"I wasn’t part of student groups": Four Reclusive Students relive their stories of doing nothing

By Amir Khouzam


In September of 2017, members of this year’s graduating class Dahna Black, Conor McGuire, and Amir Khouzam had the opportunity to join any number of exciting and topically diverse student groups. They chose not to. Now, 14 months later, they have decided to tell their story.

Conor: I guess I’ll start. I really think part of why I haven’t done essentially anything is, I’m comfortable with mediocrity.

Dahna: I feel that.

Conor:  I mean here I was, new to New York, starting graduate school. Why would I also want to do cool things with like-minded students?

Dahna: it’s true, you know, it was almost like the groups spoke too perfectly to my interests. You know what I mean? Here I am, an American of Middle Eastern descent, and the MENA Forum provides a platform for me and others of similar backgrounds or work experience to engage with high-level thinkers in the field. No way.

Amir: Interesting that you guys talk about the groups first. I didn’t even notice that there were groups! From the start, I was too busy being entirely fulfilled by the academic curriculum…

(Murmurs of agreement around the table.)

Amir: …I mean two weeks in and already the coursework was right into marginal cost curves. Conceptual foundations was, look, it was thrilling, I’ll be quite honest, and-

Ali Feldhausen is the Editor in Chief of the Morningside Post. She has agreed to moderate this share-back session in order to help new students decide not to become involved.

Ali: Amir, I’m going to stop you there, because I really want to get back to something Conor brought up. New York. All three of you are new to New York, and maybe you could speak a little bit about how being in this incredible city helped you decide to only do the bare minimum with your time here?

Dahna: Look, I mean everything they say about Morningside Heights is true.

Amir: Center of the Universe!

Conor (whistling the intro to the 1987 direct-to-tv movie, “Murder in Morningside Heights”):  it’s straight off the silver screen.

Amir: The thing is that the streets are so vibrant, and all the time, that, like, why see the rest of New York at all? More than that, why expand your mind?

Dahna: The subject matter of student groups- the essentially unlimited opportunities for peer-led intellectual engagement that they offer- would really distract from the cultural offerings of the west side of Morningside drive south of 123rd street, I feel.

Ali: Let’s talk more specifically about some of the things you chose not to do.

Amir: With pleasure.

Ali: Amir?

Amir: So many things. First, I didn’t join the groups that were closest to my heart. The Migration Working Group and the Journal of International Affairs both provided opportunities for really unique career development. So, naturally, nope.

Ali: Right.

Amir: I also immediately rejected opportunities to support other groups without taking on any responsibilities.

Ali: Oh?

Amir: Yea! So, lots of the groups host panels. Information sessions, if you will. And sometimes I had the exact right experience to be one voice among many on those panels.

Ali: But you didn’t volunteer?

Amir: Correct. Why would I? You can’t listen to a panel that you yourself are on.

Ali: Conor, maybe you could talk about the manner in which your non-engagement didn’t help you.

Conor: Yea, sure. So I’ve heard that if you get involved in student groups, not only do you meet other involved students, but members of the faculty and administration start recognizing your name and putting you forward for unique opportunities. Galas, fundraising events, meetings with high level delegations. That kind of thing.

Ali: Interesting.  How did that put you off?

Conor: Honestly, Ali? I just did not want to be part of a system that rewards putting in effort for increased opportunity.

Ali: Dahna, how about the titles?

Dahna: Oh, “the titles”.

Ali: Diss em.

Dahna: Look who among us needs our resume to stand out? Isn’t putting ‘student’ enough to get an entry-to-mid-level job? I don’t think President of the UN Studies Working Group at Columbia University really adds much. Sure you get to organize high-level visits to the UNHQ for you and your peers - so what?!

Ali: How do you-

Dahna: -Are you trying to tell me that someone with ‘Political Risk Working Group’ on their résumé, when they apply for a Eurasia job, has anything over someone with NOTHING on their resume?

Ali: And so-

Dahna (getting more animated): -Humanitarian Affairs? Women in Leadership? SSOC, SPAN, LASA? Consulting? Do you think these varied and diverse student groups help their members a) get exposed to the field or b) demonstrate leadership?

Amir and Conor (scoffing in agreement): I don’t think so!

Ali: Thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Dahna: Thank you. It’s Nice to meet you.

Amir: Pleasure to meet all of you.

Conor: Really great to talk about something other than school for a change. Thank you.