USM Uses Devine Intervention for Preview

Student Printz
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS
Summer 1996

I am walking around campus. Summer is in the air. Birds are singing. The flowers are in bloom. People are laughing, play volleyball, and looking remarkably relaxed. I have an excellent meal of omelets and fruit salad, courtesy of Commons, in my stomach. And I have big plans for parties that night. Is this really USM?

Yes it is. It is USM during preview.

It would seem that preview is the result of a huge conspiracy on the part of the administration. By conversing with certain key players, they have presented a picture of USM to the previewees that is fun, happy, beautiful and spirited – and therefore fraudulent.

Let’s examine the experience of two previewees I met. The first thing they noticed, of course, was the beautiful weather and scenery. I have heard that traditionally the first nice day of the year is always during preview days, and the last Thursday was no exception. Roses were out in full force. No rain until late afternoon. It seemed the humidity was down to a comfortable level.

Clearly because the administration’s first conversation was to the Almighty himself. President Lucas used his powers office to get in touch with the Lord and said, “Listen, it’s that time of year again, and we want to cash in on all this God stuff.”

And God delivered. Sunshine, birds, roses – the works. You all thought it was just the passing of seasons. Oh, no. This was all completely planned. There was not trace of summer showers by the time the first car of parents and previewees arrived in Hattiesburg.

Then, of course, USM conversed its own bureaucracy. My preview friends were provided with excellent dining-hall meals and flexibility, something that never happens in real USM life.

Was it a coincidence that the Thursday was alive with parties, debauchery, drinking and fun? After a string of tepid or dead nights, the campus came alive for the preview. Now I doubt any of the party hosts would admit it, but I’m willing to bet that they were arranged by USM.

Even the Southern Styles, as usual, showed USM’s best face.

Of course my previewees benefited from this well. the best proof of USM’s powers of persuasion came from the experience of “Dave,” my previewer who ended a superbly productive night by throwing up in bathroom for two hours. the other previewee, “Mike,” and their host, stood guard to make sure Dave didn’t drown. After the first 20 minutes, however, the guy in the shower started to get frustrated and yelled, “Can’t you take him to another bathroom? I want to get out.” The host, annoyed, said “Listen, Dave is sick. Why don’t you just get out of the shower?” The shower man said, “OK, I warned you,” and stepped out. he was followed, five seconds later, by a young lady. Mike and the host did a double take, while Dave, who was plastered, merely thought he was hallucinating and returned to his task.

It would seem that USM is trying to make the previewees think that people actually have sex here. We Oldies know there is no sex at USM, but this farce for the previewees, along with the all the choices in the Commons, is a clear indication of USM’s desire to make the previewees think that this is a licentious place after all.

In a year with hurricanes, dollar crises, tenure denials and the decline in the local economy, this is the face we put on for the previewees. This is why the gentlemen from preview, despite their hangovers, were psyched to come here in the fall. We showed them USM at its best, as it was meant to be. And perhaps how we will all remember it years after graduation.

If only the administration could afford to keep it up year-around.

USM Needs to Take Stand on Social Issues

Published Summer 1996
Student Printz
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg. MS, USA

The university’s commitment to its social responsibility has so far been manifested in remarkably conventional terms, funding for its community service programs, occasional faculty debates over university policies that have larger social implications and commitment (nominally, at least) to student and faculty diversity. Maybe it is time, however, that the University of Southern Mississippi participate even more fully in the difficult dilemmas facing our society.

What I am suggesting is an explicit and constructive engagement between USM and the world beyond campus. Universities have long refused to take stands on important social issues, hiding instead behind the banners of institutional neutrality and academic freedom. these excuses are not only disingenuous, but also inconsistent in their practical implications. Instead, I want USM to take, by means of faculty votes, clear and intellectual moral stances on important social issues. I believe that by lending its reputation and resources to a well articulated social position, USM could move beyond tokenism in its commitment to social welfare.

The Myth of Neutrality

This is not the first time such a proposal has been made. In the late 1960s, for instance, students and faculty members across the nation pressed for institutional statements of disapproval for the Vietnam War. At that time, and whenever such calls have been made, opponents deflected demands for moral positions by citing the importance of institutional neutrality. The institutional goal of universities, it has repeatedly been argued, is the pursuit of knowledge in isolation from controversial political and social issues. This concept of neutrality is problematic, however. If neutrality means silence on political debates then I feel that USM’s silence is especially loud. USM has great intellectual and financial clout. Any refusal to use that influence represents an implicit (even if unintended) vote of support outcome since USM could have thrown its weight behind the alternative.

The suggestion that there are political debates that do not concern USM is even more problematic. USM is enmeshed in a web of interests that extends far beyond Hattiesburg Government contracts for research, federal funds for financial aid and professors in government positions all increasingly blur the border between USM and the outside world. Furthermore, USM is already knee-deep in several contentious social debates. Affirmative action in admissions, USM’s ties with ROTC – repeatedly suggest that academic isolation is untenable; a modern university cannot avoid taking a moral stand.

Social Responsibility

But my call for a socially engaged university is based on more than a simple rejection of neutrality as a viable alternative. I believe that all universities, USM included, have a certain social obligation. This assumption is not contrary to the traditional vision of the academic institution: In some form or another, universities have always recognized their social responsibilities. Even the most isolationist of academics have seen the independent pursuit of knowledge and research as good for society.

My call for an explicit stand on social issues does not, therefore, violate any sacred cows of institutional autonomy. USM has taken numerous policy decision that represent an implicit moral position. So far, however, these have had a narrow administrative focus and have not dealt with the social questions implicit in the decisions. Yet the university clearly acknowledges a social responsibility. It’s time that social positions and social responsibility were brought together. I am not so naive, of course, as to believe that a simple word from USM is sufficient to alter government policies. Nor is this a question of imposing or forcing our will upon society. But there can be little doubt that a statement from USM will be noticed. In addressing the military’s ban on homosexuals, the 1992 Verba Report on the status of ROTC makes this very same point: “I have no illusions that USM’s actions with respect to the ROTC will influence national policy or cause the military to abandon its policy of exclusion. However, I also believe that we should not ignore USM’s resources as an agent for changing what we think to be an antiquated and damaging public policy.” The point is that a well argued position supported by USM’s intellectual and financial resources can powerfully affect, if not decisively influence, the course of social events.

A Price to Pay

Critics contend that social responsibility is fine in principle, but not at the expense of the university’s primary academic mission. An official university position, they argue, would intimidate professors with dissenting opinions and stifle the intellectual debate that is so vital to any pursuit of knowledge.

This is indeed an important consideration, and any decision in favor of institutional positions should be careful to discern between administrative implications and subject matter for the classrooms. Occasionally, administrative decisions spill over into the realm of morality. These decisions, I believe, should be consistent with, and governed by, the faculty votes. But there is no reason why the underpinning ideology of administrative decisions cannot be contradicted in the classroom. For example, there is a clear distinction between a university’s decision to allow women’s studies and the same university’s decision to tenure an outspoken sexist professor.

Granted, the professors who voted for a women’s studies curriculum would be the people doing the hiring, and it is possible that their ideologies would spill over into the final decision. But the same ideological conflicts could exist today. Any belief held by a majority of the faculty is likely to be disproportionately represented on a hiring board, whether or not a formal vote has been taken. The existence of a university position is unlikely to affect the degree to which individual members of hiring board allow their ideologies to influence their respect for the principle of academic freedom. Even if the hiring process remains relatively untainted, critics counter, it is unlikely that professors are going to feel welcome or comfortable in a university with an official position that contradicts their own. I feel that this argument doesn’t give enough credit to the intellectual convictions of USM’s professors.

Furthermore, provided their numbers are sizable enough, professors with dissenting opinions will have the comfort of knowing that their views can be stated along with the official USM position. Finally no university position is irreversible. I propose that a position require a two-thirds majority to be adopted and a simple majority to be reversed.

Sea Song

Tiny crabs played
on the rocks below
challenged by the constancy
of the waves
that pushed them away
The sea was pleased
to see me again
and sang melodies
rhythmic and soft

Sea Birds

they stand upon the shore
at possibly nothing.
Each of them
facing the waves
his own way.
They have no need
for time or worry,
they live only for
their next meal, morsel.
There’s no competition
between them,
no hurt of sorrow
just freedom
to catch their wings
upon a passing breeze.
For the wind and waves
to them are home,
and they view life
from the air smelling chances.

Sand Steps

I found
some pretty footsteps
upon the sand so wet,
and felt
that somewhere, somehow
in time
their form I’d met.
So in hopes
I might meet,
the one
who’s feet they’d fit.
I hurried off to follow
along the waves
who at me spit.

Parental Sin

You say you want me to tell this story,
but you won’t hear what I have to say,
If everyone is a homophobe,
that means you too.

I grab your arm as you jab at my chest.
You want to know all about it, correct?
The cabin, the old men
who dropped their pants.
Saw the beer cans they drank and spasmed on.
I remember how hot is it was that day,
but I was cold.
I played outside, playing with myself
for many hours
and I wanted some cold beer.
When I heard a moan,
I turned and saw grandfather with his pants on the floor
saw another man dropped on his knees
as I ran out the door.

I never said a word about what I saw,
only now with these words.
I knew they were terrified,
saw them jerk back, as he released
with such a spasm
When I ran out the door,
all four spasmed with a great moan,
essence poured onto the dirty floor
which I never went back
Grandfather always goes back,
with that smirk and smile
and special twinkle in his eyes.
As I crawled out the closet,
I could hear dance music
over the moaning of men in spasm release.
As I leaned against the wall, and stared at him, a spasm and moan
sent a stream toward his mouth
that hit the dirty floor.

Later, I felt as if I had left my soul
stranded on that dirty floor
where everyone was out for a spasm and moan.
Where rage destroys everything in its wake.
Go on, set your mind at ease.
The devil in the gilded hall
looks too familiar, doesn’t he,
and underneath it all,
like me, you just want to forget.
Tonight, though, for a while you’ll remain awake,
listening to the sounds of another’s passionate moans,
then, comforted, turn over in your bed
and close your eyes,but, the child like the snake
will reenter your life by the unlocked door of sleep.

Dose of Paranoia Keeps Reality in Check

Student Printz
Published July 31 1996
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS USA

You must know by now that the Information Age has reached saturation, and we’re all going to die or upgrade sometimes very, very soon. In celebration, I hereby blow all of my column ideas for the summer term. Y’all are welcome to use any of these as your own ideas. After all, this is the Information Age. Everyone of you must have your own ideas by now, right?

1. Paranoia is an obligation. We live in a “free-market” economy. The freedoms of this market include the freedom of the government and corporate powers to set a target level for the number of people who, no matter how hard they try, will not be able to find work. This number – usually 6 percent of the population – is not a secret passed around by bitter Marxists in dingy bookstores, but rather is openly debated in the opinion-editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. In a world where the government exhorts the people to work and insures that they cannot, “freedom” comes with some shadowy friends.

2. Terrorism in the United States and abroad has prompted many national leaders to publicly decry the “climate of violence” which has been spawned by the less-than-civil rants of talk-show hosts and other ideologues. “Climate of violence” arguments are so absurdly obvious that it has taken six months of national commentary to render them as obtuse as they have become. Tim McVeigh learned to play with guns in that state-sanctioned ass-kicking known as the Gulf War, and then he blew up a building in Oklahoma City. Of course there’s a climate of violence. Israel was created in response to a Holocaust and only exists by virtue of the perpetual ethnic cleansing of its previous landholders. Did it take reactionary ideology to put a bullet in the prime minister? Of course, there’s a climate of violence.

3. A few thoughts about the pope: “They” never slam the pope. What do the quotes printed around the word “they” mean in that last sentence? They exude paranoia. You might have thought we were dealing with a secret cabal of white guys in Masonic robes, controlling the thoughts of a newspaper-reading public. Actually, the word “they” just referred to “newspaper editors.” In fact, I didn’t originally write the sentence with scare quotes. A newspaper editor put them in. I am not a deluded paranoid. I am very informed paranoid.

4. This is only a partial list. Noam Chomsky has pointed out that the American media isn’t necessarily biased, but that it simply operates in increments tiny enough to render impossible discussion of any but the most established ideas. And Chomsky, the single most quoted scholar in the world, can’t get on the air in the U.S. A. This is only a partial list.

5. In the recent Congressional debate over late-term abortions, the press did not hesitate to quote verbatim the gory placards displayed on the floor – as in “the doctor” punctures the baby’s skull with scissors, etc. Excuse me? Last I heard, “babies” lived inside cribs, not women, and were pink-blue coded for easy reference. When the press doesn’t correctly supply the terms for the debate, paranoia encourages folks to begin poking at the newsprint curtains, attempting to glimpse and the men working the pedals and levers.

6. G. Gordon Liddy has had a commendably consistent career undermining the American People’s faith in their own government. He started out as a jackbooted thug for the FBI in the sixties, busting up Dr. Timothy Leary’s LSD-addled parties. He moved on to work security for Nixon, and as one of the Watergate plumbers he led the strong arm of the most obnoxious presidential crime rings in modern history. Now he’s a talk-show host who encourages listeners to “aim for the head” when Kevlar-protected federal agents bust up their Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm-addled parties. That’s a man who sticks by his principles. (Corollary: In the 1960s, leftists were paranoid and thought that the FBI had infiltrated their meetings. Then the details were leaked of the federal operation called COINTELPRO, and it turned out they were right. In the 1990’s, rightist’s were paranoid, and thought that the FBI was trying to kill them and take away their guns. Then Ruby Ridge got on TV, and they found out that the FBI was trying to kill their dogs, too. Paranoia against the government is usually well-founded but never sufficient, because the two-party system ensures that it’s always somebody’s turn to be paranoid. Really worthwhile paranoia aims at corporate wealth and mainstream media.)

A final warning: The biggest problem with paranoia is that it takes religion. Severe paranoiacs imagine an ordered cosmos, like the angry inhabited concentric spheres of pre-Copernican days. Those who imagine a perfect conspiracy of two polls – the world conspired against the individual – fail to see two things. First, that the conspirators do not care about the individual. secondly, that the world could be run differently. Heck, better.

Ocean Meet

There’s a stairway
leading to the edge
down where the sand
and ocean meet
waiting there for me
is a balmy wind,
and ebbing waves
to caress my feet
There’s a peace I find
as I look out over,
The expanse
of her swelling tide,
I long to be as
a seabird to dance
looking for free meals
and a crest to ride.

Claims of Nazism run rampant in the U.S.

Published Student Printz
Summer 1996
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS USA

Imagine this scenario: The defeat of the Germans in 1945 was actually their victory. The invading armies were brainwashed; the generals replaced by german-constructed, English speaking cyberbots; allied governments infiltrated and commandeered.

The armies returned home, and their German automatons became presidents, members of Congress, and agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Meanwhile, German POWS, picking cotton in Texas, fled to Montana, forming militias and awaiting the Reich’s rebirth. Sound preposterous? Not really, if you’re listening to the tone of American political hyperbole. The Nazis are everywhere.

“GENOCIDE!” screams Rep Major Owens (D-NY) at Republicans across the aisle. His reason? Welfare cuts, that in fact don’t go much farther than those his own president suggested. He goes on to call House Republicans “worse than Hitler.” A colleague, Sam Gibbons (D-FL), matches him. “A bunch of fascists,” he screeches. A World War II veteran, he exclaims, “I had to fight you guys 50 years ago.”

A National Rifle Association mass mailing calls agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms “jack-booted government thugs.” The reason? It seems some gunrunners trafficking in illegal weapons objected to the forceful confiscation of their contraband. One in particular accused the agents of stepping on a cat. Lest we miss the connection between cat abuse and fascism. Patrick D. Cupp, a Republican candidate for Senate, circulates a campaign flier that says, “When the Nazi Party came into power in Germany under Hitler, the first thing they did was to confiscate all guns.” And, presumably, all the common sense.

In San Francisco, conservative activist Michael Savage dubs homosexuals, “Nazis trying to steal our freedom.” When Limbaugh fumes about antismoking ordinances in New York City, he denounces the laws’ supporters as the”antismoking Gestapo.” Help! American hyperbole is out of control, and I’m choking on non-sequiturs!

Here’s Mary A. Carroll, an editorial writer in Chicago: “I’m not suggesting that folks like Newt Gingrich and Robert Dole are card-carrying members of the Fourth Reich.” Oh. “But I am suggesting their vision of the United States has more in common with German fascism than with the more admirable moments in the history of American democracy.” And blah, blah, blah. Carroll would do well to aim her rhetorical attacks with more precision; one man she demonizes, robert Dole, has done more to combat fascism in a very direct fashion then her sad and confused pontifications on political philosophy ever will.

This kind of rhetoric isn’t exactly new. In the 1960s, the left often called Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon fascists. In turn, supporters of Nixon and Johnson called their critics “the real fascists,” in the prelude to an interesting game of less-fascist-than-thou. but our times are different, because the charges of fascism are so widespread. Americans simply don’t know how to discuss politics with civility anymore.

You know the horses are loose when a web search engine is used with the keywords “Gringrich” and “Nazi” brings up more than 1,000 documents. The charge of “fascist” can take many forms, and one ubiquitous form current today is the phrase “politics of hate.” The only noteworthy characteristic of this phrase is that, like so much of political hyperbole, it means nothing. Calling someone a practitioner of the “politics of hate” is just another convenient way of assuming that your ideological opponent thinks the way he does because he’s a jerk or evil or both. And fighting the forces of evil is much easier than arguing against the philosophy of George Will.

Let’s take an example. Does Patrick Buchanan really practice the “politics of hate”? It’s true that he seems to think more with his shriveled ego than with his brain. But Buchanan is no fascist. More important is the very well articulated attack he makes on the basic unit of production of the modern era: The corporation. Here he has many potential followers and a long tradition of socialist philosophy to support him.

The obsession with Nazitis has ever spread to our little campus. One student a short while ago was quoted as supposing the university guilty of having a “plantation mentality,” which is a step away from calling Aubrey Lucus a klansman. And in case you missed it, the Hattiesburg community recently was treated to the fascinating spectacle of two conservative columnists Matt Friedeman and Deborah Mathis, accusing various individuals of different forms of fascism.

Look: we’re all basically democrats; there are enough kooks out there that we don’t have to run around inventing new ones; and anyone who can seriously think the term “Nazi” even of the most extreme of us has already demonstrated himself incapable of taking part in rational debate. Which, I fear, includes most of us.

My Special Place

There is a place, a special place
where ocean water, ebbs and flows
with rocks upon, which I can sit
where no one, ever hardly goes.
there I can stand, upon their forms
and view, the miles of open sea,
or listen, to her music
and write, the lyrics sung to me
it never changes, and often waits
the old rocks, keep for me warm,
the sea, laps at them constantly
asking when, I’ll be along.
I don’t, get to go there often
but still, it’s my very special place,
For there is where, I find myself
when from the world, I need some space.