As I write this, it’s just another cold, gray March day. I just want to crawl back into bed. I’ve felt like this before. In fact, I’ve probably endured more cold, gray days than I really care to remember. I’ve had my fill of walking around campus in a perpetual headwind – snowy days where I feel like no matter what direction I turn, the snow will be blowing directly in my face.
As you read this, there will be 38 days until April 29, 2006: Commencement Day. It’s strange that these four years have gone by so quickly. I’m a bit sad that my career is coming to an end. Well, sad about the social aspects ending. Classes coming to an end, however, will not make me sad – not even almost.
I was recently asked about my legacy on campus. I couldn’t give a good answer on the spot. I’m an English major with a mediocre (at best) grade point average- not exactly the kind of person who walks around receiving praise for his contributions to campus life. I haven’t won any awards, and, unless someone starts an award for Excellence in Unnecessarily Skipping Class, I won’t win any. So when it comes to my legacy, I’m at somewhat of a loss.
I certainly hope I have made an impact in some capacity during these past four years. I know I’ve made numerous people angry with several of my columns during this academic year, but that’s not why I write. I write to give people a little piece of my brain. In my quest to influence society, I have realized that, right now, all I can do is share my story and hope that it somehow resonates with or informs someone.
I hope my personal interactions are taken the same way. I hope that someone I’ve talked to at some time during my college career has benefited from hanging around David Betts.
I hope that how I’ve lived my life in college has allowed people to do just that – allowed them to try to understand the perspective of how I live my life. I’m tired of the shouting match that has become what Americans call discourse. I’ve realized that almost nothing productive can come from two people arguing with the winner judged by who yelled the loudest. I may be a bit of an idealist, but I always thought that an exchange of ideas should be more humble than that. I always thought there should be an honest attempt to understand the perspective of those whose opinions differ.
Something I have realized relatively recently is that the University is in the business of constant re-education. I say that because every year there is a new class of students fresh from high school, not sure of what they want to do with their lives and potentially ignorant about multiple facets of society. And every year, different people within the University try to express to youngsters the same information they just got done trying to explain to students who have moved on. I suppose the University does change with the times, but every year, the uppermost regions of the student section at the Big House need several games to learn the intricacies of the wave; every year Econ 101 students will have to learn about demand curves and marginal revenue; every year a new group of students have to be told repeatedly that quiet hours in the residence halls begin at 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends.
Given that the University will always have a significant number of people who have yet to be exposed to all kinds of things, it is unwise to assume how much anyone knows. I can’t expect that anyone would know how it feels to be a black student on campus just like I can’t expect someone to know where the Fleetwood is on his first day in Ann Arbor. Conversely, I can’t assume to know the experiences of international students, transfer students or any student that I haven’t talked to specifically.
The University is a place where those experiences should be shared and explained. I hope my legacy has been and, for the next month or so, continues to be contributing to the exchange of experiences. In several more weeks, I won’t be around to tell my story to the campus – someone else has to pick up where I left off and tell his story. If I had any wish as to what my legacy would be, it would be to inspire a few storytellers, not yellers, to contribute to the so-called marketplace of ideas.
Betts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org