Ask a fifth year

Drew Baumgartner

Dear Drew,
It’s the last
Lawrentian of the term – any parting advice for us underclassmen?
-A Freshman Farewell

Wow. It’s hard to believe it’s almost over. I have so many opinions about how everyone should behave to make my time here more tolerable, but aside from keeping it down when I’m trying to study or write my column – cough cough, everyone in the computer lab – none of it really matters, as I’ll no longer be around to enjoy the benefits.
I suppose the fact that only my mom reads my “advice” doesn’t really yield any benefits, which also helps to make that endeavor seem kind of pointless.
Instead, I’d like to reflect on the past four years. Maybe it’s a little self-indulgent, but if people really wanted me to give them advice, they would have sent me questions, so I figure it’s cool.
I’ve had several alum friends visit in the past couple weeks, and they’ve all been shocked at the changes on campus since they’ve left. Granted, the campus center has changed the way campus works pretty dramatically, but that was only the most obvious example of what’s changed since they left.
Depending on when they left, some were surprised by the new furniture in many of the buildings, others by the revolving door of businesses open on College Avenue. All of them, however, remarked upon the unfamiliar faces on campus.
I never invested that much of my experience in what buildings were or weren’t here during my time, or the quality of furniture in them, so I can’t see caring about that part. What does scare me is that the people I know and care about – those that defined my college experience – are either already gone or will be in a matter of years.
Once the last underclassman I know graduates, do I even have a link to Lawrence? Will it mean anything more to me than a group of buildings I spent five years of my life frequenting?
Professors are one anchor of familiarity that can, at least temporarily, withstand the shifting sands of student turnover. In a strange coincidence, several of the professors that had the most profound impact on me will also be leaving this year, or soon after.
Some are headed for a well-earned retirement, others for tenure-track positions at other institutions. Either way, this puts a fine point on the fact that even the faculty is transient and will eventually become completely unfamiliar to me.
With all of those physical and personal ties in flux, it seems the only constants are the ideas and ideals that Lawrence represents. Fortunately, there is a wealth of ideals that Lawrence can represent – the problem is figuring out what those are.
The tradition of Freshman Studies demonstrates a commitment to liberal arts that I can feel a real connection to. However, the steady whittling away of gen-eds and constant student griping about needing to take a lab science or whatever makes me doubt how stable even that ideal really is.
I don’t mean for this to become a diatribe about how change is bad or about how what I view as the most fundamental attributes of the college will necessarily mutate over time, but I find it interesting that I’m coming to see the fluid nature of what exactly Lawrence means as a bad thing now that I no longer get to be a part of it.
As students, we have the ability to influence the campus atmosphere – to form and direct student groups – largely because of this fluid nature. LUCC legislation is constantly being revised to better reflect the times, as are the policies of almost every group they fund.
I’ve had the pleasure of digging out a little niche, placing a personal stamp on many of the activities I’ve been involved in. I treasure the opportunities I’ve had to do this, but those opportunities mean that those stamps will largely be washed away or covered by others in very short order. All of those accomplishments I’m so proud of will be all but forgotten in just a few years.
The Lawrence I’ll chose to remember, then, is one that doesn’t exist anymore, at least not anywhere outside of my head. I’ll be able to revisit it with my fellow alums, again only in our minds.
To me, visiting the campus seems like stuffing the family dog – it barely and inaccurately recalls a thing that I actually loved, but doesn’t exist anymore. I’d rather bury it and remember what it was, rather than cling to what it is. I’ll miss it like hell, but I don’t think I’ll be back… at least, not for a while.