Famous professor and author D. Michael Lindsay is leaving Rice University to become the President of Gordon College. This is somewhat hilarious, given the huge differences between Rice and Gordon College.
Gordon College is a Christian school. So Christian, in fact, that students are required to be professing Christians to attend. There is also mandatory chapel attendance.
Gordon also requires students and faculty to sign a statement saying that they agree with the college’s own Statement of Faith. This statement includes lots of quotes from the Bible. (When I open a school, students will have to sign a Statement of Faith that has lots of quotes from Jurassic Park.) And Gordon takes the statement seriously. For example, former Gordon College professor Thomas Howard had to resign after he converted to Catholicism.
Students also have to sign a “Life and Conduct Statement.” As part of these “Behavioral Expectations,” students cannot drink or smoke on campus or at “adjacent properties,” or at “any College-related activity.” Students also cannot use any drugs.
(I never really understood the Christian ban on drinking, especially since, you know, Jesus drank! He turned water into wine for a party! It was his first miracle! John 2:1-11)
Furthermore, students can only have visitors of opposite gender during during certain hours. (I guess that means the school condemns midnight nookie, but afternoon delight is perfectly fine.)
All these religious regulations at Prof. Lindsay’s new school may be funny given Rice’s own reputation for, say, Baker 13, the Night of Decadence, or having two on-campus bars. However, it is all the better given my one main interaction with Prof. Lindsay.
It was the first issue of the Thresher my senior year. We were scouring campus for content to fill the opinion section, a difficult task given that we were working before students were on campus. Luckily, Prof. Lindsay made a submission. He had only joined Rice the year before, I think, but had a pretty impressive collection of work, including the award-winning though somewhat personally distressing Faith in the Halls of Power. However, he also had developed somewhat of a reputation for unnecessary pretentiousness, notably rumors of him proposing a Salon where Rice’s best and brightest could discuss the important matters of the day.
As if Rice needed any more talking clubs that did nothing or status symbol associations to slap on a resume.
But overall, he seemed like a guy who grew up in a world that only exists in Republican campaign speeches. Nevertheless, we gladly accepted his column and read it with grateful yet increasingly skeptical eyes. His piece was a general condemnation of the work hard, play hard mentality at top schools, specifically identifying Dis-O as a problem.
However, his column was somewhat flawed. First, Dis-O was perhaps not the best target. Dis-O, or Disorientation, isn’t as much a centrally planned party as it is a general celebration of returning to campus after summer, and a commemoration of the campus going wet for the year after a dry Orientation Week. There is no singular event, but instead a spontaneous expression by individual students. One could not end Dis-O any more than one could end lunch. It is merely the time at which nearly all drinking students have the urge to drink and party. This all makes sense given the circumstances of campus going wet and students seeing friends after the summer.
Furthermore, for at least two years before Lindsay’s own column, Rice had been providing alternatives for students who wanted to celebrate the new semester, but without alcohol. For example, Rice held a alcohol-free Big Owl Bash specifically to compete with Dis-O. As the Thresher documented in 2005:
O-Week began Aug. 14 and ends tomorrow at noon, but the new events will not stop when O-Week is over. The Big Owl Bash, organized by the newly-formed Dean’s Committee to Address Alcohol Awareness, will feature a hypnotist, free food and two local bands.
Indeed, it was my understanding at the time that Dis-O had been declining in raucousness, which leads to the second problem with Lindsay’s column:
Dis-O really isn’t that crazy.
Maybe I was too busy working on the Thresher every O-Week, but I don’t remember Dis-O being wilder than many of Rice’s centrally planned parties, such as NOD or ‘80s Party. Its decentralized nature maybe made Dis-O seem like a bigger deal than it was. It is also the first time that many new students drink heavily, perhaps compounding problems. Furthermore, since Dis-O happens before classes, students can party without academic concern. But during Dis-O, I usually heard people complaining about the difficulty in finding a large party, rather than the usual “I was so wasted!” claims of centralized college parties.
These days, Rice has had a demonstrable problem of over-drinking. However, I recall 2007 as a more simple time, when people may have drunk until they passed out, but rarely to the point of needing an ambulance. Lindsay’s argument applies better now than it did then.
Overall, the general sense from Lindsay’s topic and tone was that he had never actually been to Dis-O. It would have been much better if he actually hung around campus during that Dis-O and then wrote about what he saw, rather than working from some ill-informed vision of a campus gone Gomorrah.
But of course, these arguments and reservations were all personal, and we gladly ran a column written by an award-winning professor.
However, that does not mean that all of us were happy to be lectured by a seemingly ill-informed Evangelical from on high, tut-tutting our good time. Especially one who quotes David Brooks. So cartoonist Dan responded in traditional style. It isn’t exactly perfect journalistic ethics to allow a response to a column in the same issue, especially without informing the original author. But this one somehow slid through.
We thought the cartoon was a hilarious response to Prof. Lindsay’s overreaction to Dis-O.
The general point seemed to be that it is not as if Dis-O forced people to do anything than what they otherwise would do. The vast alternative offerings on campus and Dis-O’s own decentralized format ensured that students who didn’t want to drink didn’t have to. And it was not as if responsibly engaging in Dis-O’s activities would somehow, say, cause students to bleed from the eyes.
What made it even better was the placement, with Dan’s cartoon right on top of Lindsay’s column. It was probably a little mean, but we students loved our Dis-O and damnation upon any man who would dare take it from us. (pdf: Lindsay thresher column)
But Prof. Lindsay won’t have to worry about students engaging in beer, reefers, or beautiful 17-year-old girls anymore. He is going to a better place.
He is going to a place without Valhalla, Dis-O, NOD, Baker 13, or seemingly fun in general. So what do they do for fun at Gordon? According to Wikipedia: “On Sunday nights, students are able to participate in Catacombs, a student-led worship service of quiet music in the darkened chapel.”
Hey, maybe the lack of fun and distractions is why Evangelicals are able to develop a studiousness and work habit that helps them reach the halls of power in our nation. Someone should write a book about that!