College was not a particularly good time in my life, for a lot of reasons. Partially because ages 18-22 probably weren’t a great time for me to be locked on campus with a bunch of other 18-22 year old idiots. Partially because I preferred things clean and organized, and most college kids are anything but, partially because I don’t like beer very much.
But a lot of it had to do with the places I went to. I’ll just call it “College” on here (but if you’re really interested, it’s easy enough to figure out where I went).
“College” was where I landed after a disastrous first year at Syracuse. I chose it because it was closer to home, a number of folks from my high school went there, and it seemed to be more like my high school. In short, after venturing out and getting slapped back, I chose something familiar.
Of course, that never really works, does it?
I’ve heard College best described as a rich kid party school. I had some great professors, but almost everything beyond that validated that line. In my first semester, I was standing in a bar talking to a girl. She asked me what car I drove. I told her a Chevy Lumina. She turned and walked away.
While nothing else was quite that overt, it was clear the administration fostered this view as well. I don’t have statistics on this, but I remember at least once or twice a month paramedics being called to campus for alcohol poisoning. College didn’t offer much in the way of extracurriculars or ventures into the city, that kind of thing.
Mostly, the administration at College exists to take your money. And after 2 1/2 years with nary a late payment, I almost lost my opportunity to graduate over a gift.
Picture this: A shitty college career is a mere four months from mercifully ending. I return, grudgingly, to campus following winter break, after dark of course. I tried to swipe into my dorm – card doesn’t work. Many more attempts don’t rectify that situation. Finally, someone comes along and lets me in.
Flash forward a few days. For various reasons, I haven’t had to swipe into my dorm much, but my card still isn’t working. Then, on Thursday, my name disappears from the registration list in all my classes. So this warrants a trip to the admin office the next day.
I wish I could recall the exact conversation that ensued. It was so ridiculous that the 38 year old me would have wound up screaming obscenities. But 21 year old me wasn’t so confident. Nonetheless, I’ll take a stab at it:
Me: “My dorm keycard isn’t working and my name was dropped from my class registries. What gives?”
Admin: (After messing with the computer) “Well, it seems you haven’t paid your account in full.”
Me: “WHAT?! How can that be? I’m on a payment plan, and the payments are up to date.”
Admin: “Well, yes, your tuition and room and board are paid.”
Me: “…so…what else can it be?”
Admin: “You haven’t paid your senior gift fee.”
Me: “WTF (probably did it nicer) is a senior gift fee?”
Admin: “Every year, every class gives a gift to the school upon graduation.”
Me: “But it’s a gift?”
Me: “I don’t wish to participate.”
Admin: “You have to participate.”
Me: “So it’s not a gift.”
Admin: “It’s a gift. But it’s mandatory.”
Me: “A mandatory gift. Right, probably shouldn’t call it a gift then.”
Admin: *no response*
Me: “Okay, how much is this gift fee?”
Admin: “$500 (I don’t remember the exact amount, but it was in this neighborhood)”
Me: “$500?? That’s a hell of a gift. (I don’t bother waiting for a laugh). When was this due?”
Admin: “Before you came back to campus. We sent a letter in the middle of December.”
Me: “Isn’t that a pretty quick deadline?”
Admin: “Since you didn’t pay, we suspended your dorm access and cancelled your registration.”
Me: “WHAT?! My family has paid tens of thousands of dollars to this school and you’re essentially kicking me out over a $500 fake gift? Okay, okay…how do we fix this?”
Admin: “You need to pay before the close of registration. Otherwise, we won’t be able to restore your registration this semester.”
Me: “When’s that?”
Admin: “5pm today.” (It was around 3)
Me: “So if I don’t get this done like right now, I’m not graduating.”
Note: You may think this all sounds incredibly uncaring and impassive by the admin. But while I can’t remember word for word what was said 17 years ago, but I do remember that lady’s attitude. And this captures it very well.
So I had to call my father, repeat this entire story back to him. I honestly don’t remember the conversation at all…I think I was a bit in shock…but I assume incredulity was involved. Ultimately, the fee was paid and logged into the computer at approximately 4:45pm, 15 minutes before registration closed. My classes didn’t require exams, I got my papers done early, and on May 6, 2000 – I left the campus, never to return (I drove by once).
I don’t really feel like summing all of this up – I think I’ve said enough.