A few days ago I found myself clicking aimlessly through the digital archives at Watzek Library when I stumbled upon an issue of our very own Pioneer Log, published March 29, 1963. As I scrolled through the four pages of years-old content, I was struck by this feeling of nostalgia for the college glory days; there was a picture in my mind of sweater sets and saddle shoes, letterman jackets and that formal way of speaking that I recognize almost entirely through “Mad Men.” And I wondered — are the college glory days over? Were they ever truly glorious?
What are the “glory days” anyways? Were they the now-problematic rite of passage of drinking cheap alcohol with the same people until you are blackout drunk? Is it the thrill of drunken one-night stands? Is it attending the big football game with your friends and draping your body with school spirit?
For the most part, these things sound foreign to me. I mean, I am not even sure if I own a single LC t-shirt. The last time I stayed out until 4 a.m. was for a plane ride home from Europe. And honestly, I generally prefer sipping a cocktail at a bar or drinking a nice stout at home to throwing back PBRs at parties. I think most LC students would agree that the college glory day culture is one that has very little presence here. But is that a bad thing?
Arguably one of the most prevalent assumptions about the glory days is that they are better than one’s current reality. Who do you picture reminiscing on their college experience as the “best days of my life”? A middle aged man with a slight drinking problem who hates his job and just got divorced? Who are the people who participate in this culture? There seems to be an essential element of escapism in the glory day culture — the drinking, the partying and the sex are all there to distract you from the fact that you are, in reality, a college student. Are you really happy waking up hungover with a new person every weekend? Do you make meaningful connections with the people holding you up in a keg stand? Do you like what your life looks like before the party starts, and after it ends?
The culture of the college glory days was born long ago, when going to college did not cost 60 grand a year, job prospects were plentiful and classes were not quite as time consuming or difficult. Those who can afford to continue to perpetuate it are basically just frat boys. At LC, “glory day” culture has been replaced with students who work hard, care about school and admittedly still drink a lot. Are we more apathetic? Probably. Are there fewer cases of sexual assault, alcohol poisoning and drunk driving accidents? I should hope so.
Despite all this, I could not help but notice one of the headlines on the front page of that 1963 PioLog: “Roar, Buzz, Bang: The Sounds of Progress at LC.” The article explains that the addition to the gymnasium and the squash courts is underway, and that the new co-ed dorm should be completed within a year. Reading the article, I could not help but think of the parallel between that and our current bridge construction. The headline is so relentlessly positive; the article includes a quote from then-president John R. Howard.
“‘We’ll be mighty lucky to hit this target date,’ LC’s president said hopefully, ‘but we will still try to accomplish the seemingly impossible.’”
Big things were happening at LC in 1963 — it was a time when the budget was not quite so tight and the college was still growing. We are not in that place right now. We are plagued with budget cuts, high transfer rates; we are plagued with stress, we are plagued with negativity. Maybe college glory days are not intrinsically linked to alcohol consumption — maybe they have more to do with that positivity that we see so little of today. Sure, there are bad things happening, but there are also good; we never remember to focus on that.