Any prospective student touring the University of Mississippi campus can see that it is a beautiful place. However, some students say the traditions and unspoken standards of what it means to “fit in” at Ole Miss as a girl can be overwhelming.
Rebecca Curry is a UM freshman from Dallas who believes Ole Miss has a materialistic culture.
“Materialism here is so intense,” she said. “I’ve never heard of anyone having a professional come in and decorate a college dorm room. There’s a standard here that can be hard to keep up with.
“Girls are expected, during the week, to look like trendy bums, but on the weekend, look like New York socialites,” said Curry, who likes the fact that UM students dress up for games. “I think it shows each other and our visitors that we respect ourselves and want to look our best. But being an Ole Miss student comes with the perception that you will be at a Southern school where looks and clothes really matter.”
Casey Baron, a UM freshman studying accounting, said materialism is common. “But it is definitely more prevalent at some schools than others, Ole Miss being one of them,” she said. “Materialism can be a very contagious disease, something that takes a lot of self-control. You have to be confident enough in who you are as a person, rather than what you own.”
The dorm room decorating tradition can seem excessive. One Ole Miss dorm room even made national news in the summer. Off-campus housing can also be extravagant.
Coleman Sears, a UM junior finance major, offered a male perspective about campus materialism.
“I think half of the student population here makes it seem quite obvious (that they) have a higher income compared to other universities,” Sears said.
Victoria Lacon, a Fort Worth native and UM junior, agrees that some Ole Miss students are materialistic. “From what you wear to class, to what you drive, to what kind of computer you have, it seems that materialism is a sign of status for a lot of people,” said Lacon.
Kathryn Forbes, a UM junior from Dallas, said materialism exists in Greek life. “In no other world would we spend excessive amounts of money on a T-shirt brand (Comfort Colors) for a shirt with letters that aren’t even in our own language,” said Forbes.
Gina Iozzo, a UM English major from Connecticut, said students at UM lack individuality. “I would have to say that everyone here is so ‘cookie-cutter,’ similar to the T-shirt thing (Forbes’s comment), but no one has their own style, even the boys,” she said. “Everyone buys the same designers, like Lululemon, carrying around Louis Vuitton, and wearing Nike shorts. There is a select majority that are not in that stereotype and actually have their own sense of style.”
Shayna McHugh is a UM junior from Florida who has always tried to keep up with the trends. “Since I was 11 years old, I have been trying to keep up with all my girlfriends when it came to clothes, which included buying tons of Abercrombie stuff that probably wasn’t even that cute,” she said. “I just bought them because that’s what everyone else was wearing … It’s easy to follow trends when all your friends are doing it too.”
However, McHugh said when you do things just because your friends are doing it, you start to question your own beliefs and personal style.
“I think every young girl should go through a materialistic stage brought out through pressures, only so that they can learn from it and obtain their own kind of unique style, rather than wear the same exact outfit as their best friends,” she said.
Alexandra Noal, a UM junior from San Antonio, said UM students are “engulfed with materialism.” “It inhibits our actions, as we are hesitant to go to the Square some nights because of our outfit, or taking a picture on another friend’s phone because they have the newest one and with flash.”
Noal said consumerism drives interactions with each other, even walking to class.
“On game days, we look good, and then we support our school, where many schools do not look half as well dressed as we do, but prioritize supporting their team before hair and accessories,” she said. “Someone I know who just left Ole Miss said she had no idea how materialistic Ole Miss was, even the relationships.”
Noal said professors can even judge students’ academic abilities based appearance, “especially wearing Greek life apparel.”
“We’re so concerned with self, appearance, and efficiency that our materialism is embedded with it all,” she said. “We’re constantly growing as a school and community, opening stores we arguably don’t even really need.”
Noal believes UM culture has promoted earning the ‘Mrs. degree’ in the past and wearing designer clothing. She said materialism can drive some relationships.
“There needs to be a balance and understanding that there is more to life and people than what we present,” she said.