy might not be the best fit. Personally, the positives have greatly outweighed the negatives for my needs and desires in my undergraduate education. As tuition differences shrink between private and public colleges and universities, I'm grateful for the education and environment that Oxy has provided for me--things that I would undoubtedly not be able to experience or have at a bigger school. Oxy prides itself on the liberal arts education that they provide students, which really means that they have requirements that encourage you to explore fields that you wouldn't necessarily gravitate towards. Having a taste of many different fields--math, sciences, arts, humanities--has given me a better scope of fields and has helped me feel more comfortable talking about various topics. So in a nutshell, what's the best thing about Oxy? The diversity of courses you'll take, the diversity of people you'll meet, and the diversity of perspectives you'll gain. Oxy helps make you a more aware individual, which I think is as important (if not more) than the textbooks you'll read in class.
If I were going to change something about Oxy I would change the size. Oxy is very small and it feels like you know everyone after your first year. The social scene is fairly repetative. A lot of people love the size of Oxy, but if you like to have a broader social scene and have new people to meet over your four years, Oxy may not be your school. There is a lot of school spirit at Oxy, but be warned that there is a very large football team for such a small school, and they often bring down the academic quality of the classroom. I think one of the best things about Oxy, other than academics, is its location. I love living in L.A. with access to the beach, museums, concerts, shopping, amazing food, and enless potential to explore. Oxy's administration is lacking, to say the least. Oxy has gone through three presidents in about 4 or 5 years so there never seems to be centralized leadership. Another bad thing about Oxy is registration. If you can get into the classes you want they are usually great, but it can be a battle zone trying to get them. Oxy has really good food for a college campus, and the campus is really beautiful. Something cool about Oxy is that Barack Obama went there! It is a very liberal community, and most students are interested in politics, and issues of social justice.
Occidental is a little bit of everything... emphasis on little. It's a small school, and that's the way I like it. There is a Greek life and there is a Geek life. Being in the theater department, have a very different and perhaps limited view of the school. The theater majors are literally split from the rest of campus because our building stands at the top of the hill, far away from all the other academics. Similarly and unfortunately, the department lacks the challenges and delights of diversity that the rest of the campus enjoys, largely I believe, because of the lack of a faculty member of color. But concerning the school at large, its location is brilliant but best taken advantage of with a car or with an eager bent for public transportation (a bike splits the difference nicely). The food in the cafeteria is far better than most places and every once in a while they make an effort to have extra healthy or organic options. The administration is a bit backwards-- the Board of Trustees has too much control over who stays and who goes, what happens and what doesn't happen. Our first female president spent only one semester in office before stepping down because of differences with the board. To my understanding, these were over such things as funding for study abroad and issues of tenure. In Ms. Prager's defense, she spent time while in office having private meetings with every professor on campus. She knew what the school needed, but the Board refused (and continues to refuse) to listen. The student government does not have enough power to challenge the administration and we are not unified enough as a student body to demand the power to change. Instead, small groups make their voices heard in the community-- a valuable and abundant opportunity at Oxy. Oh, and my experience with financial aid is that the are terrible.
When I tell people I go to Occidental they usually haven't heard of it and I don't blame them. It is a very small school, smaller than my public highschool. I enjoyed my first year here but things a math professor said at my convocation are starting to make sense. Occidental...there are monsters living under your bed. What I mean to say is that Occidental appears at first glance to be a very liberal institution that cares about its' students and faculty but it is really everything but. The only good thing about this school is our faculty. They are amazing but our administration on the other hand.... There is a turn over in administrative positions every year. There have been 4 presidents since I entered Occidental. Our school is basically run by our board of trustees who are only concerned with money. I worked at Telefund for a semester and I was sickened by how focused it was on obtaining money from alumni, and parents. There was little focus on building rapport with these individuals. Diversity is a big issue on campus. Most people on campus are way too PC. This is suppose to be an environment where we can learn from one another but instead we spend most of the time criticizing one another. Our campus safety staff sucks. That may not be very eloquent but it's true. Most of the campus safety staff does not care about the students. I was a sober sister for an event on campus and campus safety provided little assistance. They were dead bodies. I cleaned up vomit, helped other students that were too drunk to be there while campus safety continued to let students that were too drunk to be there enter the dance. I have still not received an apology for thank you. There is this illusion on campus that the administration and students work hand in hand but after a few years here you will discover that the administration cares little about what the students think and is more focused on their own interests. For example, I was rush chair last spring. Rush has always been held at the organizations houses but a new policy was enforced right before we were to go on winter break that would require all rush activities to be held on camps. The students were not consulted to this change nor were our opinions taken into consideration. It turned out that the decision was made by our advisor. I am no longer part of Alpha. It saddens me but I hate being wrapped up in a corrupt system and thats what Occidental is, corrupt. I wish I had listened a little more closely at that speech my freshmen year where the professor warned us of Occidentals monsters but I laughed with everyone else. Now, here I am, a senior, about to graduate from a college that I dislike, will never give to, and hope to forget.
Stace SeniorReviews provided by: Unigo