30 September 2009


There seems to be a lot of hostility in the Battalion about people not following Aggie traditions. There are people who complain about people walking on the MSC grass, people who complain about their inability to disturb their fellow diners with loud chants, and people who just plain think A&M students are not following traditions enough. Which is, considering the number and variety of absolutely stupid traditions here, hilarious.

Yesterday's issue of the Battalion had a large article addressing people saying or not saying "Howdy" to each other. No, I'm not kidding. Apparently it was a slow news day. When I walked out of the Blocker building after class today, someone had written "Howdy" and "Say Howdy" all over the sidewalks. I find the tradition quite bizarre because the reasoning behind it is silly:
Technology contributes to the decline of "howdy," but it is not at the heart of the problem. A mentality of suspicion is being imported to Aggieland, whether we want it or not.

Our tradition of "howdy" is under attack by this suspicion, but we can't let it keep us from holding conversations with people we don't know. That's the only way to make new friends in completely new circles.

Aggies may be slowly losing our sense of community and not even know it yet. When we ask why a fellow student would want to talk to us, we forget that we're all members of a family; be we undergrad or graduate students, members of the Corps or transfer students, fraternity brothers or sorority sisters. Suspicion of your fellow Aggies in a simple conversation is not part of the Aggie Spirit.
I think the people on this campus must be deluded; going to a large university is not like being in a family. This is not a small community, and it is only in small communities that people can (and rightly so) feel comfortable with all of its members. I have no doubt that some people at A&M are assholes, simply because if you gather 50,000 people together, some of them will be assholes. Frankly, I don't trust that A&M's admissions board is capable of weeding out douchebags, misogynists, rapists, racists, homophobes, and PUAs. So, I'm not going to be friendly to every person who accosts me on the sidewalk there. And acting as though I should is puzzling to me, because there are ways of making friends in college that do not include striking up a conversation with strangers on the sidewalk.

This is not about friendliness at all, but about politeness and faking a community feeling that (presumably, since not that many people say "Howdy") many people on campus do not feel. The author of this article seems to be attacking people like me, who do not feel as though our campus is at all like a unified community. And instead of trying to figure out why that is, he instead attacks that feeling and demands that we accept the addresses of strangers. This is troubling because, while I place little value in school spirit and being an "Aggie" and thus have no trouble ignoring such a demand, some people may feel obligated to accept this advice because they do value school spirit. And, despite what the author of this article believes, campus is not always a safe space, and Aggies are not always going to be principled and harmless conversationalists. While most of the time I ignore people saying "Howdy" to me because I think they're annoying, and not because I think they're dangerous, it is not as though a campus environment is free from violence. It's safer to trust your instincts when it comes to talking to strangers on campus, rather than trusting Aggie traditions. But I don't think they teach that at freshman orientation.

18 September 2009

Mail Call

The Battalion usually publishes one or two "Mail Calls" a day, which are just opinions written by whoever wants to submit them. Usually, they are inane, like some guy bitching about people standing on the MSC grass, even though it's under construction, and not a memorial for the moment. Or like today, which was some guy also bitching, but about how he wasn't allowed to make a ruckus and be irritating in a campus dining hall.

The two printed yesterday were comically paired. The first was a student complaining about the "race card:"
From Zachary Hockaday, senior mechanical engineering major

I knew it wouldn't be long until the issue of race was brought up. It seems to me that the liberal media, liberal democrats and former president Carter, assume the criticism and protests of the President are race-based. So many people ignore that it is about the president policies. Come on Ags, don't fall for the race card. Protesters at his speech on Oct. 16 will exercise their First Amendment right to peacably assemble and "petition the Government for a redress of grievances" in regard to the president's policies. And just because it is not supposed to be a political speech does not mean that his liberal agenda won't bleed through. It is getting close to mid-term elections and for a politician, every stage is a political stage.
Let's start at the beginning. Race is being brought up because many people who are protesting Obama are racist. Take a look at some of the more aggressive posters from the recent tea parties (click for larger):

Right. These people are just worried about Obama's policies. They aren't just frothing at the mouth because they literally can't handle having a black man in the White House. And it's not just rednecks with "Robbin' for the Hood" signs that are spewing vitriol because of Obama's race; just because you're not stupid enough to say out loud that you hate Obama because he's black doesn't mean that you are criticizing him on morally pure grounds. It's no coincidence, for example, that Joe Wilson yelled "You lie!" when a black man conjured up the image of trampled white Joe Wilson having to share his doctor's office with brown people. And it's no coincidence that Rush Limbaugh blames Obama for race-related crimes against whites and even those who condemn him still think violence is inherently linked to melanin levels. This is no race card; it's just racism.

Obama is coming to speak on our campus with former president George H.W. Bush to honor Bush's and other individuals' community service achievements. He's not going to petition our campus to support healthcare reform or try to eat our babies. In case we haven't forgotten, Bush is a Republican. And, barring some crazies who think community service is a socialist-communist-Democratic plot, most of us would agree that a ceremony to promote and reward service is unlikely to include anything above the banal. This protest will just make A&M look silly. Which brings us to the second Mail Call run yesterday:
From Philip Murtaugh, senior geography major

When I saw that President Obama was going to be speaking here Oct. 16, I cringed. Mind you, I wasn't cringing because I'm a conservative Republican convinced that the Democratic regime will soon destroy the world as we know it and that Barack Obama is the antichrist. I cringed because after we embarrassed Texas A&M in front of the nation during the primary last year, I simply don't trust us. I'd love to think that the whole student body will handle themselves accordingly. I'd love to think that people won't find a way to show up at Obama's speech wearing their "BTHO Obama" shirts.

We've been presented with an amazing opportunity- a chance to host the president of the United States. Texas A&M, I challenge you to prove my cynicism wrong.
By the way, if you're wondering what he means by A&M being embarrassed in front of the nation last year, he means this. (You can see some pictures here.) And frankly, I share this writer's opinion. We can see from the first letter that there will be a protest (and it will likely not be small). And, judging from past events, A&M is not always capable of doing things tastefully. I guess I'll get to see the douchebaggery up close and personal on the 16th.

14 September 2009

Obama comes to Aggieland

One of the great things about going to an enormous university is that exciting people come to our campus. Like Obama. I've also heard through the grapevine that bell hooks is coming at the end of October. I hope I get to see her, especially after hearing about her commencement speech at Southwestern, in which she apparently offended every one.

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.