• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Title

Scenes From an Open House

When people, and bees, descend on campus.

October 18, 2021
 
 

“I didn’t recognize you without a suit!” -- unnamed colleague at open house

--

Although the weather was glorious, we had to move the culinary tables inside. (And yes, the “we” is accurate. Furniture moving falls under “other duties as assigned.”) The reason was bees. The bees would not leave the food alone.

We hadn’t planned for bees. There are no bees on Zoom.

--

For a while, I was stationed on a campus walkway, helping folks who couldn’t find a building or a program.

Frequently, it’s easier just to walk them places than to try to describe how to get there.

Most campuses have some sort of geographic quirk that makes linear verbal descriptions of “how to get there from here” harder than they should be. At CCM, it was the room numbering. My office, 256, was next door to 209. I never could figure out why. At Holyoke, it was the third floor of one building connecting to the second floor of another via a flat hallway. (The campus is built on a hill.) Explaining how to get from the third floor of Frost to the cafeteria pretty much required a hologram. At Brookdale, it’s three buildings that are really one building, with three separate but closely related names.

There’s also a building called CAR (counseling, advising and registration), which many visitors logically assume is where the automotive program is. I really can’t blame them.

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Some of The Girl’s friends are planning to attend Brookdale next year. I saw one of them, along with her parents, on the walkway.

It was a little jarring to hear parents saying “Hi, Matt!” but jarring in a good way.

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Seeing so many faculty in person, showing off their programs to prospective students, did my heart good.

Several expressed relief and joy at being physically on campus and seeing students in person. It’s what they signed up for -- albeit without the masks and the pandemic -- and they’re good at it. I stopped by the various tables to see how things were going, but always backed away quickly if a student approached to talk to a professor. When one prospective student walked right up to a poli sci prof and asked what he could do as a career with a poli sci major, I think I set a land-speed record in backing off. Those are exactly the conversations I want faculty and prospective students to have.

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Even after a year and a half of COVID -- or maybe because of it -- the mood on campus seemed as upbeat as I’ve seen it at an open house. Campuses were built for human interaction. Having so many people around, the vast majority of whom are curious and/or eager to explore, felt right. It’s what we’re built for.

Now we just need to figure out what to do about the bees …

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