Today is the last publication of the year for The Observer, meaning I am out of a writing job for about four months. I am sure this will be a very sad thing once I'm done with my finals and have time to reflect on it, but that's a week and some days off just yet.
So as my last hurrah of the year, I wrote a piece titled "A Modest Proposal for a New Alma Mater." The modest proposal bit is, of course, a tip of the hat to Jonathan Swift and an indication that it shouldn't be taken too seriously, but it turns out the adviser to The Observer is uncultured and didn't get that. There was some arguing over a certian stanza- I'm sure you can guess which one- but once I reminded my editor it's the last issue so she doesn't have to worry about printing letters anymore we ran it as is. Hooray! Column in full-
One thing I never quite understood about commencement at any institution is the singing of the alma mater. The alma mater is, of course, the official school anthem which you might have heard once four years ago during orientation, except you don't remember it because you were too busy checking out new classmates to see if any were cute. In hindsight, you feel kind of silly that you fell for that blockhead idiot whereas it might have been avoided had you paid attention to the alma mater in the first place, so during convocation you will try your best to sing along from the sheet to cover up this prior transgression.
Let's all admit it together: it's a farce. No student knows the words or the tune to this song, and there's no reason for our relatives to magically know them either. (In fact, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't know the CWRU alma mater is Shine On, Case Western Reserve, written by a student who graduated in the early 1990s, unless I told you.) So why do the organizers of convocation feel obliged to put it in the program each year? You're not going to suddenly start feeling nostalgic for your time at university thanks to a song you never heard while attending. It strikes me very much as one of those traditions in convocation we have because it feels like we should have because all the other universities do, even if our alma mater was written fairly recently and no one knows the words or tune.
Personally, if this were up to me we would sing a song – I'm the sort always looking for a socially acceptable excuse to sing in public – but the song would be revamped. Something to properly evoke nostalgia for my college years, which would go something like this:
Dear Case Western Reserve, that great fountain of knowledge,
Where we hung out and did our four years of college,
Our time would be incomplete unless we do acknowledge
The things that shaped us to who we are today.
There were those humid stifling nights and horrid winter squalls,
The doors that locked behind you in the residence halls,
And there were those obligatory late night homework calls
To see if anyone knew how to do number three…
There were the sporting events that we never attended,
The pranks which, in hindsight, should have got us suspended,
And those labs which dragged on and never ended
But were pretty damn sweet nonetheless.
And of course the friendships forged which were truly incredible
While pondering if Leutner's food was actually edible,
How the "Macarena" in the jukebox was truly regrettable,
And cool, they have brownies today!
And there was the guy over 21 who bought us our liquor,
And those shots we took down quick, and then quicker,
To that subsequent morning where we couldn't feel sicker,
(Because hey, this was college after all…)
Soon we'll scatter, each toward a separate vocation,
But fear not: regardless of your means or location
You'll soon get letters asking for an alumnus donation
To our dear school, Case Western Reserve!
Anyone who finds him or herself singing the above words at convocation will receive my utmost respect and adoration, if not necessarily a diploma. Either way, thanks for a great year everybody! It's been fun, it's been grand, and we'll see you next fall.