WASHINGTON –

Kate Green

Women congregate at a special place where
we can take a respite from the hub-bub, admire that awesome shade
of burgundy in a nail polish or spark a conversation about the
humorous but overly publicized Clark campaign video. Often these
interactions occur even before we make it into the sanctuary, the
women’s restroom. In fact, the lines for restrooms at clubs,
stadiums and such, are great places to engage in random
chatter.

I joined about every third female patron at Poli-Tiki, a Capitol
Hill pub, in line for the single-person restroom while I kept a
watchful eye on the big screen displaying the Michigan football
team’s impending win over Ohio State. This is one of the venues
where the Alumni Club of Washington D.C. hosts its members on
football Saturdays. Similar alumni clubs around the country meet
weekly to watch the action.

What was impressive about this particular venue’s restroom line
were the networking opportunities it presented. Even a little
comment about the Metro Detroit area opened the field to a juvenile
conversation about a particularly scandalous incident in a
prosperous suburb from four years ago.

The patrons of Poli-Tiki enjoyed not just the presence of their
friends that afternoon, but also the numerous people with whom they
had been sharing the previous few Saturdays. Former Michigan
Student Assembly President Trent Thompson put aside bygone disputes
with the Daily, reserving valuable couch seating for the editors of
yesteryear. Noting that it was the last game of the season, he
commented, “This is like church to me. I come here every Saturday
to hang out with other alumni. I don’t know what to do after this
game.”

Alumni rely on nostalgia of their college years to bring them
back to these weekly viewings. Alumni association clubs exist all
across the world, and even on the moon since Cols. David Scott and
James Irwin and Lt. Col. Alfred Worden of Apollo 15, all former
University students, placed a plaque there in 1971. Since the
University boasts one of the largest alumni bases, Michigan
memorabilia is everywhere: during an off-season trip to the Taj
Mahal, I found one other tourist who, being a recent graduate, was
also wearing a Michigan T-shirt.

The cars flooding the freeways surrounding Ann Arbor on Saturday
mornings (resonating with audible chants of “The Victors”) indicate
that there are plenty of alumni around the area who are passionate
enough to spend hundreds of dollars to enjoy a few hours in and
around the Big House. Understandably, since it is Michigan football
it is bigger than all of us, and thus able to bring together many
thousands with power unlike anything else.

The football games make it easy for Michigan fans to get
together, and obviously it is easier for people of a particular
group to get together. I was at a convention recently when someone
approached me for the sole reason that we are both brown.
Similarly, I was on the bus yesterday and met a girl who is my
ethnicity and within three minutes and two degrees of separation
found that we share common friends.

It is this phenomenon that perpetuates alumni nostalgia – the
college experience generates these chance meetings, through which
some of the fondest memories are created. In reality though, it is
just a microcosm of the possibilities everywhere: People are just
more open to meet others at the flagpole outside of South Quad than
in a line at the bank.

Unlike life outside of college, these surroundings are ideal for
fostering debates and discussions that generate change, which tend
to fall on deaf ears elsewhere; however, reflective of reality, the
insults and stereotypes take a more prominent role than the actual
issues.

And while on campus we might notice and comment on the visible
yet petty divides between ethnic, racial and even regional groups,
once we graduate we have yet another uniting link to bind us
together: the University. It seems that it isn’t until we are
thrown out into the “real world” that we understand how much we
rely upon our identity as Wolverines to bring us back together.
Once we realize that in fact we are only about five degrees apart,
and not just through an alumni association or because of an
ethnicity, maybe we can begin to work toward a goal beyond just
winning the Rose Bowl.

Chirumamilla can be reached at
“mailto:schiruma@umich.edu”>schiruma@umich.edu.

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