The Opinion Section is an uncomplicated institution. We find facts, we formulate opinions and we present our perspectives in 800 words or less. Sometimes those opinions are controversial, but due to the word limit and time constraints, we hardly ever find ourselves dealing with the most pressing moral quandaries of our time — at least within the covers of the Niner Times.
It’s been said that our campus community faces a hostile takeover from a menacing, ubiquitous presence. They’re called geese. We didn’t see a whole lot of them last year, but sometime after the fall semester ended, their numbers began to increase. First, they crept up towards Moore Hall. Then, they moved outside of Cone. Now, the entirety of South Village and most of the western side of campus finds itself under occupation. The geese are, simply put, fucking everywhere.
And they don’t exactly have a reputation for being friendly neighbors. Their hobbies include: blocking pathways, honking ominously, eating garbage and bugs, getting stuck on the roof of Rowe, shitting on approximately everything and squaring up with innocent freshman just trying to get to class. One time I passed a goose on my way back from the library. As I was digging in my jacket pocket for my earbuds, I accidentally knocked out a receipt. The goose snapped it out of the air and swallowed it. Between them, the cops and the religious protestors, it’s hard to find a non-terrifying way to walk home.
Which brings me to this crucial ethical dilemma. For a very long time, I abhorred the geese. Ever since the receipt incident, I’ve come to regard them as yet another system of oppression that puts my body on the line each day. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but I still hated them.) I grew so secure in my conviction that months ago, I bullied my section editor Madison into letting me write a satirical article about how we needed to drive the geese away from campus. I planned to review different methods for doing so and make an argument for a permanent solution to what I called “the goose problem.”
But as I worked through my first draft, I came to recognize a disturbing theme. You see, I’m pursuing a minor in Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Studies, which deals primarily with how we come to perpetrate genocide. A major component of my education in that field involves learning about how propaganda is used to facilitate genocide. The more I wrote about the geese, the more I recognized classic hallmarks of genocidal propaganda: black and white thinking, stereotyping, master race discourse and so on. It made me question who the real victims were.
Why do the geese hang out by Fretwell? Is it because they like to harass passerby? Is it because they enjoy Belk Plaza’s seemingly endless supply of Bojangles wrappers and caterpillars? Or is it because they have nowhere else to go? Some might suggest they could make a home out of the small pond by the nature trail towards South Village. I pass that pond everyday: it’s small, murky and has a big scary fountain in the middle. The only geese I see by it are two parents and their flock of small yellow goslings. For a notoriously territorial creature, suggesting that this body of water — or any of the small ponds on campus, for that matter — is an adequate living space is akin to suggesting that eight freshmen and an illegal gecko can fit in a single room in Wallis: doable, but cruel. I’ve come to think that maybe the geese occupy busy thoroughfares because they have no other choice.
I’m not saying the geese are angels. I’ve been traumatized by the geese before and I don’t think it’s fair to myself and other victimized students to say that the geese aren’t at fault. What I do think is that the University has unfairly, and perhaps unthinkingly, pitted two resilient, wild forces (students and geese) against one another. Forcing us to exist at close, uncomfortable proximity is a tried-and-true recipe for interspecies tension. History has shown that situations like these can give way to a genocidal impulse, even among normally compassionate individuals.
We have to acknowledge that geese and students have little choice over where they can live on campus; it is up to the administration. And when we do, we are presented with a choice. Do we demand the Chancellor round up all the geese — including those cute babies by the pond — and push them out into urban Charlotte where they will almost certainly perish? Or do we demand the Chancellor make room for us and these delightful denizens of chaos to live in relative peace?
This is still a satirical article. You can laugh and joke about how you feel about the geese to your friends after reading this. But before I close out this column — and another fantastic year with the Niner Times — I encourage all of you to stop and think critically about the politics of space on this campus. Who, or what, is permitted room to exist? Who, or what, is not?
And above all: how do you clean goose shit off of your Birkenstocks?