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Hail to the Red and the Blue
retching to rah-rah. By Ariel Horn
In the world of admissions catalogs, Penn
has no safety problems whatsoever. Theres no wind tunnel in Superblock
(sorry, Hamilton Village). And the food in all the dining halls is really,
really delicious California-style gourmet. Upon arrival on campus, though,
such visions of college life are crushed like small defenseless bugs.
We come to see the aspects of Penn that we werent told about in the brochure:
First, Penn students actually do get mugged. Second, the wind tunnel can
rip contact lenses off of eyeballs. Third, the food at the dining halls
consists of fries, pizza and wraps.
doe-eyed prefrosh, we visit Penn and other colleges on sunny April days
and see students lounging on the Green (or Green-equivalent) in bikinis,
playing guitar and enjoying the weather. We receive catalogs about how
Fill-in-Blank University is superior to all other schools. Pictures of
multi-racial groups of friends from exotic international locales cavort
around a pile of Nietzsche books in the library early on Sunday mornings.
Professors casually sit on the steps of impressive-looking historic buildings
chuckling with students about politics.
like these make me want to retch.
three older siblings, I had seen more than my share when it became my
turn to pick a school. All I wanted was for someone to tell it like it
isnot the candy-coated laminated version but the cafeteria-style, sneeze-guarded
truth. After I came to Penn, I wanted to be able to perform that service
for othersto be that beacon of light. But having been rejected as a tour
guide not once but twice, I thought I would never have my chance and that
the idea of a real guide to Penn would remain forever an elusive dream
came the day I was selected to be one of the Penn students on the new
video brochure Penn sends to potential applicants: Suddenly, I imagined
the doe-eyed freshmen-to-be looking at me. I laughed a long, loud, sinister
Montgomery Burns laugh and began to scheme.
a video montage in which I would tell prefrosh about living in one of
the few completely unrenovated rooms in the area of the Quad now fondly
known to students as Ghetto Quad. I would tell them about seeing mice
scurry across the floor on a daily basis in the cellar of the Fine Arts
Library. I would tell them about my brief, but dramatic, stint with food
poisoning from the dining hall. My eyes lit up with anticipation like
the broken emergency blue-light phones twinkling on Locust Walk. My chance
at a real guide to Penn had arrived; I had been delivered.
I began to speak with the company responsible for the video, with my heart
devoted to telling the deep dark truths about Penn, I found myself lying.
Or perhaps not lying so much as concealing the truth. Or worse yet, not
concealing the truth, but realizing that the way it is is far more positive
than it is negative.
the rats in the library cellar scurried out of my mind. I began talking,
nay, rantingas if I were a paid admissions officer!about all the wonderful
things about Penn:
how students, alumni and faculty alike have a borderline maniacal obsession
with the school itself.
how Penn is not just another Ivy League schoolits the only truly proud
Ivy, where a walk down the Walk truly does look like a catalog
because so many students voluntarily sport clothing bearing the schools
how, at athletic games, students paint their faces red-and-blue like warriors
and cheer for Penn not with shouts but with war whoops.
how, the first time you see an entire stadium sing The Red and Bluewith
the complementary fascist-style arm motionsyou become entranced and proud
all at once to be a member of such a bizarre cult.
my discussion with the video company, a sick thought entered my head.
Maybe these brochures werent lies at all; maybe they were genuine reflections
on the community, if amplified and edited so as to look more appealing.
So what if there are mice on campus and the school might have a little
bubonic plague outbreak here or there? So what if you can in fact eat
uncooked meat on occasion at a dining hall? Its a small price to pay
for the best years of your life, right?
Ariel Horn is a sophomore English major from Short
Hills, New Jersey. She is a weekly columnist for The Daily Pennsylvanian
and hopes to pursue a career in writing.
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2000 The Pennsylvania Gazette
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