We were walking by the Cappuccino Bar on a campus tour when I first heard it, the diagnosis of my future school in one simplistic word. "Everyone here is so nice," smiled the tour guide, gesturing at the students scattered around the room in groups of two or three.
I've hated that word as a descriptor of the University of Dallas ever since then because it's a pathetic standard for such a great school to reach for. Admissions should not be selling "nice" to prospies, and more than that, the students here should stop accepting "nice" as the pinnacle of what we all want to achieve.
Nice is happy with sweet smiles and zero real connection. Nice asks, "How's your day goin'?" in a soprano Texan accent, walking too fast past the other person to find out the real answer. Nice pretends we don't know each other at all and that we're all too content in our own selfish spheres to reach out and see someone else. And nice is too empty, too false, too cardboard-cutout to describe the people I've met at UD.
If you want your school to be a beautiful place despite its campus, fight the niceness. Any second semester freshman can tell you that being nice doesn't get you anywhere in Dante's "Inferno." Just look at Brunetto Latini: Dante praises his "dear, kind paternal image [that] taught [Dante] how man makes himself eternal" (XV 83-85).
Latini's a nice guy! Readers like him and pity his eternal torture. Even in hell, he is willing to aid Dante and gives him actually helpful advice. But where did that get him? Nice isn't a virtue to Dante, and it shouldn't be to us, either.
Instead of being nice, be the sort of optimistic that encourages other people just by association, like my summer roommate Elizabeth. Be genuine like my friend Kat who never, ever makes you wonder if she's hiding something from you. Be unwaveringly loyal like my current roommate (another Kat). Be inclusive like Jason, quietly wise like Rebeca, unique like Bea, filled to the brim with leadership potential like Alex, or passionate about something (even if that something is astrophysics) like James. But don't be nice.
The good news is that we're already rising above nice; I believe most human beings are, once you get to know them. All we have to do at UD is stop pretending like it's all we are or will ever be.