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From the archives:

"The Organization Kid" (April 2001)
The young men and women of America's future elite work their laptops to the bone, rarely question authority, and happily accept their positions at the top of the heap as part of the natural order of life. By David Brooks

"The Marketing of the Colleges" (October 1979)
As enrollments dwindle and competition for tuition-paying students intensifies, more and more colleges and universities are resorting to hard-sell strategies which in some cases impinge upon the traditional standards and canons of higher education. By Edward B. Fiske

"Student Politics and the University" (July 1969)
"The university now suffers from the consequences of an untempered and irrational attack on American society, government, and university, one to which we as academics have contributed, and on which we have failed to give much light." By Nathan Glazer

"The Class of '43 Is Puzzled" (October 1968)
While the rebels in the present college generation raised their voices and their barricades, men and women of earlier generations traveled back to campuses to raise their glasses in that long-standing late spring rite, the class reunion. By Nicholas Von Hoffman

From Atlantic Unbound:

"The Old College Try" (August 21, 2001)
Who gets in, and why? Atlantic articles from 1892 to the present consider the art, the science, and the gamesmanship of college admissions.

The Atlantic Monthly | May 1972
 
A Season at Middle-America U.

by Herbert Gold
 
.....
 
"This used to be a really straight, conformist campus. Now everybody wears jeans and the blue work shirt."
—editor of the
Post, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio


he right-wing Miss America of 1971 came from Ohio University in Appalachian southeastern Ohio, and she is remembered by one of my colleagues as the third prettiest girl in his sophomore English class. Her hair grew a little low on the forehead, he thought; her eyes moderately close together for the truest, deepest beauty; but many of her professors recall a friendly little person who wanted only to be Miss America someday.

I am the McGuffey Lecturer during the fall term. My hair grows every which way, my eyes are astigmatic, and I am told not to wear a tie—I'm a writer. I aim to bring a personal map of literature to the oldest university west of someplace, probably New England, founded 1804. I find the usual mix of a large state school: some brilliant students, some lost souls, some bright and congenial colleagues, some stunted careerists and forlorn noncareerists, a happy throng of funny kids, some really pretty girls, all in psychedelic patched jeans, as ecological, biodegradable, and contemporary in their clothing conformity as Radcliffe or Berkeley, a fair proportion of militant blacks, dopers, and radicals, a solemn mass of upward-mobile youngsters wondering where is upward? where is mobile? The campus has a core which is old, red-brick, hilly, green, and lovely. The football marching band can be heard practicing all fall as I talk about Balzac, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Joyce, Nabokov. The team doesn't take all the steroids it's charged with.

"That Anna Karenina, that's outasight," declared one long-haired streetperson from the edge of campus which houses the short stretch of pizza parlors, bookstore, beer resorts, smoke emporium, the essential minimums of a franchised Telegraph Avenue. There are rows of motorcycles and a bulletin board at the BBF (hamburgers, fries) so that girls can pin up their contemporary appeal: CHICK SINGER SEEKS GROUP. The tall, shambling, sweet-tempered scholar has a question to ask about Anna Karenina. "He write any other good things?"

I like his response. He is excited by the news that Tolstoy has composed several novels. He was planning to take the Evelyn Wood speed reading course, so he could dip into them, but bought a used Honda instead. Books are always with us; the green hills and pink girls fade and shrivel in Time's withering hand.

The problem of a writer-in-residue, telling his amorous tale about the novels of the past, is not what it used to be. An out-of-state scholar from Trenton, New Jersey, one of those beautiful uglies made stylish by Janis Joplin, complains that there are no liberated women in Père Goriot, and since her consciousness has been raised, she can't identify with such reactionary sexist books as Balzac, the Bible, or her Soc textbook. "Well, in some of Balzac's other novels, women are the heroes," I say, "heroines. The Bible is another story, and I don't know your sociology text."

"But you chose this one to talk about," she reminds me inexorably. However, she is not vengeful. After all, this is friendly Appalachia, not the East Village, and she lectures me about how her boyfriend escaped the draft. High blood pressure, plus staying up all night, plus a shot of speed, plus about ten cups of coffee, plus she did some dirty things to him. "Flunked the physical," she says with pride.

"I'm sure it was all those dirty things."

A lovely smile blossoms across her face. I am a smoothie, a sexist pig.

The large state universities are flourishing in a new way as an avenue into both power and eccentricity for middle Americans. Here is where they send their children for the little better job. Ethnics and blacks meet the son of the manager of the Marietta, Ohio, offices of General Electric in Business Administration classes, and Biz Ad tries to meet them. If the melting pot is still boiling, here are the burners. Advertisements in the campus newspaper tell of art movies, Jesus freaks, meditation lessons. Hillel offers SUCCOTH SERVICES & KARATE CLASS TONITE. Sleeth's Home-a-Rama has a special on new furniture. Free Pepsis with this advt. and an order of a Super Special Pizza. Houses in Athens are located near pizza parlors of all faiths and ecumenical softie-freezes. The strength of beer in Ohio depends on your age, and your wrist is stamped at the door for 3.2 or the pitchers of real dynamite stuff. There is a claim to special fame in the social structure of Ohio University: no coffeehouse. It is the only large school I've seen in recent years without a place of espresso and soft rock, paperback books and posters, an expressed longing for nonbeer, nonalcohol heart-to-heart discourse, with maybe a classic Dylan record to sift up against blocked doors of perception.

But I take a late-evening walk in Indian summer weather and find a mob sleeping on blankets, strumming guitars, softly cuddling, or playing their transistors. They will wait all night for tickets for the James Taylor concert. An intense group is debating the I-Thou contradictions between Bluegrass and Hard Rock. And a few miles away, in a drowsy hollow, invigorated by the economy of this university with its 18,000 students, a small town has modernized the civil war cannon which sits on its carriage in the center of the crossroads. They have added white-wall tires.

'll bet you find us a little backward compared with Frisco," says a Renaissance expert, Ph.D. Johns Hopkins, "but I'm hep, man; for example, I had my vasectomy already." He pours me a glass of wine and confides rapid-fire about publication problems and the legislature, old grad school comrades who moved to Harvard and were unhappy, wives who cry a lot their first year in Athens—there are problems everywhere. But he personally was not like many men in the Humanities. He took resolute action. "I'll tell you this," he says, selling his program. "A little itch for a day, but when I went to the MLA"—that's the Modern Language Association convention, usually held during the winter holidays—"I did some pretty funny things, I'll tell you, and that was only two weeks later. My man cuts in his office with a local. Baltimore. Hell, it's practically a pleasure."

His eyes smoke over as his wife approaches. She tells me about the children's car pool and the rhythm method of sharing the driving. "Thursday's my day for tennis. My husband drives on Thursdays. He's always furious on Thursday, and it usually doesn't wear off till the weekend."

"That's only one day away from Thursday," he says thoughtfully.

Problems of vasectomies and tenure, ecology and the middle class arranging its life comfortably are familiar to all university communities. This one is different. It is surrounded by denuded hills and hollows, near the poorest county of Ohio, the separate land of Appalachia. Most of the hard work of the university is done by men who used to mine or farm; now they janitor or maintain. Their wives, sisters, and daughters serve in cafeterias, or cook, or make beds. They watch the ghetto kids from Cleveland, Youngstown, Dayton, Cincinnati, some of them taking African names and robes, who chose to house the Black Studies program in a stately, columned Southern mansion. They live easily enough with black students and faculty, in fact; but they coexist angrily with the administration of the school.

At the beginning of my season on campus, Oscar McGee, head of a maintenance ("nonacademic employees") union, led his people out on strike. It could easily have closed down the school, as similar strikes have done in the past. "It's the autumn strike season," sighed a departmental chairman. For a time the strikers wouldn't openly confess their grievances; they're a closed-mouth people. They said there had been some demotions, transfers, and firings in the cafeterias, but they weren't sure who, where, and how much. But they were sore. Grievance and arbitration procedures were too expensive. They felt like closing the place down.

So, naturally, did a few students who talked of "polarization," "radicalization," "solidarity with the laboring masses."

It was also Indian summer, the beginning of the new year. I heard two young men discussing their future on the Green: "'We'll call 'em every afternoon about now and ask if they're horny and can we come over, and maybe one afternoon they'll be horny and we can come over."

"It'll cost a lot of dimes," his friend said.

"For me it's worth it," said the ardent romantic one.

In the meantime, picket lines were preventing coal and other supplies from entering. A dean was defiant: "Our students are not upper-class kids, they come from hewers of wood and carriers of water, they know how to do their own housekeeping." The countdown for closing began. The usual accusations of bad faith on all sides. Failure by the strikers to state their grievances cost them important student and faculty support, and indeed, the support of the international union. Oscar McGee, a $2.57 an hour custodian, said, "All they wanted me to be was a custodian. Now I'm the leader of this here wildcat strike. They can go blank themselves."

Frat boys were serenading sorority girls. Rush week. Wienie roasts on front lawns.

A black graduate student in doubleknit stretch pants and African robe affably accused me of "white racist tokenism" because I praised Ralph Ellison. But once he had declared his revolutionary stance, he turned out to be devoted to our class, a fanatic writer and a natural one, with a gift for brisk and joyous epithet that extended well beyond conventional abuse of a teacher. He also took me shopping to get rid of my congenital baggy pants in favor of some hairier leather ones; he was a Virgil of the generation gap.

The prettiest girl in class, soulful, languid, tanned breasts sagging only slightly in her half-buttoned workshirt, producing a lascivious pity in the observer, a desire to help in any way possible, wrote a definition of the kind of story she likes: "I like a story which moves me deeply. I like a story which tells a real story. I like sincerity above all; that is, true feeling. I hate that intellectual shit."

Due to the strike, sinks and bowls were overflowing. A veteran of previous strikes advised new faculty to carry toilet paper in briefcases. The pretty girl, Miss True Feeling, yawned and yawned through expositions of Anna Karenina, Père Goriot, and The Brothers Karamazov. She wondered why all these people make so much of their problems. She personally would prefer to live in San Diego, California, but you don't hear her complaining all the time.

Suddenly one day, after many emergency meetings and rallies, the dispute was settled. Nothing precise was won, but both sides promised to do better, be nicer. "It brought us together, the student-niggers and the working class," said a New Jersey freshman. "It's better than dope for bringing people together."

The pace of faculty parties continued. We owe you, we pay back. Then you owe us again. Another dinner. Variety of company means bringing in someone from another department; music, say, or art, for a bit of glamour; or from one of the sciences, to get up to date. A writer's wife declares to all the wives on her side of the room, "My husband's new novel is so boring, I mean I don't think anyone'll want to publish it, it's just so boring. " And a wifely smile. "But you know what? I kind of like boring books." So she doesn't mean what her remark seems to mean. He has written this one just for her, and they are a devoted couple, and she has this special, easy, self-deprecating habit of whimsy.

Another lady says, "I really want to give a square dance this fall, maybe in November, but do you think that might be too much too soon? I mean, people are really busy in the fall. The Homecoming game, the Oktoberfest …"

"Wait and all your clothes come back into style, my husband says," another reports. Her lipstick has already come back into style. She has an intense appreciation of the need for style, else the dreaded Predatory Coed will pounce and fly away with its doctoral prey clutched between Levied knees.

It's too easy to feel as if the middle-American smalltown routines are a part of an old Lewis Stone movie. They are as real as war, as ghetto urban guerrilla action, only less up to date. The pleasure of sitting in a real swing on a real front porch, watching the children play, is one which can make up for many a faculty party. And when a tooth broke, I found a dentist who would not only fix it promptly, but since he lived nearby, he also picked me up in his station wagon and carried me to his office. "This'll fit like a sock on a turkey," he remarked, applying the temporary cap. While he did delicate work, he talked about the patient, age eighty, who kept her teeth in a box so when asked, she could say, "Yep, I got my own teeth." He also had a patient from a hollow nearby whose dentures fit worse than any set of false teeth he had seen in twenty years of dentisting. "I got 'em from my uncle in his will," the man agreed, "but they shore don't fit."

When my dentist finished, he smiled and patted my shoulder. "You're wonderful now. Good as new. Just don't eat or drink."

Dentist jokes were not my line, but the real intention to please became part of a line which is often forgotten. I was getting care superior to the harassed dentistry of big cities.

he spectrum of gift at Middle-America U. is the same as at Harvard or Stanford, ranging from brilliant to sub-bonehead, both among students and teachers, only the balance of the graph is clearly different at a school which admits any graduate of an Ohio high school, which does not snatch off gifted people with scholarships, which doesn't have a long tradition of excellence, which spends eight-and-a-half million dollars for a basketball culture center but suspends faculty sabbatical leaves, which until recently was a teachers' training academy. The brilliant students at Harvard are likely to be also handsome, personable, wellborn, with the light of luck in the eye. The brilliant student at Ohio University is likely to be a fallen Jesuit, expelled from the order because of vanity (contact lenses) or homosexuality (hands across the dark), or a black street kid speaking his parents' Mississippi dialect, or a Jesus freak from a fundamentalist southern Ohio welfare family. Yes, that was eight-and-a-half million for the basketball center.* But the new library is well used and crowded, and the language laboratories are packed, and the serious matters of this time and all times are discussed with the pedagogical fervor of Abelard on the handsome central Green and in the less handsome pizza palaces.

A black girl rages in class about racism, sexism, and tokenism. In conference she talks about her "sprain ankle." She has a glorious smile, huge almond eyes, and an Irish name, evidently due to a sexist, tokenist father. She writes desperate poems about lost black children and family chronicles that remind me of Frank O'Connor. She invites me to a literary meeting, "first in a serious," and her spelling should be read in the light of all the troubles of the world, of the fact that her father deserted her family, of the fact that she is tall, strong, elegant, and beautiful. My mother can't spell, either, and this girl, whose ancestors go back in America, at least on the black side, much further than mine, has not yet arrived in the America which belongs to good schools, easy homes, skin of no particular tint.

The Jesus People meet every noon hour at the Galbreath Chapel, a New Englandish white little church-on-the-campus. They wear the regulation hip uniforms, long hair, jeans, tie-dyes, patches, embroidered flowers, but they sit for half an hour with their heads bowed. And then they go off to study Business or Lolita or Russian or to fulfill the P.E. requirement in the marvelous new air-conditioned athletic buildings. The strictness of their need for a simple and fundamental Answer recalls the LSD conversions of the Flower Children of 1967. They too speak of saving their unwilling parents by Turning On. Turn On to Jesus. This Time. Jesus is their very own discovery, and He gives them the answer to every question, in five sweet letters, right now, in a group, together with their brothers and sisters from all over, plus the chance to freak out, speak in tongues or talk nonsense, and enjoy oceanic unities on the lawn in front of the Galbreath Chapel. I join them as they mumble with lowered heads. One boy stares curiously at a girl as he prays and I know why he is bemused. So am I. She is wearing not jeans but a skirt.

The Apostolic Church of Jesus the Programmer, Mark II—name changed out of residual neighborliness—rocks and rolls near the corner where we live. Believers and practitioners gather from the hollows and valleys all around, women in long dresses, men in dark suits, in big old Buicks, to fend off evil and exchange news of auctions and garage sales. It's energetic psychic exercise—talking in tongues, screaming of fire and hell—but one wonders how these harrow-faced good folk occupy the rest of the week to need this sort of Fillmore fun on weekends. "History is written by winners," George Orwell wrote, and these noncompetitors do not justify their ecstasy to the likes of skeptical city folks, taking their evening walk around the wooden church like moths around a flame in which other moths are happily sizzling and crisping. Not implicated, of course. To city folks it's a mystery how these people reproduce their eight-year-old Buicks, their pickups, their children playing quietly outside in the yard, their intense and focused selves. Since all strong feeling is somehow convincing, I foresee my own conversion and baptism in the freshets of April. To be on the safe side, I'll not be here in the spring.

On a long Indian summer afternoon near Halloween, we drive our children to an orchard where we are invited to pick a bushel of apples and pay our dollar into a perforated can (honor system). It's hot, humid, and happy work, and we crunch up apples underfoot and between teeth as we shake the trees (bump on head) or peek along the ground for healthy falls. There is a cidery smell under the sun. Bugs hum. We sweat and feel good. There are dirty-faced children, laughing, chattering, easy in an orchard, my own and others. I am lost in an apple dream of the past I never knew when a teaching assistant comes up with his wife and says, "Yum, really good, sir; these are organic."

He knows how to talk to a family from California.

I sneeze. "Sorry, sir. Pollen," he says. I remember my growing up in Cleveland, surrounded by hay fever, goiters, stubborn ethnic Cleveland, and the not yet moribund lake in which we swam along with a subdeadly accumulation of coliform bacteria. Now when I visit Cleveland and go to walk on the beaches where I swam, the water is solid with green horror, black with peculiar weevils, flick-tailed mites, nameless algae multiplying in nourishing sewage, and humpbacked monster-fish which burrow through the organic jellywater.

This backward part of Ohio, 180 miles to the south of Cleveland, is easy to wail sentimentally over, to make soft-rock and bluegrass prose about. Yet in the new Appalachia, things are changing—economically, it's at least 1937. The exploding university has given good profits to the Kroger's and A&P, and also to the bicycle sellers, and jobs in cafeterias and maintenance to coal miners and small farmers who still live up the hollows and hills in rows of company houses with privies, without running water. They are a proud people. On campus I hear a leaf-sweeper arguing with a supervisor: "He talk to me like he's my boss. I ain't gonna stand for that. He ain't my boss."

The supervisor grinned and nodded sympathetically. "I'll talk to him."

"You're my boss," said the proud native-American leaf-sweeper.

Although there are sporadic protests about prices, and food conspiracies, and annoyance because the A&P doesn't carry long-grain rice ("Them foreign students'll just buy it," whispered a checker), the latest economic, cultural, and political upheaval on campus, in the waning days of autumn, concerned the wienies served at football games. They're barely warm; they're cold. The vendors blamed the concessioners, the concessioners, blamed, oh, the times. How to warm a franchise wienie? No way. We could put a wienie hot on the moon, but not in the stadium. Standards are shot. What can you expect after twenty years of treason, followed by more than a few of semitreason? Earl Warren was allowed to resign. America has sold out to cold wienies. A vendor gave this advice to those hungry for a bit of wienie warmth: rub it.

As the leaves ran through their colors during the football weekends, on Homecoming weekend, when Miss America made her triumphant return visit among the lukewarm wienies of half time, there was a Hexing to greet her, Women's Lib witches angrily riding their brooms and crowning their freaky parody, "Mr. America." The campus newspaper denounced Miss America for being a hypocritical conservative; it cited testimony by her sorority sisters that she did the normally depraved things, involving alcohol, moods, and boyfriends, during her term as a student. A petition to the newspaper defended her, calling for dignity, and asked that she be welcomed back home "as we would any alum with a nice ass."

You can pick your bushel of organic apples for a dollar, or you can, of a Saturday, entertain yourself as so many do by raking leaves, washing down the car, writing folk melodies, or getting a vasectomy. Up the little valleys, over the lovely, infertile hills and the slag heaps of the strip mines, where, in days gone by, snaggle-toothed Scottish Presbyterians, inbred and suspicious, used to stand with arms crossed against revenooers, modern urban habits have made inroads on the older way. Those with stills and mash stand guard with souvenir automatic rifles carried home from Nam. Deputy sheriffs use grenade launchers. Tins of Mace help protect a man's castle and still.

inter comes at last. Gray sleeting rain, slanting down over the hills. The 18,000 students and their teachers vanish into little rooms, emerging only for classes, or maybe a moment in Lily Ann's Donut Shoppe. The time of nasal and postnasal drip is here. Hacking coughs fill the lecture halls. Visitors from the outside world harangue stubborn colleagues about the possible, maybe, why-not virtues of Vitamin C. The state liquor store is a more prevalent remedy. Hot toddies and cold scotch.

Suddenly the rain stops for a time and I wheel the bicycle out of the basement for a farewell spin through town and onto the sleek asphalt roads which slice through the secret Appalachian hollows. Sleeth's Home-a-Rama is having a sale, and so is the giant French fries resort:
Exciting ... Sensational ... Out of the SPACE AGE comes ... JET FRIES!!! (Open All Nite)
No, not a sale, but a new product, it seems. And they are trying out we-never-close as an experimental technique in the selling of burgers and fries.

Good-bye, Dolen's (root-beer floats). Good-bye, BBF (hamburger-coleslaw-fries on special Tuesday and Wednesday eve). Good-bye, Three Free Cokes on One Super Pizza, making a wet and fizzy pizza, it would seem. Good-bye, Frisch's punkin pie, squeezed from the tube. Good-bye, take out and candy, softie ice cream and munchies. As often in times of depression, the good place to eat in Athens has just burned down.

I stop and lock my bicycle. Here, a few miles away, a country inn stands in its native parking-lot gravel, with honest purple neon promising steaks, chops, football machines, Taylor Wines. Hello, Salisbury Steak, Chicken Flambee, Clam Roll, Fresh-Frozen Sea Food, and the season's soft-rock jukebox telling me:
I guess my feet go where they want to go
Walkin' on a country road.
And back past Sleeth's Home-a-Rama to finish reading term papers and hand in my grade reports. Who out there needs Anna Karenina, Leopold Bloom, Rastignac, the Karamazov boys, and Humbert Humbert to get along? The opulent and pretty girl who yawned compulsively through my lectures, but was marvelously wide awake and alert in conference, telling me about how sex means nothing to her now that her true love has left her, transferring to an aviation academy? The angry girl with the raised consciousness? The freaks looking for illumination in methods which ferment the brain until it's as pale and lumpy as small-curd cottage cheese? The solemn graduate students, hoping for jobs in community colleges? The black man with his new African name, saying he specializes in "street poetry vignettes"?

Among the massed thousands, somebody needs them. Among the pile of papers, I find intense and closely reasoned ones by students who have stayed up nights to read long Russian novels, and I recall a certain greedy glare among the pouting faces in the lecture hall. There are detailed, footnoted essays. There are a few poems and stories, passionate confessions filtered through a reading of books from other times and places. They are like wild grass growing in the chinks of a wall.

"I couldn't sleep," a wispy little girl in granny glasses and regulation Levis tells me. "When my roommate complained about the light, I just tore out the pages I'd finished and made her start reading it."

She smiled apologetically. She didn't mean to call attention to herself. I didn't even learn her name.

Within the haphazard training of the middle-American university, and despite the intentions of state legislatures and parents, the bureaucracies of induction into the times, something both strange and traditional survives here in Athens, Ohio. True, many are training for the necessary middle-American routines which keep the paper moving down corridors, the kids quiet, the metal in space. True, others are merely serving their time with sports car and football weekend, beer bust and frat party. True, the university is also a marriage broker's office, a job recruiting headquarters, or merely a place snugger than the army for passing a few more years. "I'll hold hands with any boy now," said Miss True Feeling, giving me her trained scrutiny, "for what does it matter anymore?"

She mentioned she's going to see Dracula tonight, for theater is another of her true loves. She'll be alone. She'll be sitting just to the right, about ten rows down as you enter. All life is her chief subject, she notes, flashing bracelets, intense wattage of eyes, teeth. The eyes are suddenly downcast, but they are not timid.

But beyond the flowered love and peace patches and leather fringes, the two-quarter-later Berkeley jargon and youth equipment, the programmatic gaiety of we-are-now-turned-on, there are other faces glooming and glowing with the sunken, strong Amchitka rage of American sons and daughters. They have left home, but they want to know where they are and where they might be. They are adrift. The old explanations have been put away in the attics of Marietta and Dayton, along with the high school yearbooks and hockey sticks. Like John Lennon, they have given up the Beatles. They think about work, which is very much in their parents' minds, but they also think about alternative styles, communes, revolution, pot-making, food stamps, techniques, survival. Their fathers thought them safe from the contagion, but it turns out that Athens, like Kent State, is a post on the confused subterranean American network that stretches from Harvard and Chapel Hill to Reed and Berkeley, and from Austin to Missoula, and includes the seminaries and finishing schools and even the service academies. They are colonies of the State bent on nourishing their host with alien ideas.

Those who lie dozing in the doorways of West Union with their transistors—or their glassine envelopes—are obvious modern casualties of exploration. The timeservers and make-out bureaucrats are traditional casualties. And between these two failures, there stands an affable and irritable creature with the vote, with some basic questions to ask despite the ecstatic, oh-wow youth mutter with which he speaks, with an intention to survive.

Here in Appalachian Ohio, in a school designed for Middle America, for hewers of wood, as the dean said, and carriers of water—those jobs now done, in fact, by cybernetic directions encoded on tape—another emissary outpost puzzles the land stripped of its traditional coal and topsoil. They are not mining. They are not farming. They are playing music too loud. They are holding peculiar meetings in the house of the Ecumenical Ministry. In ways their parents do not understand, they are readying themselves for the future. It belongs to them.

They are that ardent and peculiar American society, the students, not yet chastened, banded together for a few years against a dread of void.

* The Convocation Center, as the basketball court has been named, also costs about $800,000 a year in air conditioning, heating and debt service. The locker rooms are carpeted. The coaches offices are carpeted. Originally, the idea was that it could also be used as a convention and business center for southeastern Ohio, a place for boat shows and exhibits. However, there is no housing for conventioneers, and the doors are not wide enough for boats, and there aren't many boats around here, anyway. There is also an executive handball court, for some reason built to nonregulation outsize specifications. There are also some dormitory facilities for athletes which require that the entire enormous structure be heated whether or not it's in use. It was used once for a roller derby. The building is sometimes called "Alden's Pride," in honor of the past president of the university, Vernon Alden, whose favorite project this was. The fourteen-plane university fleet was called "Alden's Air Force." Mr. Alden has since moved on to a job managing investments for The Boston Company.

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Copyright © 2002 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; May 1972; A Season at Middle-America U.; Volume 229, No. 5; page 48.