Sunday, November 16, 2003

Presidential Inauguration

Not US, USD President Mary Lyons.

Faculty in regalia marched in procession behind Iris Engstrand, Emerita of History, carrying the ceremonial mace. Bishop Brom sat with the platform party atired in matching puce cope and biretta. The Choral Scholars in evening dress sang an exquisite Mozart Ave Verum and the ROTC drill team did a routine that involved twirling rifles like batons.There was speechifying, fanfare by the USD orchestra conducted by Angela Young, as Lyons was invested with the Presidential Chain and, audacious choice, a recessional by Chabrier. We exited to the plaza for the reception where there were melting wheels of cheese, wine and loaves of pate. Outside the gate the pickets were carrying signs including one denouncing USD as the "Universodomy of San Diego."

I do like it here.

When I graduated from Lake Forest College during the Revolution, the senior class chose to march in street clothes in order to use money that would have gone to rent gowns to establish a scholarship fund for minorities from the inner city. With all 200 of us kicking in, one faculty member estimated, the proceeds might have paid for about 3 weeks of classes.

Whatever, if anything, was in our heads? No one ever, ever suggested using the money we spent on records or recreational drugs to finance worthy causes. During Kent State the college closed down for teach-ins on the quad. The gist of it was that society as we knew it, including Academia, was over--in the new order to come we would live on communes and universities would be reconstituted as centers for learning macrame, pottery and Native American dances. We would teach oneanother.

I was horrified. Lake Forest college was so enclosed, and I was so naive, that I was convinced it was true--that classes would never start again or, even if they did, that Academia as we knew it would not last long enough for me to be a professor.

In retrospect I'm convinced of what I secretly believed then but tried to avoid thinking. These kids were having fun. By the late '60s college was mandatory for all middle class kids. Most were too dumb to benefit from higher education: they didn't like classes, they didn't like reading, going to lectures, or even talking about ideas and, at Lake Forest College most were so rich that they didn't need to worry about getting credentials for the job market. But they had to be there getting High Culture pushed at them because those were the rules. It would have been more efficient to have them lolling around at the Drones Club pitching spit balls at one another, and using the savings in tuition money to send the intended beneficiaries of our scholarship fund to Lake Forest College.