18 January 2007

Alma, Tell Us

A.D. Freudenheim, The Editor

I don’t write much about my alma mater, perhaps because college is so ... well, a lot longer ago than yesterday and, in any case, there is only so much I really say about it in contemporary terms. Most who know me know that I loved my time at Hampshire College, and I believe strongly that for the right student it offers an unparalleled experience. So I give as I can – time, as an alumni admissions associate, and money – but try not to keep myself bound only to a nostalgic view of my experiences there. Things do change.

A friend recently passed along a link to a YouTube video from Hampshire that certainly did bring back a few memories of one kind or another – and it sent me off on a small search, after I decided to put “Hampshire College” into YouTube’s search engine. There were a total of 84 hits; I cannot tell you if that amounts to a lot of college videos or not many at all, but it is enough to occupy the senses for a little while. Among other things, there are videos of band performances (I thought this group sounded quite good, although the video itself doesn’t offer much to look at), works by individual artists, and clips produced by students with particular academic interests. All of these certainly give some sense of the school and its charming peculiarities (like the idea that the shed by the tennis courts, or the greenhouse, should serve as live music venues – who knew!).

Of particular interest and enjoyment, however, are the videos by some of the student groups (self-proclaimed or official? This is a distinction often blurred at Hampshire, and so much the better). So, “SCREWY,” or the Society for the Creative REalization of a Weirder You, has a few items up, including one video that is sure to evoke “hippie freak show!” reactions from some – but which is, in its own way, charming. (You may not want to go to school with a roving band of people-huggers, but at least you know what to look forward to.) Likewise, a group called “Circus Folk Unite!” has posted some interesting videos of their work, including this one called Quintessence • Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Circus. If nothing else, these reflect the kind of creativity, energy, and enthusiasm of the students.

I have mentioned to a few friends how happy I am that I went to school before these technologies existed; it certainly saved me from having to make the kinds of decisions today’s graduates face. Sites like YouTube pose a different challenge for colleges, however, in their very public, off-book portrayal of the school and its students. For Hampshire specifically, it seems to me that the college should evaluate and consider embracing some of these videos; in the right forum, they could be very effective recruiting tools. On the College’s web page describing “Student Life,” Hampshire says (in part):

Balancing respect for the individual with responsibility to the community is the essence of student life at Hampshire. Beyond their differences in geographical background, Hampshire students vary significantly in political outlook, intellectual and recreational interests, and career aspirations. There is no "typical" Hampshire student: What unites this diverse and lively community of individuals is a strong commitment to learning and a desire to determine the course of one's own education.

That all sounds true enough – but is also likely quite similar to what many liberal arts schools say about themselves and their students. By tapping into this (otherwise underground) “stream” of videos and student-driven experiences, Hampshire College might be able to animate, literally (and selectively, of course), the idea that there are no “typical” students and what that means for the creative, intelligent students out there who would thrive in such an environment.


Blogger The Editor said...

See also the open letter to my classmates:

3:02 PM  

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