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.

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.

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.

Miss Piggy Boldly Goes Where No Man Has Gone Before

Student Prints
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS
Published Summer 1996
The reader may not be surprised when I declare that I have never been attracted to a large blonde pig with lavender gloves. What may shock is that I regret this fact, for Miss Piggy is my shining ideal of a lady. Feminism means many different things for different women, but for me that foam, porcine Muppet has embodied its essence. As a way of introduction, let us compare Star Trek: The Next Generation’s beautiful Counselor Troi to Swine Trek’s equally stunning First Mate Piggy. Both shows are now in reruns, had male captains with problem hair, and featured “space age” uniforms.

Miss Piggy was first mate in 1981. Yet on the 1990s Starship Enterprise, the highest ranking women are only caretakers. Troi is subordinate to two men, one of them a former lover. One the other hand, Piggy is only technically a first mate; it’s clear from her behavior that she is the one who runs the show; Captain Link is simply a buffoon. Which of these two seemingly similar women is the true feminist? Besides, Piggy would never be forced into a v-neck ployester body stocking; too utterly tacky for her!

A friend argues that Miss Piggy is “too frilly,” but isn’t that perchance the choice feminism makes available? Although I must question if a ruffled Scarlet O’Hara type skirts my beautiful, porcine idol has been known to don are in the best taste, no hero is perfect. Wearing large plastic jewelry is hardly an anti-feminist statement; a poor fashion choice perhaps, but hardly akin to voting for Bob Dole.

In fact, Piggy’s beauty is a peculiarly empowering example. I never read most of Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. I didn’t feel i particularly needed to. Piggy was enough to show me that iconographic, anorexic models with augmented breasts are hardly the only claimants to beauty. Piggy knew she was beauuuuutiful. That was enough to convince the world, and to set an admirable model for many a young people. Besides, Ms. Wolf probably wouldn’t understand why a lady sometimes just needs to carry a pink frilled parasol.

Piggy also set a wonderful example as an aggressive, successful woman who got what she wanted not by visual or political prostitution, but through hard work and determination. Piggy was not afraid to halt a skit, calling the script worthless on no uncertain terms: “This is a cheap-shot comedy sketch.” Nothing stood in her way, not even the puny chicken-loving, blue “it” with the big nose (why Gonzo never learned to stay out of her way I’ll never know; he went flying head over heels across the stage enough times). Perfection was her unequivocal goal – well, perfection and The Frog.

This example of not just an interracial but inter-species relationship also made me open to ideas outside of the close-minded world in which I was raised. Despite some very public questions like, “what will the children look like, ” Kermit and Piggy held on to their love, answering, “they will be small.” Pig Power fought not just sexism, but racism, too.

I wish I had one one-thousandth of the courage she had. Miss Piggy embodies an ideal to which i still aspire. how many women today can even call a man up? What small number can demand he take the relationship on her terms, no ifs, ands, or buts?

I contemplate that perhaps Miss Piggy was too forward, too aggressive. Then I realized that a man exhibiting such behavior would only be one-tenth as obnoxious as, say, Sam Malone.

Moreover, I cannot but feel that dear Kermie was playing hard to get. When the chips were down, it was always to Piggy’s side he rushed.

Some hecklers from the balcony might argue that Miss Piggy cannot be a feminist because she is (admittedly) a bit vain, loves an amphibian, or simply looks like a surreal Marilyn Monroe. However, as we try to create a better world for women and achieve equality between the sexes, consider what from this equality we should take. As its means feminism depends on equal freedom of choice; it is when women exercise these choices that the personal becomes political. Miss Piggy never let others dictate her choices, she never let society or a man dictate her role in life.

As I wandered the streets of Malian worried over my all toupee worthy pockets, I remembered this and held my chin high. The force, the Pig was with me, carrying it on as it had since my years as a kindergartner wearing socks. It was purely attitude, but effective in keeping away the pinchers.

Anyone messing with a awesome, self-empowered, feminist self would find themselves meaninglessly hiyahhhed, much as Piggy kicked the ass of her would-be manger in The Muppets Take Manhattan.

“That’ll teach you to mess with a lady!”

Gay Marriage Should Be Legal

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

The gay marriage debate has produced some of the wackiest doomsday scenarios since nuclear winter. An idea fixation runs through it all: Allowing people of the same sex to marry will open floodgates on every form of human perversion.

Consider William Bennett’s recent screed in The Washington Post. “On what principled grounds could the advocates of same-sex marriage oppose the marriage of two consenting brothers?” he wonders. “How could they explain why we ought to deny a marriage license to a bisexual who wants to marry two people?” In a sane world, it would be considered bigoted to presume that homosexuals don’t share the general attitude toward polygamy – or, for that matter, the incest taboo.

But the New York Post takes the wedding cake. A recent editorial urged that gays be denied the right to marry because their sexual practices differ from those of straights. Never mind Madonna’s popular forays into sadomasochism or the rise of Leather-and-Chain Versace wear. To the Post, S&M; is something only queers do. And even those who aren’t oriented toward sadomasochistic encounters with strangers are plotting to engage in another apparently prominent – and distressing – feature of homosexual life: child molestation.

It’s said that opposition to gay marriage reflects anxiety about the changing state of the American family. But there’s another possibility. the issue has given straights an occasion to project their fears and fantasies onto gays. For liberals, that’s entertainment, bur for the right, it’s politics. Now on a more serious note. Activists anticipate that it will take more than a year for the Hawaii Supreme Court to decide whether marriage licenses should be granted to same-sex couples. In that time, the concept of a Hawaiian wedding may enter the American language, much as the term “Boston marriage” did in the 19th century as a winking way to describe lesbian couples. Thousands of gays are gearing up to honeymoon in Hawaii, and when they return to their respective states, the courts will be clogged with litigation as they demand their spousal rights.

The states have always honored each other’s marital contracts, even when they did not agree with them. Once the California courts threw out laws banning miscegenation in 1948; interracial couples who married there were legit even in states where such unions were still forbidden. Indeed, the case that finally inspired the Supreme Court to void all miscegenation laws in 1967 involved an interracial couple who had married in Washington, D.C., only to find themselves regarded as criminals when they returned home to Virginia. Such echoes will be hard for the Supreme Court to ignore when it considers the rights of gay couples, unless, of course, they justices find such discrimination rational.

But even if the courts fail to offer gay couples relief, state legislatures may. Though 16 state houses have already passed laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, such bills have failed in 19 other states so far – including redoubts of the right like Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. One reason why is the attachment of such states to their own eccentric marriage laws. For example, common law marriages are legal in Louisiana but not in new York; however, the courts here recognize such unions. California has one law defining marriage along strictly heterosexual lines and another stipulating that the state must recognize license issued elsewhere. The Hawaii courts are likely to put this contradiction to the test.

Don’t Let Fear Dominate

Student Printz
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS
Summer 1996

Fear is a funny thing. It stops us from doing a lot of stupid things, but it can also ruin our lives. As I start y senior year, I am having to face many of my fears. Will I get a job? One that I like? What kind of job do I want? have I done everything I can to prepare myself for the real world? Do I have enough courses to graduate? What will happen to me once I leave the security of the university? Where will I be this time next year? In five years? Ten?

Seniors face these questions everyday as we go to seminars on job hunting, meet with our advisors and prepare for graduation. And it is very, very scary.

It is easy to sit back and follow the path laid out for you. It is well traveled and secure. For most of our lives, whether we know it or not, we have been following “the plan.”

You know which one I mean. You do a good job in high school, go to a good college, get a good job and live a good life. “The plan” will give you just that – a good life, not a great one, and if that’s what you want, then good for you.

However, many of you out there want much more than that. I, for one, do not relish the thought of waking up every day, going to the same office and looking at the same people for the next 30 years until I retire.

If you get people to be totally honest with you about what they want they would like to do in life, you might be surprised at their responses. Everyone has dreams and aspirations that are not commonplace or easily accomplished.

Few people become millionaires by following “the plan.” If you want to be happy and successful, then you have to take risks. You may spend the next few years struggling to survive. But what is more important, immediate financial security or long-term fulfillment?

There are so many people who choose to simply follow “the plan” and then at some point realize that they regret all the chances they did not take. But no one should have regrets in life. To have to look back and thank, “What if?” is one of the worst things in the world.

Now is the time to take risks, before you have a family, car, mortgage and all the other responsibilities that come with adulthood.

College is the perfect place to pursue your dreams. If you want to write, call up the paper. College is little world where if you mess up, it is not that bad. you can be anything you allow yourself to be.

This is my senior year. It took me two and a half years to get up the courage to do what I want, not what my parents, teachers and society want for or expect of me. I only have one year left here, and I plan to make the most of it.

As the Class of 2000 enters the university, many of you have no majors or any idea about what you want to do. That’s OK.

Take this year to get involved in whatever your heart desires. Do not succumb to the pressure to declare yourself pre-med, pre-law or anything else. If is your life to do with as you want. Upperclassmen, it is not too late. TAke control of your life and do not be scared to take a chance. I read a No Fear T-shirt that said “Are you afraid to die, or just afraid to live?” I am no longer afraid. Are you?

War among USM Factions Looms

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

The conflict between the Administration and the Graduate STudents cannot be completely evaluated without considering how it has affected the undergraduate population.

Many have wondered whether undergraduates should be involved in this conflict, but whether we like it or not, undergraduates cannot avoid playing a role in the struggle. the relevant question is, are we being involved “unfairly?”

Is someone manipulating us like pawns in a sordid political game? Many of us sign the classic sigh of the petty-bourgeoisie, feeling crushed between the pincers of organized proletarians on the one hand and greedy capitalists on the other.

But perhaps that sigh is somewhat misled. Indeed, we can draw a more accurate picture of what is going on by looking at USM’s ongoing political struggle as a battlefield, upon which various armies are constantly maneuvering, trying to further their interests.

The army of cheap housing, is a coalition comprised of graduate students. The Coalition certainly has a strategy – to put as much pressure on the administration as possible in order to obtain fair housing costs.

The administration’s army of lawyers has a finely tuned tactic of its own, which it adopts every time a conflict rolls around ignore the students as long as possible, until you see the whites of their eyes, and then empty your ammo clip. Fortunately, in the past USM has run out of firepower. Unfortunately, the administration’s tacticians haven’t figured out a better way of dealing with their students, which leaves us with a messy conflict every few years.

The third army – yes, USM has a cluttered battlefield – is ours, the undergraduate army, the pearl of the university. We are generally leaderless, running headlong into crossfire, bereft of strategies or even clearly defined interests. Let this be a brief attempt at outlining our plan of battle.

First, we must identify our objectives. The most obvious one, which unites us all, is the wish to avoid a conflict. Many of us have made tremendous sacrifices to get here, and it would be deplorable for our studies to be disrupted by untaught classes, uncooked food, and unclean toilets.

In order to avoid a conflict we must identify who is primarily responsible for precipitating it: the administration or the graduate students?

Many of us rush to say: the grad students! After all, if there weren’t student organizations, there wouldn’t be conflicts. While this may well be true, we must realize that students do not like conflict. As a matter of fact, they probably dislike them as much as the administration does. Students are for collective bargaining, not conflicts. Conflicts are always a last resort. They are unpleasant, lean times, and the students do not always win. Graduate students do not want to battle either, believe it or not.

Who, then, is to blame for a looming conflict? One whom should undergraduate strategies train their telescopes? Who has stonewalled? Who always tries to make cutbacks? Who is manipulating the simpleminded among us to scrawl “Graduate Students screw undergrads” on the walls? Who can afford to settle this conflict now but won’t – simply out of sheer corporate stubbornness?

No one is responsible for involving us in this conflict: regardless of whether or not it is fair, we are naturally involved because we are members of the USM community. What is relevant is what we can do to avoid a conflict, and that is to tell our administrators to negotiate responsibly with all of USM’s students.

Our director of Residence Life, Lorinda Krhut, claimed in meeting with grad students that the administration would deal with the upcoming housing controversies “reasonably.” We, as undergraduates should reply: practice what you preach.

Dewelling on past, continues cycle of persecution

published July 3, 1996
Student Printz
University of Southern Mississippi

Imagine the following scenario: a nation is suffering from the consequences of a harsh military defeat aggravated by a severe economic depression. Within that nation, a minority historically persecuted throughout Europe has achieved a degree of assimilation that is virtually unprecedented anywhere else. But the harsh economic conditions within the country invite a young party struggling for political survival to revive an old collection of myths and stereotypes, all designed to scapegoat the financially successful minority for the majority’s problems. Every effort is made to undo the assimilation that has taken place, and to distinguish the minority from everyone else. A large war involving all of Europe is sought. In the course of the war, many members of the minority are brutally slaughtered in death camps. The aggressor nation is militarily defeated. After the war, the minority pulls together, and takes pride in distinguishing itself from the rest of the world, basing much on its new found identity on a shared experience of victimization.

So now, you tell me: who won World War II? And for that matter, tell me whether the slaves in the United States were ever really liberated? There are many other questions of this kink I could pose, and I think the answers are all inconclusive. The situation is much more intuitively comprehensible on the individual level. For any combination of stupid reasons, a little boy grows up hated by his peers. He learns to resent them. Eventually, he turns into a hateful adult who is now hated for very good reasons. The persecutors have succeeded in turning their victim into the very monstrosity that they had wrongly envisioned him as being.

This is how persecution engenders its vicious circle. It enslaves the minds of the enslaved, and long after their chains are broken, their slavery continues. The Holocaust could be called, I think, the central event in “the Jewish experience.” To this day, tremendous effort goes into remembering what happened. Consider the Academy Award winning documentary featuring “Anne Frank Remembered” and the winner for documentary short subject “One Survivor Remembered.” All the memories, I am sure, create their sick kind of nostalgia, but is it not time to get beyond the 1940s? What about forgetting?

Intelligent feminists will regularly counsel the victims of sexual crimes not to allow their victimization to become their reason for living. The ultimate victory over a crime like rape is to allow oneself to become more than the victim of a rape. If this does not happen, the rapist has won. The victim must be able to forget – not deny – just forget. There is, after all, a good kind of forgetting. Why does the analogy so seldom carry over into the realm of mass persecution?

Many will contend that we cannot allow ourselves to forget the Holocaust. They will smugly respond with Seorge Santayana’s old adage; “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” From this logic, it follows that the great lesson of the Holocaust is that there must not be another Holocaust, and the way to prevent another one is to remember the original one. First of all, Bosnia has graphically illustrated the idiocy and practical inadequacy of such thinking. Very conveniently, we don’t refer to the situation there as a Holocaust. We say “ethnic cleansing.” This way, we can think of it as something entirely novel and unexpected, and so the lesson of Bosnia now becomes that there must never be another Bosnia. And it all keeps on rolling along….

While everyone is so busy remembering to remember, they tend to forget that remembering is the very problem that drives the engines of persecution and genocide. Memories of ancient ethnic and racial rivalries are rekindled to someone’s political advantage, and the targeted minority revels in its minority status, making the task of the persecutors infinitely easier. It’s kink of like fighting a guerrilla war while wearing bright red uniforms.

A few weeks ago, the parents of a good friend of mine yelled at him for having a love interest who was not jewish. “The Jewish race is dying out,” they argued, citing frequent instances of cultural ignorance and intermarriage. I take that as a statement of hope. If the Holocaust ever had a lesson, it has nothing to do with remembering, and everything to do with forgetting the silly ethnic, racial and religious boundaries that separate us from one another.

Yet even in an environment like USM’s many refuse to get involved with anyone outside their own accident-of-birth group. They are content to obey and allow their historically myopic elders to breed them like cattle, and long after D-day, the Germans are winning the war. maybe one of their architects of genocide knew that if those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, those who cannot forget the past are doubly condemned.

Buddhist Story Illustrates Need for Discussion

Published September 17, 1996
Student Printz
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS USA

In Buddhist traditions, young acolytes travel from temple to temple seeking a place to camp out and study with established masters.

At each stop, the would-be apprentice must engage in a philosophical parole with one of the established monks.

At one such temple a monk was assigned the duty of engaging any passing acolytes. But since the temple was full, he was instructed to carry on only speechless dialogues admission.

This particular monk had only one eye.

No sooner had the one-eyed monk taken up his watch than a young acolyte – we shall call him Grasshopper – approached.

Upon introducing himself and receiving no reply, Grasshopper held up one finger and thrust it toward the one-eyed monk’s face. the one-eyed monk held up two fingers and thrust them with equal vigor toward the visitor, to which young Grasshopper responded by holding up three.

At this point the one-eyed monk held up his fist and shook it at the youth. Pausing and contemplating the one-eyed monk, Grasshopper hung his head and walked away.

As the dejected youth passed by on the way out, the master inquired as to what had transpired?

“Oh, Master,” moaned Grasshopper, “I have been shown the inadequacy of my thinking by an intellectual better.”

“How is this so?” asked the master.

“When I realized our discussion was to be speechless, I held up one finger to represent the Buddha. Your monk then held up two fingers to signify the Buddha and his teachings, to which I held up three to show the Buddha, his teachings and his followers. He trumped me by holding up his fist, demonstrating that the Buddha, his teachings and his followers are all one and the same.”

As the master watched the acolyte walk away, he was approached by the one-eyed mond, who was clearly agitated.

“What has upset you so?” asked the master.

“When the impudent wretch discovered that our conversation was to be speechless, he held up one finger to show that I had only one eye. I then held up two fingers to commend him on his good fortune at having two eyes, to which he held up three fingers to demonstrate that between us we had three eyes. That’s when I held up my fist to inform him that he was a half-wit and if he didn’t get out of my face I would punch his lights out!”

Everywhere you look today, people are talking past one another. Not so much talking as shrieking, whining, threatening, jabbing each other in the chests and beating each other silly with placards.

Seems you can’t have a conversation with anyone anymore without their becoming incensed at some perceived affront and going ballistic.

The new academic year gives us each the unique opportunity to change the nature of the debate. We can stand on the side of civility and treat those with whom we differ with dignity and respect, or we can snarl and tear at one another like a pack of wild pigs.

For intellectuals like ourselves the choice is clear. Be civil, or I’ll beat you up.