Tag Archives: college

Tearing Up the Front Porch: University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is one of those Rockefeller schools founded in the late 1800’s with a donation from John D. The first classes were held in 1892, not that long ago by some standards, but since then the place has housed 89 Nobel Prize winners, 50 Rhodes Scholars, and 13 billionaires.

More importantly Chicago was a founding member of the  Big Ten conference, won 2 national football championships, and a Chicago player was the recipient of the first ever Heisman trophy. That was 1935.

In 1939, Chicago stopped playing football.IMG_9687

Make no mistake, I love football. I even love college football. But Cancelling football right after winning the Heisman, at a time when college football was becoming America’s true national game, is FABULOUS!IMG_9906

It was fabulous in that more people today know about the Chicago School of Economics and its original rejection of Keynesian ideas than know about the Heisman. Which is appropriate because it is a college. A school. Odds are if one buys a Chicago Maroons sweater at Walmart they are not cheering a running back but more likely an academic.

Most schools are not that brave.IMG_9581

But to go to Chicago you have to be brave. It is a must.

Why? Because it is unbearably cold there. Freezing. Yeah, yeah, yeah, people there chose brains over sports but really, it was probably just way too cold outside. Seriously how do people live in that?IMG_9959 Ranked #4 by US News & World Report

Student body: 15,312

Endowment: $7.5 billion

Mascot…. the Phoenix!

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Wherever You are, Be There: on campus

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Tweed because one should never be above a stereotype, scarf because this is California and you have to capitalize on scarf opportunities (when it dips below 50 degrees), and surly look because you kid yourself that this balances out otherwise pretentious behavior.

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The History of Spring Break: I am an old man

For college kids spring break  is synonymous with sun baked debauchery. For parents of school aged children it is either an opportunity to take the kids and escape the cold, or the torturous task of a weeks worth of rearranged schedules and event planning. To what or to whom do we owe thanks?

Colgate University’s swim team.pool

 

In 1936 the Colgate swim team’s coach took his boys down to Fort Lauderdale to get a jump start on training in the Olympic sized Casino Pool. Now mind you back in those days Colgate was an all men’s, somewhat elite, possibly elitist school and that was a time when for the most part college was meant to prepare rich white kids to become rich white adults.

Part of becoming a rich white adult is meeting others likewise destined. Within a couple years this  Florida trip wasn’t a practice it was a meet (there is a pun in there).IMG_1661

This Florida swim meet/party became so notorious that one year a professor tagged along, wrote a book about it, and that book became the movie “Where the Boys are”. Twenty Five years later MTV was broadcasting unseemly things live from Daytona.

Ahh the decline and fall of the American empire.IMG_1677

I have my own tales of spring breaks passed, but none of them involve debauchery. They mostly involve taking the kids to the beach or Chuck E’ Cheese… but there was that one road trip to Rosarito.IMG_6077

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1st to College: Black History Month

Back in the 1700’s hardly anyone went to college. Those who did certainly weren’t going there to learn a skill or get a job. They were there to study the classics and become generally versed in history, literature, and science. They were there to become acculturated, spending time with gentrified peers, mixed with some academic luxuriating. College was more or less somewhere to send young, rich, white,  boys.

Then there was John Chavis.15preacher

Chavis, born in North Carolina, was a free black man who fought for the United States in the Revolutionary war. After the war he was tutored by John Witherspoon (who would become the president of Princeton) and then in 1794 Chavis enrolled in the Liberty Hall Academy (which would later become Washington &Lee University). Chavis, a black man, went to college back when most people, no matter their color, did not.

Chavis went on to be ordained a Presbyterian minister and founded a school near Raleigh North Carolina. His school, which taught both black and white, though not at the same time, was regarded as one of the best in the state. It all came to a screeching halt in 1831, when due to white fears of slave rebellions, all black people were barred from teaching, and or preaching.

Chavis’s story serves as a reminder that history is not a straight ascending line. Empires rise and fall, racism ebbs and flows. Chavis was a remarkable man who achieved remarkable things long before the emancipation proclamation or the Civil Rights Movement. Yet because history is not a straight line, Chavis did not really blaze a trail for others to follow. His tracks were swept over by fearful slavers, de-reconstructionists, and time.

Remember that gains can, and have in the past, been lost.

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When a College is Historically White, Then Black, Then White Again: Black History Month

The University of South Carolina was founded by a state charter in 1801 and was the 23rd college founded in the United States. It was only for white people. When South Carolina started the Civil War, the students went off to fight for the South and the school closed, then it was occupied by Northern forces. After the war (1865) it was reopened under South Carolina’s reconstruction government.library reading room

They, the reconstructionists, made the school open to Black people. And it wasn’t just the students. One of the new professors they hired after the war ended was Richard Theodore Greener, America’s first Black professor at any state run flagship university (he was also the first Black person to graduate from Harvard). By 1875 ninety percent of the student body were Black.

When reconstruction was abandoned and democrats retook the state government (1876), they quickly closed the school down. Then in 1880 they reopened the school, but only to White people. After the passing of Brown vs. the Board of Education, which outlawed segregation, USC became the nation’s first college to require an entrance exam. That was 1954. The school did not admit any Black students till 1963.museum

Mind you, Professor Greener (who left the school when the democrats closed it down) graduated Harvard back in 1870, almost 100 years earlier.

History is not a straight line ascending up and up eternally. It weaves a drunkards path, back and forth, forward and back. Forward progress is not, and has never been, natural or inevitable.

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Leaving Nature for my Natural Habitat

The winter break is over and the kids, those of my own and those at the University, are back in class. That means I am as wellIMG_9862

Of course back in class does not mean classy. What it does mean is that if we hope to operate at a university level we could discuss and dissect what exactly “classy” means.

Is it visible? Is it observable? Who decides what constitutes class? What are the ties between what is considered “classy” (behavior, clothing, topics, etc.) and socio-economic class?

Is there value in being classy? Is this value only in how those with high social class perceive the one in question?IMG_9870 (34)

I might suggest that most of us who ask such questions would not likely feel good about the answers.

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The Letter on My Chest: Hillflint

I once spent a day in the archives of the University of Pennsylvania. I was doing research on the history of American football, focusing on its roots as an elitist quasi military ivy league creation and then its metamorphosis into a blue collar American religion. In the course of investigation I was able to handle a number of artifacts of various type and description, but my favorite item, was a sweater.sweater stuff

After handling this 100 year old piece of knitwear, woven back in those primitive times, I was a bit surprised at how hard it was to find one of like quality today. I started in my own college’s bookstore, one of those misnamed retailers of pennants and polo shirts but no dice. Plenty of t-shirts, but no classic P. In my various travels and continued research I was able to find some schools with similar items, but not the one I wanted. I looked everywhere. Lots of sweaters, but not the right one.

Then there was the internet and this one website. Hillflint.
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I found it and finally, over the holiday, I got it.

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The letter was not a felted applique patch but rather an intarsia knit letter woven right into the chest, just like the original I found in the archive.

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The little bit of branding in the waistband was their own touch but I liked it. This was not a jersey meant to be worn on Franklin Field, it was a sweater meant to be pulled over a button down on a crisp campus afternoon. Or in my case, a California evening when it dips down to the unheavenly temperature of 60 degrees.
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