Today I am not discussing the gay marriage issue currently being presented to the U.S. Supreme Court. I am not going to get worked up about the racial tension over what’s been going on in Baltimore despite how important this issue is for all of us. Neither am I getting into the tragedy unfolding in Nepal following the major earthquake. Honestly, I don’t even know what to do with all of this weighty stuff. These issues are very important and I feel ill-equipped to present a fair but sarcastic version of such serious news. Instead, I am staying much closer to home. Sadly, the local news includes bomb threats and student deaths. If you’re looking for a lighthearted, funny blog today, I suggest you flip back to February 5th—it was all about cupcakes.
It’s barely Tuesday of dead week—the traditional, and in this semester’s case, poorly named week before finals. We’ve already had a bomb threat and the death of a student. Every year between spring break and the rush to the end of the semester, I caution my students to be careful during their off hours. I worry, I tell them. I’m a worrier. Usually they scoff or nod annoyed, like I’m a fretting grandma telling them to take a sweater on an 80 degree day. Then, inevitably, something really bad happens on campus and they’re all just a little wiser, a little more grown up.
Although authorities have yet to release information about the student’s death, the issue of the bomb threat is easier to decipher. A student, struggling to complete whatever monumental essay had been laid at his feet (I’m speculating it was a male,) decided to do the most logical thing ever to buy himself some additional time to complete his grade-determining term paper, which was to call in a bomb threat. Unfortunately for him, the search for the bomb (which tellingly was reported in the computer science building next to the library) was completed by 6:30 a.m. on Monday, negating any classes being canceled and not disrupting the work in day for most people. The majority of the disruption was for faculty; if they have the warning system set up to notify them by phone, they got a call in the middle of the night. I have my campus security notifications set to email only, so I slept through it.
When I saw my students in class yesterday, I reminded them that school work was not something worth risking federal prison time for. When they catch the perpetrator of the threat, he’s heading for Leavenworth. They were all a bit more circumspect. Most of them treated the potential bombing pretty seriously. I guess the threat of death by violence isn’t that funny. Many of them recall the incident from last year when the irate young man drove his car onto central campus and was eventually shot and killed by police. Sadly, for these young people who grew up in post 9/11 (also a Tuesday,) random violence in public spaces is “normal” and sobering.
Since we don’t know anything about the student found dead in her dorm room yesterday afternoon, there isn’t much to say quite yet. The authorities don’t suspect foul play, which means either she had a health issue of some kind, or substances were involved. No matter what the cause, the impact is that another set of parents are being notified that their child is dead at the beginning of her life, and the roommate who found her is going to have a very rough finals week. This is the third such death on this campus that I can remember in recent years. Last year, a student narrowly avoided being killed during the rioting (don’t get me started on stupid white kids rioting because of alcohol instead of racial injustice—I said I wasn’t talking about that) but suffered severe head trauma from which he may never fully recover.
The three deaths that stick in my memory are the student who drowned in shallow water while drunk, the student who froze to death while intoxicated, and the student who passed out from booze on the train tracks. The last one was my colleague and friend’s student at the time and he had to read about it in the papers. The rest of his classes that semester were rough. I guess my point is that college is often the place where high school graduates come thinking it will be an extended party free of parental oversight, but discover they may actually have to do some growing up, occasionally very rapidly.
In summation, Tuesdays are the worst. There is a lot of bad stuff going down right now. The good news is that there are still lots of pictures of kittens on the internet. I, myself, am going to go spend my hard-earned paycheck on a well-deserved deep tissue massage and hope for better news tomorrow.