“I guess this is my dissertation/Homie, this s*** is basic/Welcome to Graduation” – Kanye West, “Good Morning”
Two weeks from tomorrow, the Class of 2008 will receive their diplomas, and it will signal the end of an era for them. College will become a memory best embodied by some Will Ferrell movie, and they will move on to leading their important lives as distinguished alumni. Carleton, for them, will be freeze-framed as they remember it, but the place that exists in our collective consciousness will change a little more as another year passes by.
As the seniors finish their time at Carleton, my college career draws, alarmingly, to its halfway point. In many ways, I feel like I am joining them as they leave Carleton. I am on the brink of leaving Carleton for six months, and it is already a much different place for me than it was on my arrival. The next time I set foot on campus, my relationship with it will have completely changed. A whole new impressive bunch of freshmen will have arrived, and I will not know any of them. The makeup of the campus will have changed dramatically.
Fully half of the campus will have never seen Schiller. There will no longer be a tangible person with whom we can associate the Vinayak of bathroom legend. Zimbra will have staked a majority claim in the campus’ loyalties. These are not the most important things, perhaps, but I want to discuss them, and, more importantly, discuss what they represent.
My original plan for my graduation column was actually that I would give a carefully reasoned argument for why Carleton should award Kanye West an honorary degree. Since I realized that applying reason to anything involving Kanye West is a fundamentally flawed idea, I settled on mentioning my point-of-view in passing and exploring the existential implications of bathroom graffiti.
When I arrived at Carleton, there were ominous stirrings of the Vinayak bathroom graffiti leviathan that was about to rear its head, but, for the most part, bathroom graffiti was pretty standard fare other than a few mentions of someone named Benny Goldberg. Yet reading about Vinayak and his legendary status came to define my bathroom experience at Carleton. Vinayak brought out a wide swath of intelligent humor from Carleton, even if it was juxtaposed with pooping. It remains to be seen whether the Vinayak graffiti phenomenon will fade, or whether a new champion will rise. For all we know,
Benny Goldberg was twice the man that Vinayak is (unlikely), but the onslaught of time has reduced him to little more than a name.
It is my sincere hope that Vinayak’s legacy will not die when he graduates. The opportunity to enshrine him in myth will never be higher than when he is gone. If we all do our part, in twenty years, Vinayak will be even more than the man who “coined the term post-Imus,” he will be the myth who literally walked among the titans. The college can invite him for Convocation, and it will be the best attended event ever at Carleton. Yet all things fade away, and I imagine that even if the Vinayak legacy lives on for a couple more years, by the time next year’s freshmen are seniors, it will be the kind of thing that they reminisce about to claim their legitimacy over the rest of the school.
Not much about Carleton changes at heart: it will forever be a bastion for nerdy kids everywhere to come and learn the liberal arts. These same kids will do quirky things no matter what the administration does. There will always be a sense that the liberties afforded to students are being curbed, even if student activity will always encompass things that would horrifically shock the alumni base.
Nonetheless, I sense a certain fear among students that Carleton is changing in character, and the graduation of each year’s class signals the removal of another impediment to change. The Carleton that this graduating class leaves behind is different than the Carleton they originally knew, and the Carleton I leave behind will be different from the Carleton I originally knew, a fact that is only dawning on me with the departure of this class. The trite, easy, and only possible conclusion to this column is that change is inevitable, so that’s what I’ll say. No matter what we, the students want, the college will endure beyond the iteration we know of it, and it will make changes on all levels. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things that should not be changed.
What I’m getting at, on the deepest level, is that there is no reason to let the tradition of Schiller disappear with this graduating class. Whoever has Schiller needs to show a little courage and keep the tradition alive. Seriously, that’s what this whole column was about.
Also, let’s work on getting Kanye West that honorary degree.
–Kyle Kramer is a Carletonian columnists.