OPINION | Freshmen remain particularly susceptible to Tulane’s campus bubble

Setah Alavi, Contributing Columnist

(Maryam Tanveer)

On its most surface level, New Orleans is a city known for street cars, live music and great food on every corner. However, none of the rich and extravagant culture of New Orleans would be possible without its long, and often complex, history.

While many Tulane University students enjoy these popular New Orleans attractions, their endeavors into the city, and consequently, their understanding of its history may be diminished by a phenomenon that many call the “Tulane Bubble.”

The exceptionality of New Orleans exists (largely due to the sense of community that has been built through shared hardships. New Orleans is a city that has been ravaged time and time again by natural disasters and poverty

The never-ending cycle of destruction and rebuilding creates a community based on the principle of “help thy neighbor” that is best exemplified right here in New Orleans.

Tulane University’s main campus is located in Uptown, a section of New Orleans with an average household income of $133,256, a sharp increase from the city’s average income of $41,604

The discrepancies in income between Uptown and all other parts of the city create a major inconsistency between the lifestyles of Uptown residents and other New Orleans locals. 

The lifestyle enjoyed by Uptown residents is very relatable to many Tulane students, as the median household income for Tulane families is $180,700.

In addition to being one of the wealthiest parts of New Orleans, Uptown is almost on the opposite side of the city from the Lower Ninth Ward, the poorest and most devastated part of the city following Hurricane Katrina. 

A drive through Lower Ninth Ward paints a gruesome yet realistic image of what all this city still must overcome. In this part of the city, locals are sleeping on metal cots, the streets are littered with debris from 15 years ago and people have to throw down moth balls just so they can sleep without snakes. Tulane’s location in Uptown blinds students to many of the struggles locals face. Yet these struggles are also what make New Orleans so unique.

First-year students may be especially susceptible to the Tulane Bubble. Sometimes referred to as the “Campus Bubble,” this phenomenon causes one to get so caught up in campus life that they never leave campus, often forgetting that life exists outside of their college campus.

It includes eating at the same dining halls, interacting exclusively with people in your dorms and going to the same bars and parties week after week. Freshmen are already tasked with the responsibility of trying to figure out their new life in college, so it is only natural that they lean on the safety and security provided by remaining on campus.

Freshmen may lack affordable transportation options that would otherwise allow them to explore parts of New Orleans inaccessible by foot or by streetcar. Consequently, they may become accumulated to only the Uptown area and other popular student destinations. 

Tulane has tried to combat the “Freshman Bubble” through Tulane Interdisciplinary Experience Seminar classes. These classes aim to introduce students to the academics of Tulane and the city of New Orleans.

Students are offered classes ranging from Reproductive Politics in New Orleans to Superheroes: Race/Gender/Orientation. While the goal of the TIDES classes is clear-cut and aims to incorporate students into college and New Orleans, the effort will fall short if students rarely get involved in the community, an essential part of living in New Orleans.

For other Tulane students, the “Freshmen Bubble” becomes less of an issue of comfort and safety and more of an issue of ignoring the ongoing and fundamental problems New Orleans faces.

For many students, New Orleans and its events play a significant role when deciding to attend Tulane. However, an essential component of being part of this city is getting involved in activities outside one’s direct surroundings

Uptown’s lofty socioeconomic status and distance from the rest of New Orleans provides comfort and security to students, but also gives way to a toxic and disintegrative “Freshman Bubble.”

If the university itself does not make significant strides to pop this bubble, the responsibility falls on the students themselves to better understand the special city they live in.