Mary Cheung, Head Illustrator
Welcome to the City of the Hills – Oneonta: Life Enjoyed. The trees are walls and the hills are levels. SUNY Oneonta is our stage and Hunt Union is a fortress. It sits on the highest platform of our campus surrounded by the privileges of a guarded pond, a parking lot and the baseball field. Within, the monopoly of Sodexo, Starbucks and the Student Association inhabit the space as power players who push mediocre decisions and highly salty foods to be flushed by its subjects.
Pass the pillars and the 9/11 memorial on your way down. It is a plateau of trodden roads that are sprinkled with shrubs and boxes. This is the quad that boxes subjects in so that they must cut corners. The quad is a battleground for humans and zombies seeking to acquire brains, perhaps an identity. Nearby, there is the Netzer administrative building complex and the fallacious erections of underrepresented pure colors blending into tints of whiteness.
Alongside our educational plateau are residence halls in the dried valley plains. The interior mimics the likeness of hospitals and prison cells. My peers drink under the table to avoid exchanges with regulators and authoritative heads. Students roll down the Cow Path, Deer Path or ride OPT bus to escape systematic chains and to become animals again.
Downtown Oneonta is the oasis for these thirsty creatures. Where the underage consume from the well of Water Street and women are stripped of their dignities by the primal calls of egocentric mating males. Half-eaten cold cheese slices and paper trays scatter the pavement for tomorrow morning and abandoned responsibilities to the rest of the community of Oneonta. The animals return to the tops of their hills that they call “home” to sleep worries away. They wake to fragments of the puzzle that cannot be pieced into a greater picture. They long for nighttime to come again so they can gulp the guilt out of their drunken minds.
We are passive spectators who gaze at wrongs, but never stop it. We are subjects to a government that tries to define us, regulating laws as if it were carved in stone. Dialogue passes rarely as self-interested political individuals are veiled by ignorance. We perceive the “givens” as permanent, not privileges. But one day, the hilltops will weather into sediment.
Today, I am a subject of the “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” landscape. I am a statistic to make this college look better. I am a subject under the forces beyond my control or consent. I am a dried, empty seed who needs the sunlight of knowledge and the rains of progress. I am an exotic plant to your bland trees. “You have a place here” means that I am your property. You flatten me with the click of your camera to become a poster child for a faceless community where we stare off into screens.