Stopping By Wheaton on a Snowy Evening
Posted on February 1, 2011
Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished…
That's the view from the mind of the poet Billy Collins. Actually, I'm the one about to wave the white flag. The first few snowfalls? Kind of fun. But after that? It's a little like watching episodes of "Jersey Shore." At first, it's amusing, but after the second episode, you realize how deeply disturbing it actually is.
Pure conjecture, though (about "Jersey Shore," not the snow. I've never watched it, being a Jersey girl myself, offended at the cellular level that the cast is comprised mostly of New Yorkers). But back to the snow. Really? Again? There is no place to pile it anymore. Our parking lots are shrinking down to about seven spaces and our boots are permanently stained blue from the Ice Melt they use to keep the walks clear…which apparently is not foolproof technology. I think that despite the herculean efforts of our grounds staff, we are losing in this particular revolutionary battle.
But enough whining about the weather! I chose to live here, after all, and I'm certain that such winter weather is making me a better person—stronger, smarter, impervious to slush and sleet, and more knowledgeable about the benefits of Polartec versus wool as a wicking layer .
You've asked a few questions, so let me try and answer them.
Q. Where are our pedestrian crossing signs?
A. They were removed when the weather got wintry due to the difficulty of plowing around them. I think they spend the winter months in Miami Beach. Not sure, though.
Q. Who makes the decision about closing the campus?
A. The Vice President for Finance and Operations seeks input from several people about road conditions and snow removal progress, checks the forecast every 40 seconds or so, seeks more input, asks the President, checks the forecast twelve more times, and then decides. In the background, he can hear me yelling: "Don't you do it! Don't close the college! Faculty and other staff will get to stay home and I'll be here with these students! And they'll have TOO MUCH FREE TIME!" Because he is a wise man, however, he ignores me.
Q. Why do they have to start plowing and shoveling so early? It wakes me up.
A. Friends, here's what I do when I am awakened by one of the gargantuan Norton snowplows scraping the road outside my bedroom window: I say a little prayer of thanks that, even though I'm awake, I'm in a warm, dry bed, while the guy or woman driving that truck (or shoveling or spreading salt) is not. That puts things in perspective, and I fall back to sleep, counting my blessings.
Q. Will we have to make up class days that have been missed?
A. Check with your faculty members. They have different ways of handling missed classes.
Q. Will Spring ever come? When?
A. Yes. In time for Commencement.
In the meantime, there's a lot going on here and I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you about something kind of cool. Our Alumnae/I Board, in conjunction with the Filene Center and Alumni Relations, is hosting a special edition of Major Conversations on February 26 from 3:30 to 5 in the Dance Studio (Balfour Hood). This is an opportunity for students to network with alums around academic major and talk about selecting a major, how to augment a major with internships, fieldwork and volunteerism, whether or not and when to pursue further study in a major, and how to think about work and career options related to the major. Immediately following this will be the first YGTL (You're Gonna Love This) event, a chance for students to network with alums and trustees, eat good food, and enjoy some of our performing groups. That'll be from 5 to 7 in Emerson.
Having read much of the media coverage on the job market that you'll be heading into post-Wheaton, I can't stress enough the importance of taking advantage of opportunities like this. Come and meet someone, eat some cheese cubes, make a connection, and maybe it will turn into an internship or job.
Which reminds me: Kudos to those of you who took part in the Sophomore Symposium last week. I hope it was a good use of your valuable time, and that you took away from it more than a very nice Class of 2013 fleece. I was really encouraged to see how many of you were interested in pursuing summer funding for internships and travel as well as study abroad opportunities. If Wheaton does one thing really well (and actually it does several), it's getting students out into the world to stretch their legs and minds and grow into exceptional people.
But here's an interesting statistic that one of the Symposium planners shared: Of all the students who attended, a mere ten percent were male. Again, let me ask. Really? You are almost 40 percent of the class, sophomore men of Wheaton. Where were you? Actually, don't answer that. Just tell me that you will take to heart my suggestion that sophomore year is not too early to be thinking about the rest of your Wheaton career and your life beyond these hallowed halls. It's not that I mind it when I see women outpacing men at an astounding rate (in fact, it gives me a little thrill). It's just that I'd like to see you stay in the race. And to the men who were there? Good for you. You clearly are looking at the big picture, and your picture will be, as a result, very big.
I also recently attended the Sexual (Mis)Conduct Assembly's mini-conference the day before classes started, and I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed by both the excellent work done thus far by the four committees of the Assembly and by the turnout of faculty, staff and students interested in hearing how progress on this important issue is coming. Conversations will continue, I hope, throughout the semester as we figure out together what it means to be a healthy and respectful community, how to be in relationship with others, how we balance personal autonomy with self-respect, and how we critically evaluate the messages we are sent every day via different media about how we should behave.
I can't even begin to do justice to the many events—musical, theatre, sports, lectures, informal—going on around campus during this, the season of plenty (of stuff to do). Please download the app Wheaton Now on your iPhone or Droid to keep an up-to-date calendar and Wheaton newsfeed at your fingertips. And then strap on your YakTrax, pull on your goofy hat and get out there, Lyons. We are hardy New Englanders (even those of you from distant places—honorary New Englanders), and we have, as the poet Wallace Stevens wrote, "a mind of winter." Spring will come, I promise. And the more that winter beats you up, the more deserving you will be of those first few warm days. Nature's first green, as you all know from high school English, is…GOLD!! As are all of you, of course. Stay gold, Ponyboys and girls.
Got a question? Send me a note. See you around the Dimple.