Columns

2011.5.04 "Go blu..." don't even say it

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

The past four years have been a little peculiar with a daughter at the University of Michigan. In a family so heavily laden with Michigan State graduates, it’s been uncomfortable at times.

It’s all over now. Commencement was Saturday and we had a most interesting weekend.

Maddie lives in a large old house with 11 other students. It was once a glorious place before it became part of the student ghetto. There are so many interesting features hidden behind the...well, behind what students have turned it into over the decades. 

The house was the scene of many a party, but a special one was planned Friday night. This was for the parents, with the guests furnishing the food, of course.

Maddie said it was the boys who cleaned the house that morning and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve served as the greatest offenders of cleanliness.

The state of the house was something that parents discussed during the party. One mother said that when she visited her daughter during the school year, she simply shut out everything the moment she walked in the front door. She had a self-imposed blindness as she quickly went up the stairs to the haven of her daughter’s room, where everything was calm and orderly.

I was always somewhat surprised before I reached the front door—all that debris on the porch. Students knew parents would visit from time to time, but I’m sure those who favored some cleanliness weren’t about to serve as the cleanup crew for those who made the mess. 

Maddie was somewhat of an outsider at the house. The other three girls knew each other from high school in Troy. Many of the boys were friends from Traverse City. Maddie was the small-town kid from somewhere else. Sort of a cultural exchange program.

The party received a few odd looks from passersby. Loud front-yard parties are common in student housing areas, but this one had old people there, along with young siblings of a housemate.

I’m sure the affair ended early—after all, the guests were in their 50s and 60s—and the graduating seniors were to meet at 8 a.m. the next morning to prepare for the walk into the stadium.

Colleen and I made our way inside the stadium Saturday morning and soon the black-robed seniors began filing down the stairs on the far side of the stadium. They looked like ants making their way along a food route. It must have taken a chilly 45 minutes for all of them to enter and take a seat. I suppose Zac Johnson and Dominique Cox from Morenci were among them.

Six honorary degrees were awarded, including one to film maker Spike Lee who by far drew the biggest applause of the day. It’s a tradition for Michigan’s new governor to serve as the commencement speaker. Outside the stadium, the chants from the protesters could be heard; inside, Gov. Snyder was given a mostly polite reception.

College president Mary Sue Coleman paved the way for his introduction by talking about opposing viewpoints and quoting Woodrow Wilson: “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”

I smiled when the student commencement speaker made reference to how things began for the Class of 2011: a football loss to Appalachian State. She mentioned that to point out that today—the end of four years together—wasn’t so depressing after all. Don’t they talk about anything other than football in that town?

She said something that really explained U of M to me. She said they’re the victors who know they’ve won the game before it even starts. I wondered what sport she was referring to, but then I realized what she had just done. She encapsulated the attitude (I almost wrote arrogance) of the campus perfectly. It’s what a non-fan finds so annoying about the place. Surprising news: There are brilliant students doing amazing work at colleges throughout the state, not just in Ann Arbor.

I think it was Pres. Coleman who asked parents if their child was a better person now than the one they dropped off four years ago. That was easy to answer.

We have a daughter who made wonderful strides forward during her four years there, and never once did I hear her say “Go blue!”

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