Confused? Good. Now you see why acronyms suck

Will Nelson, Senior Columnist

“So, did you vote in the HUSC election?”

The first-year student I was talking to shuffled forward in the lunch line and shot me a blank expression.

“What’s husk?”

The question seemed almost laughable to me at the moment, but now that I’ve thought about it, it reflects a pretty significant problem at Hamline, and in higher education in general; no one knows what the hell all these acronyms mean.

HUSC (Hamline Undergraduate Student Congress, just to spell it out for you), is by no means the only culprit in this problem, though they certainly aren’t devoid of fault. 

I’ve been going to their general assembly meetings for almost a year and a half and I still have no idea what they’re talking about half the time. 

PRC? DISC? EAC? BER? RHA? None of that means anything to me.

I shouldn’t have to learn a whole new language just to know what my student representatives are saying.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to lambast HUSC. I’ve never met a student congress member that I didn’t like; each and every one of them is brimming with passion and kindness. As you’re reading this, one of them is probably writing me an incredibly considerate and thoughtful text message explaining what each of the acronyms I listed above means accompanied by a string of yellow heart emojis.

At any point in a meeting, I could ask for clarification, and they would happily answer, but I never do.

Maybe it’s a lack of self-confidence on my part maybe I don’t want to seem dumb or maybe it’s just that they all seem so competent that I don’t want to interrupt – but one thing is for certain: if a person like me who has considerable experience working with student congress doesn’t know what all these acronyms mean (and at this point is too afraid to ask), then first-year students with no experience almost certainly won’t.

HUSC is just the skin of the onion; acronyms have weaseled their way into every corner of higher education like gas fills an enclosed container. It feels like the second you step out of high school the world is written in caps lock.

During Welcome Week, while trying to give directions to a first-year, I said that the outdoor classroom was “between GLC and DSC,” then felt a flush of frustration when they looked at me like I was speaking Armenian.

Student organizations are another hotbed for acronyms, to the point where it’s almost become a competition to see which org can dream up the weirdest one starting with an H; HUGG, HULC, HASA, HSRJ, HALO, HUDM, HUAMC, HMAC, HORC, HEAL, the list goes on… 

Even incredibly important offices and resources like CASA, WRC, CDC, HUPB and NSP have contracted their names into meaningless strings of symbols.

I’ve even heard the library being called BML before. Why? It’s the godd library.

This wildly excessive use of acronyms is a serious impediment to communication, as illustrated by the student from the lunch line. 

Assuming that all students can pair the function of your organization or office with three or four capital letters is linguistic elitism, and though I have absolutely no data to back this up it might even cause students to be less involved.

To some extent, I can understand why we like making acronyms. It’s fun when you make a bunch of words turn into one word, and being able to spout off a whole bunch of them in a sentence makes me feel pretty smart.

However, our love for acronyms in higher education might simply be a reflection of society’s increasing obsession with efficiency. It feels like abbreviating everything is saving time, but it’s really just confusing people and creating a harmful divide between those who know and those who don’t know

As usual, I really don’t have any sort of real solution to propose, I just think that maybe we should stop using so many acronyms.

Clear communication is worth it, even if it takes a few more syllables.