It takes humanities to be the best

Erik Hoversten

I hate to be crotchety at 22, but let me tell you, administration these days — give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.

In 1996, I came to Ames expecting “Animal House.” By 2000, I’m heading out of “Animal Farm.”

After four years, I’ve come to realize that Iowa State is a well oiled propaganda machine, so subtle that it’s easy not to notice. There are two Iowa States. One which you and I attend and one that is portrayed by the administration.

First of all, there is the slogan “Becoming the Best” and all of the hoopla about being the best land grant university in the nation. This is a noble goal, but we’re a long way from there. It probably isn’t possible unless we were to get a law school or a medical school or both. This isn’t very likely since the University of Iowa already has both.

In this year’s U.S. News and World Report, Iowa State is ranked 32nd among public universities while Iowa is ranked 21st. I would bet the reason is that Iowa is much better in the humanities. So, to improve our status we would have to spend a lot of money building up the humanities. I have never heard anyone in the administration suggest this.

Iowa State could potentially buy premier humanities programs, but the business college is another story. Iowa State’s business program is ranked 67th. Illinois and Wisconsin are tied for 10th, Minnesota is 14th and Iowa is 32nd. Even if the business college is improving, Iowa State is never going to pull the top business students away from neighboring states or Iowa.

That doesn’t stop the university from pumping money into the business college so they can buy a bunch of comfy chairs for second floor Carver. The business college is even getting it’s own new building. Maybe its because business majors have a better chance of becoming rich alumni than historians or cellists do.

The administration is not even attempting to do the things necessary to become the best. Instead it is focusing on becoming the best at making money, which might be a good idea if it didn’t have huge chunks of it riding on the stock market. You can’t even graduate from Iowa State without someone trying to hit you up for $200, $100 or $50.

Even better than the marketing ruse for the benefit of the public is the social control of the students. One of the advantages of running a university is that five years from now there will be very few students that are still here. That makes for short memories.

The shining example of this is Veishea. When I was talking to freshmen about Veishea, I found that they don’t get what was so great about it. Back in 1997, for one weekend Iowa State was the place to be in the Midwest and people came from all over. I was the first to inform several freshmen about the killing that took place that put the Veishea reforms into motion.

For the longest time, I thought that the ISU student population was collectively the least interesting demographic in the world. Now I realize that it is really just the environment.

Listening to my dad’s tales of the Iowa State of the late 1960s, I thought this would be a zany place to be. Somehow a hippie who had long hair and didn’t bathe much got elected GSB president. One night when he was walking home, a bunch of cowboy types jumped him, gave him a bath in the MU fountain, cut his hair and gave him a more mainstream outfit. People bombed construction sites to protest the war.

Then there’s tales of getting marijuana contact highs from walking up the stairs in Ross Hall in the ’70s. In the ’80s there were keg parties on dorm floors, a naked preacher who held services in the arboretum and cocaine all over the place. In the early ’90s there was Veishea mayhem and the nefarious “House of Zed,” Iowa State’s version of Animal House on the corner of Welch and Storms.

Today its hard to believe that things like that ever happened here. Now we have more rules in the residence halls than you can shake a stick at. We are even conditioned to call them “residence halls” because “dormitories” has a negative connotation. Even frat houses are going dry.

I used to park in lot 60 during my Friley days. When I went to look for my car on the weekend, it took two seconds to find it sitting there without a car within 100 feet of it. Everyone leaves town on the weekend.

College is supposed to be a time of excitement, learning and personal growth. “The path of excess leads to the palace of wisdom,” Blake said. But here in Ames the students have been cleverly conditioned to not expect much.

Erik Hoversten is a senior in math from Eagan, Minn.