The Daily and you: taking on college

Josh Linehan

Education lost a superstar two weeks ago when Patricia Reger, a high school English and journalism teacher, retired after 28 years of teaching in Brookings, S.D.

She’s the reason I’m typing this and, I’m sure, the impetus behind a myriad of wonderful accomplishments.

With any luck, most of you had a teacher like that. But much deserved as it would be, I’m not going to write a tribute to all the special teachers who make a difference in people’s lives.

This is college, after all.

I’m reminded of Mrs. Reger, and passing her along to you, for what she always told me when I complained.

I’ll admit it; I was a bit of a whiner. She heard me complain a lot: about censorship from the principal, about being assigned crossword puzzles, about having to watch videos detailing the amazing lives of loons.

“This isn’t a democracy, Josh,” I can still hear her say, without a hint of irony. “If you want a democracy, if you want freedom, go to college.”

Here I am. Funny how even the smartest people are horribly wrong sometimes, isn’t it? Live and learn. If she tells me to go to Washington, D.C., I’m not listening.

College is a bureaucracy, perhaps the worst of the species. You got just a taste being shuttled from one building to another as you filled out four-year plans and financial aid forms.

I’ll spare you my horror stories of computer glitches and long lines piling up like dollars in the bookstore’s till. You’ll have your own soon enough.

College isn’t a democracy, though you no longer need a pass to use the restroom. You don’t get a vote with the bureaucrats. Just memorize your student ID number, smile, and get on the bus to St. Paul. A three-hour turf management class can’t be that bad, can it?

You don’t get a vote, but you do have a voice. Sure, you get a vote in the MSA election story holds, few of you are going to care.

You have a voice, and you’re holding it in your hands.

The Minnesota Daily is written, designed, produced and published by students like yourself. No one from the University reads it before it goes to press, and they couldn’t stop it even if they did.

Somewhere, I hope Mrs. Reger is smiling.

We’ve devoted an entire issue to trying to acclimate you to your new surroundings. But from here on out, we expect you to become part of the process.

The upcoming school year is shaping up to be an interesting one, to say the least. President Mark Yudof – you’ll be hearing a lot about him – is promising a 10 to 14 percent increases in tuition, thanks to our esteemed Governor Ventura.

I bet they didn’t tell you that at orientation.

We still don’t have a student union, but with any luck your class will get some use out of the forthcoming, newly renovated Coffman Memorial Union. Us old folks, we just get to pay for it.

The Daily itself was the source of controversy last year, when the student leadership decided to discontinue the weekly pullout A&E section and fold arts coverage back into a daily section in the regular paper.

I don’t underline all these events to warn of upcoming disaster, or to scare you about the future. Rather, these events serve to stress the truth.

The important lessons you’ll learn in college almost invariably rear up outside the classroom. Your development as a person isn’t on the syllabus.

I tried to get through this without dispensing any advice. Frankly, the narrow strip between cynical and cheesy is a tough place to make a living. So I’ll keep it simple.

Think.

It’s ridiculously easy to become so focused on the multitude of tasks at hand. Work, school, homework, internships, paperwork and resumes often conspire to hide what they really are – hoops to be jumped through.

They aren’t you; that is, you aren’t just the sum of these parts. Take a step back and remember that every once in a while. Think.

And whatever you decide, question, proclaim or decry, we’ll be here, writing it all down. You’ll probably disagree with something we do. Some of you will probably only pick up this rag up to read Network or do the crossword puzzle.

That’s fine.

You see, we’re merely your voice. What you say, that’s up to you.

An maybe that’s what Mrs. Reger was talking about all along.