03 September 2009

First week

I've been to all my classes for the first week and here's how it looks:

Bibliography: This class is required for all incoming master's students. It's dull and boring so far, and I don't think it's going to get any better. However, I have already realized that a lot of things I thought about MLA were totally wrong. So I think it'll be beneficial, if nothing else.

Anti-Colonial Though & Postcolonial Theory: Yay! This class is going to be really great, I think. I've had two undergraduate courses that were about British empire, but both skirted postcolonial theory as much as humanly possible. In one, because it was literature-based and not theory-based, and in the other because it was a history course. This class is going to be pretty intense, though. I have to read Kant and Hegel again, for example, which kind of makes me depressed. But the rest of the course will make up for it.

Jane Austen in Popular Culture: This sounds like a fluffy class, but fortunately it is not. I'm already enamored with the professor, so I'm very excited about it.

As for everything else, I feel like I still haven't settled in yet. There's this table in the Blocker building (where I have class and my office) with a big "Have you heard about Jesus?" banner on it, and it's certainly not the only Bible-thumping sign I've seen around campus. I find it a little off-putting and also baffling. Is that an effective way to evangelize? Do people actually walk up to that table and say, "Gee, no. I've never heard of him. Who's Jesus?"

Besides the Jesus-mania, A&M is just a weird place. I've mentioned the Corps in an earlier post, but it is strange to see people just walking around campus in military uniform like it's normal. And, the ones that wear the beige uniforms sometimes wear these incredibly ugly and huge brown boots. With spurs. It's really quite comical. I wikipedia'd it, and it turns out that only seniors wear them, and they COST A THOUSAND DOLLARS. This place is unreal.

I also have had perfect strangers say "Howdy" (A&M has co-opted this greeting, apparently) to me on the sidewalk. Which is weird. The Battalion had an article today where they interviewed and followed around a freshman for the day and she said this:
"It is such a close environment and full of tradition," Shannon said. "The people are nice; it is extremely close-knit and accepting. It is the only place where I've been when random people on the street start talking to you."
Maybe I'm just a jaded cynic or something, but I find random strangers approaching me on the sidewalk creepy, not friendly.

There has never been anything more annoying about A&M than it's OMG TRADITION tradition. These people have made a religion out of it. It's ridiculous. So much so that a student opinion article in the Battalion actually gives this as advice for dealing with the construction on campus:
My advice to Aggies enduring this exodus from normalcy for the span of these oncoming years is to honor tradition. I can see the frustration already building on campus as students have begun to explore this alien terrain, but I urge you to not let it get the best of you.

The MSC is a time-honored, sacred place. Revere the memories of the men and women who are represented there. I implore every Aggie, especially freshmen, to remain loyal to your school, your dean and your president.
In his defense, the MSC is apparently both an administrative building and a memorial. But, really? His bitching rant about the construction ends in "Be loyal to your administrators no matter what?" It's really rich after the Chancellor ran out the president and the Faculty Senate passed a resolution of no confidence in him this summer. Not that I think the administrators of A&M should be blamed for construction. Construction is a normal part of university life. I've been to three institutions of different sizes in the past five years, and all of them were under construction. But that A&M's religion of tradition can cause students to encourage unquestioning loyalty to the decisions made by school administrators is troubling.

I guess the short version is that I'm experiencing a bit of culture-shock.


Ryan said...

"Keep Austin Weird" bumper stickers should now give way to, "Holy Shit, A&M really is fucking weird. Where the hell did this place come from?" bumper stickers.

I wouldn't really mind the random people talking to me thing but arbitrary tradition-worshiping is dumb. It's not like A&M is alone in that area at all. Every school has their shtick.

As far as those boots go, man. You don't get much deeper than military tradition. If it said they had to wear peacock headdresses and tights, you would see plumage every day.

Roy from the STD Conference said...

I lived in the that city a couple of years. Do me a favor: go to midnight yell. I'll look forward to reading the resulting rant.

About your rhetorical question, "is that really an effective way to evangelize?" the answer's no. I'm a missionary in Germany (feel free to enter a comment about religious imperialism a la Said) and I'm pretty sure those tables are serving only the people who set them up.

I'm really enjoying your blog--reflections of A&M from an underrepresented perspective.

Rachel R. said...

The positive: Your courses sound great and you'll probably handle grad school much better than your peers.

The negative: A&M is batshit crazy. I've always been creeped out by the whole A&M/UT rivalry and the intense way it affects people's lives. In high school I had friends who would literally say, "I can't date that person, their family went to UT."

SU had some traditions and I know that Barcus creeped me the fuck out for about two years, but they never felt as bizarre as A&M's sound.

Courtney said...

Roy: I will do that. You know you're a blogger when you'll do unpleasant things to blog about them.

Rachel: What is Barcus?

nor said...

SU has traditions? Weird; maybe they developed after I left (early 90s).

At the same time, I regularly commuted to College Station to hang out with my friends, who were definitely in the pot-smoking, try-to-book-Smashing-Pumpkins at Town Hall minority. There were definitely enclaves where they could hang out, especially Dudley's and the various record stores when they existed.

It didn't seem markedly more strange than post-Slacker Austin, where of course there are also thousands upon thousands of sports-obsessed frat-daddies and hangers-on. I attribute the true free-thinkingness in Austin to the town itself and not necessarily the University, where of course reactionaries like Frank Erwin held sway for decades.