With the annual onset of seasonal depression my curmudgeon persona returns and promptly begins griping about every stupid fishing thing around me. Some of you might wonder how much that persona, who we can call “Doctor Sardonicus”, differs from my regularly mordant personality. Well, let’s recall it was last winter that I gibed the local university “librarium” for remaking their facilities in the image of an internet café, mildly ticking off the librarians among us who are less curmudgeonish than me about the future of places with books and other stuff in them. Really, I should leave this subject well enough alone.
Alas, this is the world wide crank-o-sphere, so let me now mock that university librarium once again, this time for having installed aluminum-framed and glass-protected advertisement spaces above the urinals in their pissoir. Not a serious concern, mind you. In fact, I spent much of my cherished micturating time laughing out loud at the advertisement a foot from my face asking me to consider what cable package I purchase. Still, there’s something so naked about the advertisements framed like works of art all around the campus, the vendors filling up the Student Union, the way that new university buildings are always constructed on the “atrium” model. It seems clear where they’re going with this; at some point, the ongoing effort of administrators to remake the university in the image of a mall (a cultural establishment differing from the university only in retaining its social prestige) can’t help but be howlingly funny. An old (and questionable) historical narrative once held that the Church was the common social institution that held Western Civilization together during the fractured cultural Dark Ages. Now, the social institution holding together our civilization, and its single common cultural meeting place, is the shopping mall. So, the University, which once existed to serve the Church, will naturally come to serve the consumer economy. If they turn in their homework, I’ll validate their parking.
My students, sensing I’m a sour old crosspatch, frequently complain to me about how often my own university hits them with these advertisements and appeals to “tell us what YOU want to see on campus!” They want to be seen as something other than walking wallets ripe with cash waiting to be harvested. I do what I can to make them feel like junior scholars, because they are, and mostly we just laugh together about those clueless business degree administrators whose insincere pandering to their “customer base” (and, let’s be honest, whose basic greed) so often stands out at a university like a bathing suit at a funeral. What the students really want is lower tuition. That message isn’t getting through, so instead they get exclusive offers for cheap cable to peruse as they piss. Try not to laugh about that.
Postscript: I just realized that the first time I made fun of this particular university was way back in (December!) 2007, when I noted that people get terribly upset about students shooting pornography in their dorms, but the local university had been leased for a lousy direct-to-DVD American Pie film making fun of college education without any complaint.