We took Elliot on a visit to Ohio University this week, and the experience was a strange paradox on a couple of levels.
The official tour we joined was enormous: 90 prospective students plus family members, totalling perhaps 250 people. I had the distinct feeling of our tour group being like a herd of cattle shuttling through the slaughter-house. During the group presentation, they talked about the standard costs for attending OU (about $25,000 per year) — and I just couldn’t ignore the implications of our $100,000 (hopefully significantly defrayed by scholarships and such), or the tour group’s potential economic impact of nearly a million dollars… To the point that I felt cynical, abused, and indignant at the whole university system in America.
But at the same time, I was freshly-envisioned by the ministry possibilities in such an environment! The spiritual need is clear. The power and potential of young people on campus was palpable. And I was even encouraged by the global implications of collegiate ministry, when we ran into a group of business students from the Netherlands at Donkey Coffee in uptown Athens (they apparently cycle thirty students through the OU campus every semester!).
It was such a weird mish-mash of feelings!
On a couple of occasions, we tried to draw OU students out on the subject of their famous Halloween celebrations — and I believe I was projecting a spirit of genuine curiosity, without judgment — but I was clearly fed a white-washed, corporate, “parent-safe” script. Our tour guide laughed and said that “there’s a block party that happens, I think, but I’ve never been there,” with a sort of wink-wink expression on his face. And then Elliot’s friend and former classmate from Kent Roosevelt downplayed his experiences of Halloween saying that he walked uptown for a little while but the weather was so cold and wet that he and his friends just ended up low-key hanging out in their residence hall — but when I took a bathroom break, allowing Elliot and his friend a moment together without me, Elliot got a pretty different picture of OU Halloween celebrations.
None of that should be really surprising, I guess. It’s just weird. Getting older is weird. But at least “weird” can be interesting.