April 27, 2004

Will Blog For Home

by Chris Geidner

Well, it hit the NYTimes today. Homeless@NYU is now and forever Steve Stanzak. Bobst Boy, after the library's name, was so much more exciting. The Times recounts his:

curious story of his last eight months as a homeless sophomore at New York University, sleeping six hours a night in the subbasement of the Bobst Library, showering in the gym or at friends' apartments, doing his homework at a nearby McDonald's and subsisting mostly on bagels and orange juice.

As he put it on the Internet, where he has spent four or five months recounting his adventure, it was "the tale of a penniless boy and his quest to gain a college education."

Once NYU officials found his blog, they kicked him out of the library -- but gave him a free room in the dorms.

The Washington Square News, which "broke" the story (how can you "break" a story that's already being blogged about?) yesterday. Its editorial today sums the matter up with the cheesiness only a college newspaper editorial can use with such abandon:

We applaud him for not only beating the system and living in one of the most expensive cities in the world for free, but also for doing it with style and flair -- all the while entertaining his many fans with his tale of lighthearted vagrancy.

The NYPost takes their stab at it here.

April 27, 2004 01:13 AM | TrackBack
Comments

I guess journalists and other non-college students find such stories surprising. I had a friend who lived one summer in Crerar, the science library at UChicago. He had a sleeping bag, tinned meats, and a kindly cleaning lady who sometimes brought him food. It worked. It was air conditioned, unlike most student apartments.

One of my sister's coworkers did something similar at a Texan university. He was back for his second degree (geophyics, or a closely related field) after deciding forestry science wasn't what he wanted to do. He lived sometimes in his truck and sometimes in a small conference room in his department. Again, there was a kindly cleaning lady who would bring him food and tried to reserve department leftovers for him.

Posted by: Amanda at April 27, 2004 01:16 PM

"We applaud him for not only beating the system and living in one of the most expensive cities in the world for free, but also for doing it with style and flair -- all the while entertaining his many fans with his tale of lighthearted vagrancy."

I can't believe someone actually wrote that. Beating the system? What system?

Posted by: Greg at April 27, 2004 01:19 PM

Greg -- I believe they meant "the system" as in "The Man."

I thought it was a great sentence actually. Perhaps the rest of the editorial, which I assume (read: hope) was done toungue-in-cheek, was a bit much, but -- hey -- if college newspapers can't even have fun (J. Gregory doesn't suggest fun is your specialty) with such a fun story who can?

Posted by: Chris Geidner at April 27, 2004 03:02 PM

You know--the type of system that prevents a person from doing all the things this guy did. Because he did the things the system prevents, he beat it. That type of system.

Posted by: Sean S at April 27, 2004 03:42 PM

Oh boo-hoo. They're called student loans, maybe this guy should have taken one out before turning himself into a public spectacle.

Posted by: Brian at April 27, 2004 05:36 PM

I'm of a similar opinion to Brian's. Other students are putting themselves into debt so they can have housing -- why should NYU give him a free dorm room? Presumably he had opportunity to demonstrate need while applying for aid. Unless there was some massive injustice or miscalculation, he should have gotten grants and loans commensurate with that need.

Posted by: PG at April 27, 2004 05:51 PM

I'm just unclear as to where the Man was beating him down in this case; if it's Sean's perspective, I'll bite. I tend to agree with PG and Brian - the government has made college more affordable than ever before.

As for my name - low blow. Years of mix-ups in schools, any sort of government registrations, credit reports, etc taught me to write my first initial.

Posted by: Greg at April 27, 2004 07:01 PM

Not to rain on anyone's parade, but that last time I looked at the FAFSA (in March), an undergrad student MUST include parental information on there. Presumably his EFC was high, and the CNN.com article mentioned that his parents gave him no help. So, he wasn't eligible for any more aid.

Also, college costs are rising and it is NOT becoming more affordable. Loan amounts are still capped, even with skyrocketing tuition; the limits are far less than the actual cost of attendance. There aren't enough work study funds to go around. I could keep listing them, but I think you all get the point.

I knew someone in college whose parents had kicked them out for being gay, and they still had to list parental financial information on the FAFSA, couldn't get enough loans to cover education, and the only reason they were able to make it was an RA position and 3 or 4 outside jobs. There really ARE less fortunate people out there, and I've never heard of anyone getting enough loan money to cover $31,000 in tuition. If that was the case, Harvard wouldn't have to offer free or drastically reduced tuition to the economically disadvanted, and more poor people would be in college.

Federal Stafford loans for a freshman in college are capped at $5,200.

Posted by: mls at April 27, 2004 09:46 PM

Greg, if it's in parentheses the odds are pretty good I am just being snarky. (I generally eliminate parentheses from all writing -- outside of citations -- because I think it's the most clear way of telling a reader, "This doesn't matter.) Didn't meant to offend.

Posted by: Chris Geidner at April 27, 2004 10:45 PM

Loan amounts are still capped, even with skyrocketing tuition; the limits are far less than the actual cost of attendance. There aren't enough work study funds to go around. I could keep listing them, but I think you all get the point.

Then guess what? If you can't afford to go to a school then you just don't go to that school. You don't live in the library like a hobo only to be rewarded by being given a free room. The guy didn't have to go to one of the most exclusive universities in the most expensive city in America.

Quite frankly, it's an insult to some fine institutions to say they don't merit this kid's attention rather than turning them down to sleep in NYU's library.

What about his home state's schools where tuition is usually a song and a dance. Methinks this young man's drive to attend a popular school overcame his common sense.

FYI, prior to graduating from Chicago Law and having a steller career before recently taking the bench, Judge Michael McConnel went to Michigan State. Former Alabama Attorney General turned recess appointment Bill Pryor went to Northeastern Louisiana for his undergrad.

I tend not to think of this as a bold young man's struggle against the system but just one of those dumb things we all do when we're kids.

Posted by: Brian at April 27, 2004 11:06 PM

Takes a lot more than that to offend me, and oddly, I now sound more serious than I ever am in person.

I still agree with Brian on this one - why was this guy so keen on going to NYU? There are great public universities that cost a ton less.

Posted by: Greg at April 28, 2004 12:37 AM

I know steve, he is an amazing person from my home town and we have been good friends forever now. He isnt the type to ask people if he can stay with them and certainly would not beg his family for help. To him this was an adventure. He loved his "home", or at least that's how he put it to us. This was a great way for him to start his writing career and it made him famous a lot faster than he expected

Posted by: sammi at April 28, 2004 10:57 AM

Who are we to tell the kid "too bad, you can't afford it, go to some shitty state school?" (I went to a shitty state school; this isn't a knock from someone "high and mighty") If anything, we should be applauding him for having enough drive to do whatever it took to get a great education. Having received my undergraduate education at a not-so-great state school, I can't blame him for wanting something better.

Regardless, this says something about how the higher education system in this country is fundamentally flawed. We should be doing everything we can to help people like this, not tell them they can't have something they are willing to sacrifice so much for.

It's obvious that we have some Republican commenters, of the mindset that "If you're rich, you deserve what you get; if you're poor, you deserve what you get." We should be applauding this guy for trying to make something better of his life.

Posted by: mls at April 28, 2004 12:47 PM

Who are we to tell the kid "too bad, you can't afford it, go to some shitty state school?" (I went to a shitty state school; this isn't a knock from someone "high and mighty") If anything, we should be applauding him for having enough drive to do whatever it took to get a great education. Having received my undergraduate education at a not-so-great state school, I can't blame him for wanting something better.

That's just your flawed perception of state schools. Someone who is capable of getting into NYU is capable of getting into a host of other good state and non-state schools that would probably offer him partial scholarship, too.

In the grand scheme of things, you're deluding yourself if you think NYU is vastly superior to another fifty or so institutions.

Posted by: Brian at April 28, 2004 02:30 PM

I'm no Republican, but I'm also not a radial nor revolutionary. We have a system of aid in place, and if FAFSA fails to account for parents who essentially have disowned their child, then it should be revised so students with rich but unhelpful parents aren't penalized.
However, that still doesn't explain why one low-income student deserves to get free housing when other students without much more money are going into debt for that same housing.

Posted by: PG at April 28, 2004 05:02 PM

So if NYU had given him an additional scholarship b/c of his hardships, that just happened to be in the same amount of the cost of housing, would you all still be up in arms over it? In the long run, it's still nothing more than an additional form of financial aid.

Brian, no offense, but I think that you may be deluding yourself if you think that employers or grad schools are going to look at an NYU education the exact same way as they may look at an education obtained at say, Shawnee State University here in Ohio. Any law student would know that it's not what you think, it's what prospective employers think and what the rankings say that mean everything.

Posted by: mls at April 28, 2004 10:35 PM

Well, one of the reasons NYU probably doesnt want to oust him right before school is over could be that hes an asset to the college (Deans List, FYI). It's only right that they allow him to finish off the rest of the semester on the right foot. Its not a big deal for NYU either - the semester is almost over so they're not giving away thousands of dollars in room and board. We should be so happy that the Dean has a conscience. Would you rather have him on the streets?

For those of you who are arguing against the treatment he's getting, think of this- this publicity might just prove to have a very good impact on financial aid in the future for ALL college students. I mean, the situation with his parents not giving him a dime has been brought to public attention and people are feeling sorry for him. It's bringing to light others with similar situations as well. Its also making people think about the system in general - how is it fair to just assume students have help from their parents?

As for his choice for staying at NYU, I know personally (he is one of my good friends from home) that he loves NYU. He has goals and aspirations, just as anyone else does, and NYU has offered him so much in education AND experience that he cant see himself leaving.
All in all we do whatever we can to get ahead in life, to fufill our goals, to succeed in life, and he is trying to do the same. I almost wonder if some people in this world would rather him go back home and spend the rest of his life working at mcdonalds to get back at him for getting caught up in the media hype. What he has done is his own business, he has hurt no one in the process, and since only one other person on this board actually KNOWS him and where he comes from, you really have no right to judge him. Just as none of us have a right to judge any of you.

Posted by: cheri at April 28, 2004 10:41 PM

Cheri and mls both seem to be missing the point, at least of my complaint. I'm not advocating that Stanzak leave NYU, only that the rules be standardized, so that making oneself a public figure (Cheri, writing a personal blog pretty much ensures that people will feel like they know you, even if they've never met you) is not a prerequisite to receiving additional aid/ loans.
My fundamental problem with this "happy ending" is its inequality. I don't follow what makes Stanzak more deserving than other students in equally dire financial straits who have had to suck up their pride and live with friends, or who have sacrificed time they would have spent blogging to work additional hours. I don't want Stanzak to have to do these things, but what makes him the exceptional man who shouldn't have to do them when other people do?

Posted by: PG at April 28, 2004 11:56 PM

Oh blah blah blah, enough of this love-in: 'he's my friend, he's a super-guy.' I'm not debating that, I'm just saying this was a silly thing to do and you shouldn't be too quick to pin a medal on this kid.

Brian, no offense, but I think that you may be deluding yourself if you think that employers or grad schools are going to look at an NYU education the exact same way as they may look at an education obtained at say, Shawnee State University here in Ohio.

I didn't say Shawnee State, did I? NYU currently ranks around 35th or so in US News. We aren't talking about Harvard or Princeton -- there are plenty of other comperable schools around that range that cost a lot less than NYU.

Any law student would know that it's not what you think, it's what prospective employers think and what the rankings say that mean everything.

Again, NYU isn't ranked that highly. Anyhow, if we're talking about graduate school, I can point to numerous examples (indeed I've already listed a few on this thread) of students who attend non-glamorous universities undergrad and got into top law schools. I had students in my graduating class from Depaw and Florida Southern and even John Carroll in Ohio.


From cheri:

He has goals and aspirations, just as anyone else does, and NYU has offered him so much in education AND experience that he cant see himself leaving.

I'm not saying he should leave, his publicity-seeking gamble paid off, good for him. However, don't think that he couldn't have gotten a similar education and worthwhile experiences at other colleges ranked in the same general area.

From PG:

I don't follow what makes Stanzak more deserving than other students in equally dire financial straits who have had to suck up their pride and live with friends, or who have sacrificed time they would have spent blogging to work additional hours.

...or were forced to make the decision to attend another school and not pull off some inane stunt.

But enough of this chatter. His 15 minutes have come and gone.

Posted by: Brian at April 29, 2004 01:33 AM

PG- "I'm not advocating that Stanzak leave NYU, only that the rules be standardized, so that making oneself a public figure (Cheri, writing a personal blog pretty much ensures that people will feel like they know you, even if they've never met you) is not a prerequisite to receiving additional aid/ loans."

Life is like that. When you do something bazarre yet successful, the general public generally rewards you. If your famous, people buy you dinner. Does that make sense? No, but thats our society which we both live in, so explain that yourself. Its not HIS fault that the media is so caught up in it - you speak as if this was his master plan from the beginning of last semester. He didnt CHOOSE to become the 'special student'; as a matter of fact, with all this publicity hes gained, people are trying to send him money, but he's NOT accepting it. I think that says something about his character - he's not out for charity. The decision the Dean made was a moral decision. Not to mention, if they HADNT and the press found out, NYU would be looking pretty bad right now, since he'd be forced to live in the park. And also, the things you seem to think he doesnt do he has had to do for this entire year - your belittling his past situation. If NYU hadnt housed him for these next few weeks, he'd be doing much worse than before.

Brian- "I don't follow what makes Stanzak more deserving than other students in equally dire financial straits who have had to suck up their pride and live with friends, or who have sacrificed time they would have spent blogging to work additional hours."

Um, its a journal, if anything else. A lot of people hold journals, and nobody else is held accountable for their low financial status because they didnt work that extra 15 minutes. So, why does he get ridiculed? If people chose to read it, its their prerogative. He did write so others could read of his... 'adventures', if you will, but not for money. As I said, he isnt accepting any charity now. And about the choice of school thing again: at the risk of sounding redundant, its his decision to go to whatever school he wishes. For whatever HIS reasons. He's not going for law school, he's going for writing, so why should he have go to a school that would be less intellectually inspiring because its cheaper? In the long run, he would only have been at a disadvantage for not having being influenced as he has.

ps. forgive my CAPS, but i dont quite know how to italicize.

Posted by: cheri at April 29, 2004 10:31 PM

I attended NYU and recall similar stories occuring whilst i was there. I can appreciate why someone would want to defray some of the ludicrous costs associated with a private college education. Yet if the guy or girl (though i'd think only a guy would be willing to subjugate himself to this), is willing to fork out the $20K+ for the education, he's going to take a pass on the extra 5K for housing and food, that's completely stupid. Whoever did this is either completly stupid or narcissistic.
In any event i think giving him a free room does set a bad example no + i dont really believe NYU's sudden chartitable streak.

Posted by: Nick B at May 1, 2004 06:09 AM

i think you should read what everybody has typed in a discussion before you make a comment that was a) already made, and b) already proven to be an ignorant statement.

Posted by: kat at May 9, 2004 05:08 PM
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