How to survive the ‘steps’

by Miranda Adler

I’ve heard many names for San Diego State’s infamous Free Speech Steps. To State newbies, the steps have been referred to as “that spot in front of Starbucks.” For campus regulars, the steps are commonly known as a place where crazy, paper-flinging enthusiasts frequent and should be avoided at all costs. After observing the steps and their inhabitants for an entire day, I consider myself an authority on step etiquette. In case you’ve been hiding behind the turtle pond all semester, here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to the steps.

Do: Mingle with the people
Though normally frowned upon, mingling between Greek organizations is acceptable, if not encouraged, on the steps. It’s not uncommon to see men from different frats ignoring each other in public, but high-fives and friendly banter between fraternity boys abound, thanks to the freedom of the steps.

Don’t: Walk directly up the center of the steps
Undoubtedly you have seen the I-don’t-want-your-flyer dance many times. Flyer-pushers are visible all across campus, but walking directly toward an overly enthusiastic member of an organization on the steps is a bad move and likely to end in an awkward situation. SDSU students have mastered certain techniques when it comes to flyer avoidance. I counted 10 students who avoided eye contact, five who zigzagged around the steps’ perimeter, three who pretended to be on the phone and one brave soul who looked the pushers in the face and said “No.” Bravo.

Do: Speak your mind
On my day of observation, I (unwillingly) overheard the entire phone conversation of a student lounging and chatting on the steps. I guess the freedom of the steps encouraged this student to feel comfortable enough to let me, as well as everyone within 50 feet, hear about how glad she was that she had left home, because all there was to do in her town was “do drugs and get pregnant.” Her number of “hellas” was irritating, even to me. As a NorCal girl who has lived with four Southern California roommates, I broke that habit long ago. Apparently, the same rules do not apply on the steps, so feel free to “get weird.”

Follow these rules and you should be golden. Though not groundbreaking or awe-inspiring, the Free Speech Steps do offer a certain level of civil liberties. As I watched skateboarder after skateboarder dismount and descend the steps on foot, I couldn’t help but think maybe the steps do put us all on a level playing field.

-Miranda Adler is a journalism and French senior who is still mistaken as a freshman.

-This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.