Campus visit

Ventured to school for the first time all summer yesterday, to record an interview with the estimable Gina Logue at WMOT. More on that in a sec.

It’s always so strange to be on a large and relatively-empty college campus just before students descend, with its weird Twilight Zone aura of abandonment. Had my bike and a little time ’til the scheduled recording session at 2, so I treated myself to the luxury of unimpeded movement in a space that will soon be practically un-navigable on wheels.

First checked in with Terri at the department and gathered the summer’s accumulation of mail, including a letter from the Dean of Students informing me that at least one graduating senior anonymously tabbed me as a professor who “made a difference.” How nice.

Then, to the Traffic Division office to pay for my right to park a vehicle at my workplace for another year. (Shouldn’t that really be one of the perqs of employment?) It’s one of the few places on campus with no provision out front for bikes– guess that makes sense, you don’t have to register non-motorized vehicles– so I hitched my steed to the electric meter.

Then to the Rec Center, to renew my locker. I used to think ours one of the best, ’til visiting Mizzou’s with Older Daughter last month. Those have become one of the most popular “amenity”-inducements offered by college recruiters. Unlike my alma mater we lack a spa-like Olympic pool with jumbo video screens visible indoors and out, with underwater Bose speakers etc.

Wonder if it ever occurs to those who plan and design such luxurious facilities to siphon a fraction of those funds to pump up the academic departments, as a student recruiting inducement? Probably not.

And now they’ve constructed a parking garage to occlude what used to be a pretty view of the softball field, from the aerobics room. But I’ll still go there on the rare occasions when inclement conditions outdoors deny me a good cross-campus stroll before or between class.

Next I pedaled over to the new bookstore, in the sprawling brand-new Student Center. It surely will rank as one of the best, certainly by comparison to our old and groaning KUC. Too bad only one of my Intro texts was on the shelf. (Students with Amazon Prime, take note.)

It was nearly time for our recording session, so I tried to becalm myself by strolling the quad and reading those chiseled pavement inscriptions I can never see when students are around and literally on top of them.  I wonder who gets to pick the words that get etched in stone? (Well, I think I know who picked the ones etched in front of the new building, enumerating the many achievements of our esteemed President McPhee.) They’re mostly good words. For instance, those of the noted Tennessee scholar D. Crockett:

“I leave this rule for others when I’m dead: be always sure you’re right, then go ahead.”

And Gandhi:

“Truth never damages a cause that is just.”

Marcel Proust:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes:

“Man’s mind, stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.”

Emily Dickinson:

“Truth must dazzle gradually, or every man be blind.”

So, I went and spoke for not quite half an hour with Gina about environmental activism, the course and the idea. As usual, my most dazzling observations came to mind just seconds too late to be placed smoothly “on the record.”

There was a question about atheists and nature that I probably could have hit out of the park, if I’d remembered quickly enough to cite Carl Sagan’s statement that there’s no sign of help coming from elsewhere to save us. And I don’t think I was as clear about John Muir’s repudiation of supernaturalism as I could have been.

But I enjoyed the conversation nonetheless, and as always it was over too soon. It’ll air in a couple of weeks, stay tuned.

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