Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Deeper One Digs into the Local Higher Education Underground, The More Dirt One Exposes to the Sky

We're terrible animals. I think that the Earth's immune system is trying to get rid of us, as well it should.

- KURT VONNEGUT (1922-2007),
From his appearance on The Daily Show, 2005

This should come as a shock no one, especially people who frequent this site, but Oxford Fucking Ohio has more than just a few problems when it comes to Local U. student behavior.

People throughout the region, those familiar with this area, know the reputation, or have heard tales from others about some of the downright nucking futs insanity this community experiences from, oh, late August through May each year.

I'm always fascinated when random strangers feel the need to walk up to me in a bar or at work, just to let me know how bad I apparently make Local U. students look, or how I should be ashamed to post what I do about my experiences in Oxford. It's happened twice in the past week.

Sure, the Local U.'s a Public Ivy, with several nationally recognized academic programs. It even produced a U.S. president - albeit one that only History teachers and Jeopardy! junkies seem to be able to remember.

And sure, the student body supposedly represents the best and brightest in the region. Local U. students often pride themselves in their work ethic. The rural environs surrounding the campus, its virtual isolation from the hustle and bustle of 21st century life, offers wonderful opportunities for dedicated students to concentrate on their studies with minimal disruption.

But in terms of behavior outside of the classroom? Off-campus?

* * * *

Just imagine taking some of the wealthiest 18-22 year-olds in the Midwest, the majority of whom seem to come from extremely sheltered backgrounds, and then setting them loose on a college town that offers very few extracurricular activities beyond binge drinking and substance abuse.

Now subtract several key factors that normally help regulate student behavior in most college towns. Outside of the town's full-time, non-student population, socioeconomic diversity is virtually nonexistent. The once healthy campus/community relationship has cooled to the point of almost outright animosity, thanks in part to a growing disparity between "Townie" living standards (where nearly one in five children and nearly one in 10 seniors live at or below the poverty line) and that of the students.

The once vibrant local music scene has only recently begun to show signs of resurrection, after almost a decades' worth of third-rate frat rock, shitty cover bands, and preppy gated- community- friendly folk performers. Major acts stop by maybe a handful of times year, the Local U.'s attempt to expose students to spoken word, hip-hop, musical theatre, and other performing arts. Many of the normal "College Radio," avant-garde types, the kinds of acts that filled the bars and clubs here throughout the 70s and 80s, no longer play this town because of its reputation as a potential career-killer.

And more and more faculty and staff are choosing to endure commutes from larger metropolitan areas. After-hours class meetings at local pubs and coffee shops, cookouts at faculty residences, and even the occasional impromptu late-night chat over grades, what many Higher Ed analysts call informal learning opportunities, have virtually ceased to exist in some academic disciplines.

Issues? Yeah, Oxford has issues with a capital I. A bloated cost of living, a shrinking middle-class population base, and the lack of sustainable cultural outlets are just the tip of the iceberg.

* * * *

We're not talking Animal House. We're talking Lord of the Flies here. Imagine 15,000 college kids roaming the streets, with only a handful of professional, mature adults to serve as role models.

The fact that I'm considered by some folks locally, because of this blog, to be a community leader scares the living shit out of me. Being the Dangerous Librarian? No problem. But to be considered one of the Old Farts because I have a friggin' blog and I'm old enough to legally drink? Now that's frightening.

The Local U. student culture seems to be moving closer to the day when its poor Piggys get brained with a rock, a frightening future where the idea of College Life becomes more akin to a Hitler Youth rally than the typical American undergrad experience, where conformity becomes the only fashion accessory legally allowed.

Imagine a college town where nights are ruled by a Gen Y version of Jack and the Choirboys, one where Oxford residents over the age of 30 generally lock themselves in their own homes after ten on the weekends, surrendering their community to the popped-collar J. Crew U. hordes bound for evenings filled with unreported sexual assaults and vomited wastes of perfectly good beer.

* * * *

Last week, a colleague made an interesting comment about this ol' blog. He jokingly expressed concern that I may one day have an Imus Moment. We had a good laugh over it, actually.

Anyone who works here long enough, who lives here long enough, knows that there's no need to wait for me to put something completely insane online for public consumption.

Why bother? The local web is already filled with Local U. versions of The Imus Moment.

I found an ex's blog a few months ago, while randomly Googling names out of boredom. On her blog, she discusses things such as her current drug-consumption habits, break-ups and fights that involve real names, and other things. I hit up MySpace and found that there are numerous students who feel the need to share tips on how to sneak into bars, which sororities are the sluttiest, and who document various criminal activities.

I've even been experimenting with FaceBook. You wouldn't believe how many folks post completely inappropriate images in public profiles, for the world to access. I found out that a woman who hit on me a few months back, a woman who claimed to be a 23-year-old grad student, was actually a 19-year-old with a great fake I.D.

Stephan!e? One of my fellow OxBloggers? Free Rad!cal Rightings is by far the best student Blogger site out there. She deals with socially conscious activism, her quest to graduate, and her inability to remember to do her taxes.

See, she's responsible with her online content. But there are others... dear lord, the others...

* * * *

And then, of course, there's the electronic Pandora's Box, that pesky YouTube/Google Video monster.

Ever wondered what life in Oxford actually looks like? Or what kinds of things go on here that I only skim over in posts, the kinds of worship found only in the Cathedral of the Local Higher Education Underground?

Take a look at what I found, what anybody can find, when looking for information on the local college scene:


TheU.Com, a company that specializes in producing videos that explore campus life, managed to capture just about negative stereotype associated with the Local U.

I should mention that this video has spawned several dorm room drinking games, including "Spot the Minority" and "Count the Pastel Polos."


I probably get more negative feedback for calling Green Beer Day America's Dumbest College Tradition than I do from almost any other post.

My favorite IM this year? "Fukin faggot liberal. go eat you fukin tofu hippy . ill be fukin hotties at lotties on GBD."

I feel sorry for whatever hotties that guy was supposedly fukin. Wonder if he's one of the guys fighting at the end of this clip?


What happens when a Left-leaning student and a Right-leaning student have a disagreement while in Uptown Oxford after dark?

The answer has now been captured on film.

I have yet, however, to witness two students actually sustain an intellectual debate over just a few drinks in Uptown Oxford.

And who the hell yells Fuck Nancy Pelosi as a rallying cry, anyway?

* * * *

Welcome to Oxford Fucking Ohio, population 21,000, 15,000 of which are Local U. undergrads, bored shitless and prone to some of the strangest behaviors known to Man.

It's not their fault, really. Idle hands are indeed the tools of the Devil.

Actually, I think Beelzebub lives down the street. He's egging on a group of guys in an attempt to turn a friendly game of Edward Forty-Hands into the first-ever game of Double SoCo Hands. And I've heard Mephistopheles just applied for a liquor license, as he's planning on opening a college bar called Roofies Pub - it'd be a big hit with certain groups of guys.

Satan? He just started his first-ever Religious Right- influenced, emo/punk record label in some dorm room, signing bands with names like Jesus Built my Fauxhawk, The Falwell Five, and Sad Puppies Get the Girl to, like, Make Out with You.

And I'm pretty sure the Antichrist spends his days hanging out at the ZenFo Library, teaching courses on the Art of Facebook Stalking.

Dear God.

I'm actually starting to sound like a responsible, rational community leader.

I think I need a drink. And a cigarette. Maybe cyanide.

# # #


Woeful said...

Where do I begin...

First, "And who the hell yells Fuck Nancy Pelosi as a rallying cry, anyway?" is a very salient observation. Who indeed?

Roofies Pub. Are you serious? Surely that'll be a hit with those in the Women's Studies program... And all the coeds with high self-esteem.

"Sad Puppies Get the Girl to, like, Make Out with You." -- I don't know what to write here?

Through your observations, you do sound like a responsible community leader. Actually, what you write about Oxford applies to most (I hate saying all, but...) college towns in America. You might as well be writing about Cambridge, New Haven, or Stanford. In fact you are, only those who criticize you don't see this as they take things personally. I see what you do as more of an indictment of the college culture in general, rather than an attack on Oxford, it's students, and its history.

What can we actually do to improve the situation? This culture is an ingrained part of who we are... An American right of passage. There is always some guy puking in the bushes at the prom. Different guy, same sorry bush every year. The situation in colleges is exacerbated by having such a large concentration of adolescents in a relatively small area where they can feed off one another's immature antics.

Additionally, a significant portion of the problem also pertains to a lack of respect for other people, and to the overblown sense of entitlement we collectively have these days... This begins at home, not at the local U.

stephan!e lee said...

i wouldn't call it "responsible" J.

it's more that i've stopped posting on my personal life, b/c i decided to keep it to myself.

which is too bad, b/c this past weekend i had a shit ton worth of rants to make. the ol' love life is proving impossible, AGAIN, and i've decided to give up on that altogether.

happiness isn't worth finding if it causes this much agony.

whew! much better.

jess fullerton said...

"Satan? He just started his first-ever Religious Right- influenced, emo/punk record label in some dorm room, signing bands with names like Jesus Built my Fauxhawk, The Falwell Five, and Sad Puppies Get the Girl to, like, Make Out with You."

dude i'm so laughing my ass off. did you intnetionally choose to sneak Al Jourgensen in there???

i really need to listen to some ministry now. and drink. you should run for mayor or something.

Cat. said...

Why do I feel like it would be insulting to say that you actually just sound like a grown-up? :-) And that I'm cracking up...?

I agree with woeful to a certain extent: I think this is true of most college towns. Certainly was when I was at a small lib arts college over 20 years ago in a small city in the midwest.

On the other hand, there are plenty of students NOT puking into bushes, not acting out, not doing stupid shit. They just don't get noticed because they are actually at college to learn stuff.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Yup, that is by far one of the dumbest things to fight over, period.

Lol, Not serious about the Roofies Pub thing, thank goodness. Actually, the whole Satan/ Mephisto/ Beezlebub lines were intended more as a way to make myself laugh. Lol, pretty pathetic, I know. Partly as a play on all of the Golding "LOTF" references, partly for shock value.

Though I think, in hindsight, Jesus Built my Fauxhawk does sown like a rather interesting name for a punk band...

Actually, you're very right. The observations do apply to most college towns - the relationships between colleges and communities has been like this for decades, and there are a lot of similar sized communities that have similar cooling relationships with the local college.

Here, I think it's very noticable primarily because of the relatively small percentage of full time residents, the extreme economic disparity (a vast majority of kids come from homes whose incomes are three-five times that of the average working class family here)and the lack of cultural exposure prior to entering college.

OSU and OU students, for example, often crack jokes about the Local U. One of the harshest critiques I've ever heard is that the Local U does, indeed, have the reputation of being a virtual gated community college and that "they don't let accept poor people."

I've lived in or around college campuses my entire life - six in all - and I've never seen such almost extreme behavior at the fringes of college life stereotypes. The problem's not that they don't happen elsewhere; its that they occur at such high percentages throughout the campus population and there's a detachment from, well, reality.

Add in the economic and ethnic hegemony of the local college population, and you have a mess. Sadly, it does begin at home. Completely agree. Great article, btw.

Aww. Don't be so hard on yourself. Lol, I probably wouldn't be blogging as much as I have in the past two weeks if I didn't have woman, work, and social life issues. I tend to think too much when I'm not involved with someone.

My own idle hands for the Devil.

Oh me. I took a last look at the Oxford Blogger universe before I upgraded my account. There's some completely batshit stuff floating around.

Lol, that's not happiness, chica.

Me? Slip in Ministry references? Never! Al Jourgensen is the Debbil :)

Actually, I swung by the office Saturday and was a-bumpin the Ministry, Skinny Puppy, and Godflesh, for some reason. I have some strange moods sometimes...

It's downright terrifying to be smack-dab in the middle of a Quarter-Life crisis, I tell ya... ;)

It is definitely true, esp. in places like the Midwest and South, primarily because of the allowance for isolation. This used to be benefitial for students, but I keep wondering how much, in light of a national crisis regarding economic polarization (rich getting richer, poor getting poorer, and the middle class seems to be going the way of the dinosaurs), is it a good thing to have such an extreme concentration of the wealthiest 1%'s children in one square mile, surrounded by some of the nation's poorest folks.

In the south, at least, many of the colleges were forced or shamed into socioeconomic diversity development - desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement. One of the things I've noticed - in visiting my hometown, a college community of comparable size to Oxford - is the fact that the large state institution, which diversified its cultural base at the end of Jim Crow and now prides itself on being one of the most diverse colleges in Virginia - has far fewer behavioral problems. And universities located in urban areas, too, throughout America, seem to have fewer problems per capita, because, well, college kids tend to do stupid things the less there is to do - "Millennials" really should be renamed "Adderalls."

And there are plenty, even locally, of students who, you're right - aren't doing stupid shit. But peer pressure? Lol.... can only fight that for so long when there's only one of two cliches to jump between.

Woeful said...

I see, it's the spoiled brat to poor townie rato. In a bigger city this problem is usually equalized by the very real fear that someone representing the greater number of poor indegenous people will put a cap in your ass.

xboxgirl said...

''rich getting richer, poor getting poorer, and the middle class seems to be going the way of the dinosaurs'' partly because millions of illegal aliens {most all from Mexico} are coming here.

There is a very big problem here in California with the [more then 20 million, not counting the 5 or so childern they end up having] illegal immigrants.

Like in LA, something like 43% of the people do not speak English and illegal alien childern fill up way more schools then American childern do ,ect, ect.

SeizeTheNite said...

And I thought good old Johnson County Kansas (the land of spoiled rich kids with BMW's, platinum cards and 1.0 GPA's was bad).
I suppose it could be worse.
Although a game of "Count the Pastel Polos" does sound like a good time...

The ZenFo Pro said...

Yup. It's common in a lot of small college towns.

Well, I usually try not to be too harsh on undocumented workers. They come here and, for the most part, are extremely hard workers.

They're just taking advantage of American laziness - we're too spoiled to do our own dirty work, so they see economic opportunities and they take them. Immigrants have been doing this in this country since, well, Jamestown.

LA's fascinating, really. People who live in SoCal don't realize that that region's ethnic diversity, its true melting pot, is the reason that region has flourished economically and why California's living standards are, for the most part, so much higher than in places like Mississippi.

Look at it this way: a friend of mine who used to live out there once told me that the beauty of L.A. is not in all the tabloid celebrity crap, but in the fact that its one of the only cities in America where one can sit in just about any restaurant and hear dozens of languages spoken at one time.

Lol, yep. Quite fun. Almost as fun as another local game - dodge the drunken sorority girl. That can be quite entertaining - as long as they're not behind the wheel of an SUV :)

xboxgirl said...

No, well you don't understand, you have not seen what has happend to this city [and the more then 300 small towns {sprinkled through out California}, in the last 10 to 20 years, which have turned 90% {illegal} Mexican {not much ethnic diversity there}, are in poverty and end up on welfare and/or other government funded programs, and are dangerous to be in].

I don't blame the illegal immigrants for coming here {and bleeding the system dry} to try and make their life better {I would do the same damn thing if I were in their shoes), they would be crazy not to.

I blame the politicians for allowing the U.S border to be basically wide open, leting and even encouraging, the millions of {mostly Mexican} illegal immigrants to come and stay here, either because they are too sheltered and don't know how bad its gotten or becaues they know that the big companies want the cheap labor [only problem is once large numbers of third-world people group up and take over cities and towns, those cities and towns end up turning into third world nitemares].

The only {preceived} benefit of having millions of illegal immigrants here is for cheap labor, and saving $2 on each head of lettuce and paying $5 an hour instead of $7 an hour {because the illegal immigrants did the work for less} sounds good if you didn't factor:
cost of Social Services for illegal immigrants since 1996
$397,453,872,630 and rising
cost of illegal immigrant incarcerated since 2001
$1,406,334,250 and rising
cost of illegals in K-12 since 1996
$14,054,599,920 and rising
number of illegals incarcerted
number of illegal immigrant fugitives

And I'm not going to get into all the violent immigrant gangs, drug and human smuggling, massive I.D. fraud, emergency room abuse {as in going to the emergency room for minor problems and not paying because they know if they are in the emergency room they will have to be given treatment, this puts a huge drain on some of the hospitals causing them to close down}...*sigh* saying all this won't change a thing, all it does is make me kind of depressed.