Sometimes when I learn something in a class or in a lecture that I would otherwise not know, or a professor shows general interest in my own life, or when a class is functioning perfectly, I forget my role at the University of Rhode Island.

In that moment, I am too grateful for my environment. I think, ‘this is what higher education is all about.’ However, reality sinks back in on the walk back to my brother’s house, where I park so I don’t have to pay for URI parking.

On that walk to Diane Drive, through the Emporium and past the Fine Arts Center parking lot, I usually remember my role here. When I say my role, I mean the role of the student: the consumer, the customer, the ones who pay for all this to work. We are the pawns and the supporters, and without us, none of this would be possible.

On that walk back, I see the new science buildings, the tours, the tow trucks, the potholes and the vulture/stalker-like parking methods. Every single time I do this walk, I begin to question if URI cares about my welfare.

I know some professors and faculty members care, and maybe they can relate to my feelings, but I’m not sure. But how about the higher-ups, the ones with the fat pockets, President David M. Dooley and the elites of this corporation that they call a university? Do they care about my well-being?

If so, where is the proof? Every day I walk past the new science buildings and the $6.3 million renovations to Ranger Hall. Those are great, and I’m really excited to see the end product. The physical buildings look amazing. But it’s what happens inside those buildings that matter. The teachers and the resources for success are what matters.

This walk near the science buildings makes me feel like I’m a lion in a zoo as tours for potential customers surround and stare at me. Actually, more like a fish in an aquarium. Either way, I wonder if the “leaders” of this corporation care about what’s going on in the inside of the buildings. Or is it just the outside, the appearance that matters? It’s funny because I don’t see these tours going through the Fine Arts Center. I wonder if the giant, half-completed structure of metal and cement in its backyard is a reason.

This usually occupies my brain until I reach the parking lot of the Fine Arts Center. Here, I get distracted by the hundreds of students fighting over parking spots, driving as slow as they possibly can behind someone walking to their car. There’s a pothole every five feet, just waiting to take out an exhaust, and tow trucks come and go frequently.

Aren’t these the same students that pay hundreds of dollars to park here? And if they don’t pay, they risk being towed where the only way to retrieve a car is by coughing up $120 cash. (Yes, cash).

Even if they do pay for parking, those students have to hope they can find a spot before class begins. Because if class does begin without them, they could lose credit for being late. This seems like a very odd business model. Let’s compare this model to the model of another business – let’ say a sandwich shop.

In this example, the sandwich represents the information we learn at college. At times, this sandwich can be amazing. It can teach you about so much, including yourself. Also, the rest of your life may depend on it. However, in order to try a bite of the sandwich, there are some obstacles. And you have to pay before ever trying it. And pay a lot.

So, you do, because it seems like the sensible option. Then you get to the shop and are forced to pay and wait for parking. After 20 minutes of searching, you finally make it to the entrance of the building, so excited for the sandwich. But the door’s locked. You’re ten minutes late. The owner unlocks the door and tells you that, “in the real world, you have to be on time.” You tell yourself to get used to it, and not give up.

So, the next day, you get the sandwich shop super early, knowing about the parking situation and the shop’s policy. You sit down and awkwardly talk to the other customers. Five minutes pass and still no sandwich. Then, you get an email stating that “Sandwiches today are cancelled.”

Most of the time, this sandwich feels like a terrible waste of money. But you have eaten sandwiches everyday for the first 18 years of your life, what else are you going to do? Then, when you bite into the perfect sandwich, or an employee acknowledges you, or the fellow customers make it a great experience, for a short moment, you get distracted about your role at the shop.