Thursday, September 11, 2008
Compare and Contrast
It's "New Student Week" here at the small academically elite college where I work. The freshman only are on campus, hosted by trained upperclassmen, with a full schedule of introductions, tours, small discussion groups, and parent activities.
This is such a stark contrast to the Big Ten experience I had at the University of Iowa. Let's chart them, shall we? This in no way is meant to criticize small liberal arts colleges - perhaps I'm just jealous? But it really struck me what a different atmosphere I encountered. We'll call my employer PC for "Private College".
At PC, you can back the family van right up to the dormitory door.
At Iowa, your parents dropped you off in the parking lot nearest your dorm. That was as close as you could get.
At PC, there are perky upperclassmen in matching t-shirts waiting at your dorm's door to greet you, sign you in, and walk you to your room. All under a colorful banner decorated by balloons.
At Iowa, there were cranky old women named Doris handing out room keys and she was usually housed in a dank office in the basement of your massive building.
At PC, you followed a wonderfully scripted schedule of activities to make you feel welcome.
At Iowa, the first thing scheduled was to learn your new roommate owned a bong the size of New Jersey.
At PC, there was a refreshment tent, a live band, and a free popcorn wagon.
At Iowa, new students are offered refreshments - they are two flights of stairs down, next to the laundry room in vending machines. And you'd better have correct change.
At PC, there was another group of upperclassmen in matching t-shirts wildly cheering each and every person, bike, and car that entered campus, all day.
At Iowa, the only thing around to "greet" you was the pushy Dad from Chicago who thought he and his kid owned the elevator and kept it locked on "open" while they unloaded Jr's crap.
At PC, the dining hall offers a daily variety of pizza bar, pasta bar, sandwich bar, salad bar, vegan bar, main dish bar, etc. Yesterday's main dish was Chicken Penne in Tarragon Cream.
At Iowa, you had two choices: take it or leave it. And the "salad bar" was iceberg lettuce, canned olives, and government cheese.
At PC, the home football game is attended by a handful of students who bring their books to study during time outs.
At Iowa, home football games were bigger than the RNC and with much less tear gas, but almost as many prostitutes and beer cans.
At PC, you can walk from one end of campus to the other in less than 5 minutes.
At Iowa, the occasional student would send up a flare so the search parties could find him.
At PC, there are funny little pranks and traditions that all students are in on, and all alumni remember.
At Iowa, pranks and traditions usually involve the FBI, local police, and the ATF
At PC, all the Seniors are the same age.
At Iowa, some seniors are creepy 47 year old guys who still wear backpacks and hang out too long in the Student Union arguing philosophy and government oppression.