Meet the neighbours

“It surprises me how rarely green globs are used to compliment heritage-listed structures…”

I thought I knew where I was going. My marks were sufficient, my preferences were in, and my room was littered with relevant paraphernalia, collected months earlier from an open day. I was all primed for undergraduate study—at RMIT.

That was when my mother intervened.


Her brutal Singaporean accent amplified the demand, leaving me subject to the scope of her wrath. Keen to avoid another dose of fury, I scurried away to my signature hiding spot, too afraid to inform her of RMIT’s status as a university.

In hindsight, I think my mother made me make the right decision. Sure, her methods of brainwashing and identity theft may have been a tad unethical—but hey, a little bit of torture never hurt anybody. Besides, I’m now at the country’s top academic institution, if I’m to trust one of those infallible Taiwanese surveys.

There are times, of course, when I kick myself for forgoing the riches of RMIT. Every morning, in fact, when the Swanston Street tram takes me past the institute’s mean combination of buff, cerulean and lime, I ponder what could have been. Forget Old Arts, forget Melba Hall, forget Ormond College. Building 22 is where it’s at.

It surprises me how rarely green globs are used to compliment heritage-listed structures. Melbourne Uni’s head honchos should certainly not hesitate to commission one of RMIT’s budding designers to splash a little slime across the Baldwin Spencer eyesore.

RMIT students, however, do not seem to appreciate how much the green glob on Storey Hall adds to the Melbourne cityscape. Nor do they revere their prime centrepiece as the “urban landmark” it claims to be. Their complaints about campus continue as they lament the claustrophobia, architectural diversity, and lack of outdoors. But, honestly, who needs trees when you have a concrete jungle?

As the pompous neighbour, I often wonder what else goes on inside RMIT’s cutting edge structures. Who and what lurks within those multi-storey layers?

I envision the majority of students parading through the narrow halls, out-dressing one another with outlandish attire. The others, too sleep-deprived to make an effort, fall up and down staircases in their attempt to wake up. Within every pencil case lives a collection of paint brushes and sewing scissors. Classrooms, meanwhile, use canvases instead of whiteboards to immortalise subject notes into pieces of art. As one paces around, it is noticeable that all students are consumed by something. For some, it’s designing miniature models of logistically-impossible skyscrapers. For the rest, it’s producing cult TV shows, to be broadcast over a frequency only Geelong can obtain.

Given these axiomatic realities, one could easily mistake RMIT residents for being a hybrid of Melbourne’s VCA and Arts contingent, on speed. Not that I think they take speed; marijuana is quite clearly their drug of choice.

It would be fitting to consequently ask RMIT students what they think of us. After all, the only reason they’re at RMIT is because they missed out on Melbourne, right?

The consensus opinion, however, does little more than disappoint us narcissists. Not only do RMITians claim to attend their university of choice, but they seem to not have the time, nor the interest to pass judgments on their Melbourne counterparts. They’d much prefer to think about their prospective careers. As if people have plans beyond uni? And I’m not talking about postgrad.

Personally, I find this offensive and so should you. Melbourne University is the collective of the intellectuals, the academics, the free-thinkers of our generation. We are the leaders of the past, the present and the future. How dare those who dwell so close to us not voice an opinion? If you don’t love us, you have no choice but to hate us. If you aren’t jealous, you should be cynical; if you aren’t cynical, you should be mowing down the tall poppies. It is unacceptable to merely sit on the fence on and just accept us. We do not tolerate indifference.

This subtle shift from hostility to apathy is becoming a common thread in cross-varsity perspectives—bar Monash, for obvious reasons. Victorians, LaTrobers, Deakinites, and Swinburnians all seem to share one thing in common: they care just as much about UniMelb as we care about them.

This should really be cause for celebration, not grief. No longer when we reveal that we attend Victoria’s most prestigious college should we brace ourselves for sarcasm and eye-rolling. Nor should we need to feel insecure about our pride and value. On the contrary, we can continue on our merry ways, without ever needing to hop down from our high horse.

At present, the Melbournian superiority complex is showing no signs of slowing down, and perhaps it never will. Simultaneously, though, the progress of competing universities is something to which we shall have to grow accustomed. The days of tertiary monopoly-cum-oligopoly are long gone—to the masses, Melbourne is just another inconsequential face in the crowd.

As nice as it is for us to envisage Melbourne Uni as the proverbial centre of the universe, perhaps it’s time we took a step back. Perhaps it’s time we realised that we’re nothing more than that blimp off the edge of the CBD, a few blocks north of the green gunk.