It’s clearer in the winter: Campus is overpopulated


This winter has been, to put it as delicately as I possibly can, an abhorrent disaster of monumental proportions. I’m about ready to walk around campus spraying aerosol cans into the air until the CFCs warm up the earth. Anyone with me?

We’re more than a month into the semester that MSU hilariously refers to as its “spring” semester (you’re not fooling anyone, guys), and we’ve yet to have a week where campus wasn’t impacted significantly by sub-zero temperatures or a blizzard, or both.

I had class last week at 9 a.m. when there was a wind chill 25 degrees below zero and the entire student body was crossing its collective fingers that school would be called off. After all, even that college in Ann Arbor canceled class for the first time in more than 30 years.

But it wasn’t canceled, and when I made it to class and back that morning, on my drive home I remember thinking something along the lines of why would they cancel school? We’re from Michigan.

But on my drive home I passed the bus stop outside Holden Hall, which had so many people gathered outside of it that for a second I genuinely wondered what sort of event was going on, and why people would willingly participate outside on such a day.

I realized this “event” was just undergraduates waiting to cram on the next available option CATA could had for them, which, for people at the back of the line, looked like it was two or three buses away.

I’m lucky I don’t have to put up with that. I’m a graduate student, so I’m usually cloaked from what’s actually taking place on campus. I live a couple miles away; I drive to class and get to have things like a puppy and a balcony at my apartment. It’s a life that, when compared to the dorms, falls just short of having my own butler that warms my towels before I get out of the shower and serves me pre-stemmed plums from a golden chalice.

This winter has made something I noticed when I enrolled here in August even more apparent: this campus is overpopulated. If you need evidence of this, just look at the line outside of Rick’s American Cafe every Friday night. Or any other day of the week. It’s long enough to sustain a second, now-with-more-grime Rick’s American Cafe 2.0, which undoubtedly would be the worst place in the world.

OK, but I’m being sort of serious: I don’t know how undergraduates here do it. You can’t have a car, but, unless you’re prepared to risk being late to class, you can’t really take the bus either. And walking? This campus is about as walkable as the corn maze from The Shining.

I think MSU’s overpopulation of students is especially apparent to me because I’m new here. I did my undergrad in Allendale, Mich., at Grand Valley State University, which comically is smaller than East Lansing.

Until I came here, I had never seen a bike rack so packed that it looks like it has its own gravitational pull. Our buses had room on them. And this whole concept of “transitional housing?” I didn’t know that was a thing—anywhere—until a classmate did a story on it this fall. I can’t believe a student paying about $20,000 a year in tuition and fees could be subject to that, but I’ll just leave that right there.

It seems students here have grown used to such inconveniences, but these things don’t happen elsewhere. To me, they seem pretty unacceptable.

So where does it stop? It doesn’t. This school, which already is too big, isn’t going to get smaller, and these problems aren’t going to go away—they’re going to get slightly worse, year after year.

We’ll cross the barrier of 50,000 students. The bike racks will get a little more full, the lines for the bus will get a little longer, and a few more students will have to go through transitional housing. And it feels like everyone is sort of OK with that.

The alternative is to stop accepting so many students, which won’t happen.

So, next time you’re standing at a bus stop waiting in the cold during MSU’s so-called “spring” semester, just be glad its not five years later when the lines are even worse. Either that or grab an aerosol can and help me warm up the globe.

Greg Monahan is a journalism graduate student. Reach him at

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