I’ve been a Netflix member for a few years now. I love that for the price of about two rentals from the local DVD store, I can have almost any movie or television show in the world mailed right to me, and I can take as much (or as little) time as I want to watch it and return it. This service revolutionized the movie rental industry, and certainly changed the way that I watch movies and TV-on-DVD.

Recently I took a leap and bought a nice big HDTV with the Netflix app built right in. Switching to Netflix’s streaming service again changed everything! For half the price I paid for DVDs via mail, I now have access to more entertainment than I can ever hope to consume for about the price of a tub of popcorn at the local movie theater every month.

Netflix recently announced significant changes to its services, including higher rates and the separation of its mail-order and online/streaming services in to two distinct companies. Confusion and anger ensued, and soon Netflix announced that they were taking a ‘do-over’ and returning to their original service model (though keeping the new, higher service rates.

Long story short- This post has nothing to do with Netflix’s new service. As I’ve read the news and various blog posts, it is clear that:

1.) Netflix made a major investment in the changes that it implemented and the roll-out of those changes to their subscriber base.

2.) The subscribing public was very vocal about their disapproval of the changes. Specifically, the increase in rates despite no discernible improvements in service, and the added confusion for users of now having to navigate two contracts with two companies for what had previously been one single service.

3.) There is a lesson here somewhere.

Dr. Joshua Kim has a nice blog post on the Netflix debacle and its lessons for higher education. He makes some great points and sums up the complexity of the issue nicely. But I was most struck by one of the comments left by a reader. A poster named Brian Reid closed his comment with this thought:

“Don’t separate something that combined is more than the sum of its parts.”

In 13 little words this commenter summed up the entire issue! Netflix, for all of their knowledge, research, and expertise, failed to recognize that the service that they offer is more then just a solitary, transactional tool for watching moving pictures. They brought the world a whole new way of experiencing film, television, and technology. Even more, Netflix created a community of people who were unified in one common interest: Having access to a practically unlimited library of information in the form of movies, television shows, documentaries, and so on.

At the end of the day, the blowback against Netflix highlighted that, as Reid states in his comment, the service was more than just the sum of its parts. Taken together, Netflix offered an identity, something that people had bought in to. Taken apart, it became little more than two unrelated and uninspiring rental programs.

I hope that members of our Loyola community will consider the Netflix lesson. College, especially at a Jesuit, liberal arts institution like Loyola, is much more than the sum of its parts.

You’ve only got four good years at Loyola. Soak it all up. You can join a sorority or club. You can play a pick-up game of basketball at the Sports Complex. You can take an internship conducting research with a faculty member. You can live on campus and join the Residence Hall Association or apply to be a Resident Assistant.

But here’s the thing. Do it all!!! You’ve got one shot at this thing called college. You’ve got four short years at Loyola. Do everything! I know it feels like you’ve got too much on your plate already, but this is important.

Think about the morning after your graduation day. Really sit quietly and think about what that moment is going to be like for you. What do you wish you had done in your time at Loyola? What is the program that you wish you attended? Or the organization you wish you joined? Who were the people you wish you’d met and the memories you wish you’d made sitting in the residence hall chatting with your floormates late into the night?

When you are preparing for your 10 year reunion one day, you won’t remember how great your commute to campus was, or how interesting the people-watching was as you sat on a bench waiting for another class to start. You probably won’t even remember your GPA, as important as it is to earn a good one. You will, however, remember the things that you didn’t do. Maybe you were too tired that one day to attend an SGA info session, or too worried about living with a roommate to register for a room on campus.

All these pieces might seem disparate right now, when you’re in the thick of it, stressed out about tests, trying hard to maintain a social life, probably balancing a work schedule on top of everything else. But college is a time when the whole- the experience and the memories- add up to more than the sum of its parts.

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