A true liberal arts education

December 10th, 2009

Well, John Carroll, this is it: my last column ever. I will be graduating at the end of this semester and heading back to Chicago, so I figured let’s give it one last hoorah.

Too often when graduating seniors write their “senior column” which is filled with the same sentiment, just worded differently: enjoy your four years here—they go by quickly.

While I would encourage you to do that, this column will not be taking that approach. Instead I feel like after four years here I’ve learned some things the “hard way” and maybe, just maybe, you can take a lesson out of my book and the remainder of your time will be just a little easier.

The most important thing I learned—and this is a lesson I learned in my first month of college—is the first jury you face in any situation when you may be “flirting with the law” is the police officer. If that particular officer feels you are not being adequately cooperative, they will cite you for disorderly conduct. Makes for a half-decent story four years later, but leaves your pockets feeling substantially lighter at the time. What to do is really your call; I just wanted you to be aware of the consequences.

While on the topic of heavy expenses and police, don’t speed on I-480. This lesson I learned about two weeks ago. The officer there will kill you with kindness—his salutation of “have a great day” seems somewhat less sincere when you look at the pamphlet he hands you and find out what you owe the city of North Olmsted. Not worth it.

Another particularly important lesson to learn is how to address professors. For example, “Dean” is not Professor Birch’s title (chair of the political science department)—it’s his first name.

So if you’re, lets say, a freshman reporter for an award-winning newspaper and you need to interview him, opening your e-mail with “Dean Birch” is surely not going to score you any points.  There was no retribution from him at the time; in fact, I’m not even sure that he noticed—but it made me feel quite awkward.

The cafeteria has so many things you need to know that I’m not sure I can fit them all in this column. Always say “hi” to Betty and Sharon—they are wonderful.  Always get a good seat; if you thought airports were a good place to people watch, you’ve either never been in Schott Dining Hall or you’re not paying attention—either way, wasted opportunity.

This last one may be the most important: never, EVER, have the chicken a la king.  When you think in your mind “wow, that looks like vomit,” it probably tastes like it. I should admit I’ve never tried it, but I’m not about to start now.

Lastly, and I know I’ve said this before, but don’t worry about your grades—they don’t matter. Trust me when I tell you that you’re going to remember the time you listed your friend on Craigslist much better than what you got in Psychology 101.

Take these lessons to heart—while I loved my four years here, I probably would’ve had a little easier go of it had I known these earlier. Good luck and enjoy what you’ve still got left.