Alma Maters: April 21, 2017

Dear Mr. VP,

I am sort of struggling to piece together a letter today. My brain feels like it’s moving a bit more slowly than usual. I have things to say about Jeff Sessions, and the new health care bill, Heath Mello, Neil Gorsuch and the fallacy of “pro-life.” You staring down North Korea from the DMZ, which I’m sure fulfilled some fantasy for you. None of it is congealing in my grey matter. Not enough sleep, not enough coffee, too much on the brain. 

So instead I sit here, brownie (delicious) and beer (Green Flash West Coast IPA) in hand, and present to you something you certainly did not ask for: an ode to my alma mater.

You may not be surprised to find out that I went to Hampshire, most recently home to a debacle after the president removed the flag from the middle of campus pending further all-school discussion of the symbolism and meaning of the Stars and Stripes to all constituencies on campus, and after a flag burning incident. Then a bunch of white supremacists showed up to protest outside campus and Donald Trump (perhaps) referenced it all on Twitter. 

Honestly, Hampshire is probably your worst nightmare/wet dream. Crazy college kids running wild and creating safe spaces and generally being loudly leftist? A place my dad referenced as “the only college left of Berkeley” to all his friends in the summer before I attended. YIKES. I imagine you’d look at our campus like this:

Wellll shit, I’m (not) intimidated.

Oh, Hampshire. Where in the first several weeks on campus a professor wearing a fur coat asked us, “When the revolution comes, will you be holding a gun?” And me, the radical in my high school because I had a Gore/Lieberman t-shirt, gave an internal “EEP.”

But not all a progressive wonderland, is Hampshire. Let us not forget that when I sent an email out to all our alumni interview volunteers, indicating I was getting married and my new last name strongly indicated I was marrying someone of Latinx descent, I got an email back from one alum that read, “You’re changing your last name to that? You know that’s not right.”

Hampshire, where I wrote paper after paper after paper and honed my intellectual chops. Where I was asked to think about everything I thought and then think about it again and again. Where I witnessed a guy read the entirety of Moby Dick over the college radio. Where I learned that you can’t just watch a movie. (Example, from a scene later in life. Walking out of a movie theater after seeing The Dark Knight Rises. Ex-husband: “Did you like it?” Me: “I guess, but I couldn’t get past the obvious critique of Occupy Wall Street and other progressive movements.” Him: “Can’t you just watch a movie?” Me: “No.”) 

Also where I spent hours and hours in the library nurturing crushes on long-dead historical figures, namely Abbie Hoffman and Mario Savio. Where I watched all seven seasons of Buffy in one semester with my roommates. 

Look it’s me, looking collegiate.

Where I spent every Easter drunkenly wandering the woods with my best friends, finding hidden kegs, only to eventually collapse in a field and spend the afternoon basking in the sun. Where I had my brief flirtation with paganism. Where I woke up most mornings to my girlfriend’s alarm set to play Ave Maria, perhaps a bit ironic given the circumstances. Where I attended a party at which a drunken friend jumped on top of a couch and recited a spoken word version of “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” (Also notable it was at this party that I funneled a beer for the first and only time.)

One year, I lived in an on-campus apartment with an anarchist who used kitchen shears to trim his beard, a musician who played Phil Ochs songs on his guitar at all hours, and a communist who cooked blisteringly hot curries. There was such a gap between the door and the floor that when it was windy and snowing, we’d end up with a pile of snow in our living room. I spent most of the year lying on my floor with my head next to speakers blaring Led Zep, when I wasn’t leading a feminist group that held the first on-campus Sexual Violence Speakout, or creating my Facebook account (!), or annoyed about the dishes in the sink, or writing papers about how the Oneida silverware company was founded by a free love cult. True. Look it up. 

Hampshire, where I wandered to the farm and picked tomatoes. Where I found the best ever flat rock to read on. Where chicken nugget day was a campus-wide holiday. Where, after a semester marked at beginning and end by familial death, I was essentially nursed out of the worst depression I’ve ever experienced by a group of hallmates, spending hours and hours curled up with them in the lounge talking, and watching SVU, and taking trips to the nearest diner at sunrise. 

Cheer up, kid!

It’s funny to go back to campus now, because virtually every square inch of the school has some memory attached. Here’s where I handed out flyers advertising Democracy Day to prospective students, after the college president made some seemingly unilateral decision about smoking in campus housing. There’s where I told K we should just see each other and not other people. That’s where I saw a bunch of Red Sox fans set a couch on fire when they won the World Series. 

This does loop back around a bit, because Hampshire is also the place where I found my voice. I’ve grown into it even more as of late, but as I said in a recent email to the outgoing president, Hampshire is where I learned to speak truth to power. So I suppose it’s one of the reasons I’m writing to you today. While it’s a mark of a Hampshire alum to constantly question their time there, ultimately, I had a profoundly impactful experience. If only all students who wanted could get the same incredible education and experience I did. 


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