Friday, March 23, 2012

A Harrowing Semester at The University of Nebraska School of Journalism


Please kill me if I ever live in Nebraska again.
If you live in the midwestern part of The United States and this offends you, well I must be doing something right.

In the spring of 1986 I left a pristine campus here in Tacoma, Washington and enrolled as a student at the school of journalism. Where you ask? The University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

I was chasing a boy. I was chasing a boy not worth chasing, and furthermore, women, never ever chase boys. Make them chase you or just get your friggin' act together.

The journalism professor was a nightmare. He chain smoked because this was still legal in classrooms in 1986 and also because he was a freaky nightmare. To scare us, he gave all of us a "F" on the same assignment. I took that "F" and drew lines around it to make it into an "A." He yelled at all of us. He told us if we made the decision to be journalists, we'd all become alcoholics or die. "Think this over carefully," the freaky man said.

One afternoon the sirens indicating a very bad funnel cloud might suck us into the vortex of midwestern hell sounded. Mr. Freak did excuse us at last after quite a delay. I walked across the campus noting that no one was there. It's astounding I did not fling my arms in the air. This was a sure sign I could have been an incredible reporter. To this day I am often brazen in asking cops questions such as, "Is there some particular reason you are arresting a homeless person for no reason?" So far I have not been shot dead, but the day is not over just yet.

Nebraska was disturbing to me. The dorm floor on Sunday resembled the rapture. No one was there and everyone was at church. I befriended every student who was from another country I could find. I am not sure, I might have known at least a dozen people. Mostly I was making frantic phone calls back to The University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA and figuring out a way to get back to the west coast. I am not suggesting UPS is a diverse campus. In fact, it is quite caucasion. The booklets this university sends out to this day are hilarious. Photographers pick the twenty or so minority students and talk about how diverse the school is. I returned to the school because I enjoyed the feeling of my feet sinking into the mud, the rain, the water and the much higher academic standards.

Aside from actually having to produce documents in the journalism class in Lincoln, I did not open a single textbook. Tests were fill in the circles and I passed them all. I passed astronomy without cracking the textbook. Meanwhile back at the University of Puget Sound I had the continued pleasure of being mail stalked by a non-tenured professor. Of course I was too naive to think his carefully drawn sketches of Shakespeare characters amounted to stalking. Oh, they sure did. I graduated in 1988. In 1998, I ran into him at Safeway and told him I had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He said, "Well, sex after fifty is pretty good, Alison." I just stared at him instead of beating him with my cane. Then, as any unemployed reporter would do, I started asking questions. Did other English majors get stalked by him as well? Oh they sure did.

I am not slandering him by using his name because he is dead. He died right in a downtown Tacoma office of heart failure several weeks after I told him I took all those sketches right to the Dean at UPS. Now, these are not related events. He had a heart problem and had been struggling with his health for a long time. His name was, no I am not going to reveal this. I call him "the man who never finished his doctoral thesis" and raged about not getting tenure. Later I found out he hated women so much he would steal things from their purses. I am not sure how any of this relates to the beginning of my blog, I am just suggesting that life is continually strange. It was oddly disappointing I was not his only stalking target. It turns out I am just an ordinary person. Please pass the Kleenex! I am woe now! -AW

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