2006 is looking up, from football to first-years

By William Clarke

The fall semester has arrived. Five hundred and some odd new students have ventured to the great Northern plains. They replace the class of 2006 which, despite its diminutive size, indelibly left its mark on the entire Macalester community. I count myself among those who greatly miss those who have just departed into the so called ‘real’ world. However, this freshman class, despite having only seen them for two weeks, looks like a promising lot. Their genuine enthusiasm for being here is infectious, particularly for those of us disenchanted, exhausted, and apathetic returning students. Moreover, ninety some odd first years of color have joined us. I dare not become too excited, but this is indisputably a reason to be optimistic. Change, especially on college campuses, comes at a glacier-like pace.
Despite that statement, the Macalester football program is in the midst of a facelift. Long known for its amazing losing streaks, a return to respectability seems plausible. The appointment of new football coach Glenn Caruso and Saturday’s win—a 50-6 blowout of Principia— our first in far too long, already suggests vast improvement. The scintillating performance of several first-year players is more reason for optimism. Otherwise, the soccer teams are as popular as ever. Athletics, more broadly than ever, seem to be gaining on our already noteworthy academic excellence. This first year class (as an Orientation leader I might be biased) seems as exceptional as any. That, as we are so constantly reminded, is nothing new.
However, at the microscopic level, changes have been afoot. These first year students have already witnessed one of the more significant events since I’ve been here. Toni Morrison’s convocation speech, regardless of the dubious motives behind it, is a moment to savor. Tommy Lee Woon, the new Dean of Multicultural Life, will bring a new energy and approach to the position, vacated by the dearly missed Joi Lewis. That brings me to another predictable segues.
Among the numerous changes that have seemingly occurred one after another, this year marks the first year that Macalester no longer employs need-blind admissions. We have yet to see how this change in policy will visibly affect the campus. Despite legitimate apprehension, this college’s administrative resilience is amongst its most consistent elements. Thus, despite the nebulous and questionable beginnings of the Center for Global Citizenship, I am confident that eventually the college will get it right. The Center is the most recent cause of bitter on-campus debate, which now appears to be an annual part of life at Macalester. I have no intention of minimizing the contributions of those who have vehemently defended causes certainly worth defending, but I must admit I am a believer in Hegel’s dialectic. First years, I’ll apologize for the use of such a high-fallutin term. In three months, you’ll know what I mean.

Here in 2006, even with the ever-changing student body and high turnover rates amongst employees, the college, its bricks, elms and benches, remain, for the most part, unchanged. Recent graduates often complain of the increasingly moderate or ‘conservative’ student body. Few concerned alumni, whether of rightward of leftward political inclinations, consider the transforming political culture of the United States in such calculations. Perhaps, the increasingly frightening political climate of the world has given rise to deepening anxieties among our concerned citizens. If anything can be said confidently about the Macalester community near and far, it is a skeptical bunch. This is not a bad thing.

Often the senior class often complains of the “conservative, more mainstream but attractive first-year class.” So far, only the latter has been affirmed. Though this could be due to the novelty of new faces, it’s a consistent trope of senior-first-year relations. The other two questions, as of now, remain under appraisal. The term ‘first-year crush’ might be unfamiliar to many of you, but I assure you it is an important word in the lingua franca of the senior class. One kernel of advice for you first-years, do not be fooled by the supposed maturity and coolness of the senior class. We are as frightened of graduating as you are of being here. I wonder if there is a mutual need for upperclassmen and underclassmen to vicariously live through one another. After all, in this age of existential crises, everyone else’s life is better than yours.
According to almost any Macalester brochure, each and every one of you Scots is a unique soul. Cheesy? Yes, but I think it accurately reflects how we conceptualize ourselves and it is necessary for my point. In the interest of eliciting some slightly critical self analysis, I’ll offer the following anecdote. A senior at Sarah Lawrence College, while interviewing me, candidly ruminated on his college’s recruiting motto—”You are special, so are we.” Though a good natured statement, it is indicative of the clichéd, hackneyed liberal arts experience that most schools sell without shame. Macalester, though not explicitly using the phrase, nonetheless prides itself on that wonderful and individualized student experience. If, like me, you chose Macalester for this reason, fear no embarrassment, you are not alone.
Not withstanding, the soon-to-graduate senior summed up his sentiments about the slogan succinctly—”Get over it.” That, for many of us, would be a notable change.