NPF: BREAKING AWAY

Posted in No Politics Friday on April 24th, 2009 by Ed

One of the unique challenges to teaching at Indiana University is accomodating the annual ritual of binge drinking and disregard for public urination laws that accompanies the "Little 500" bike race, the event immortalized in the film Breaking Away. It combines everything an IU undergraduate holds dear: alcohol poisoning, dressing identically to one's bros/sisters at the frat/sorority, and skipping class. I suppose there is some sort of bike race as well, but that clearly is a tertiary concern.

Because the job of trying to motivate undergraduates through a sixteen week semester is not difficult enough, this event is jammed into the Spring semester one week before finals. To say that all academic activity on campus grinds to a halt for this spectacle is an understatement. In its place is all manner of generalized stupidity just as a normal teacher might be expecting to prepare his or her class for the final exam or set a due date for semester research papers. I mean, why go to class when you can get ballz drunk on Pucker at 9:00 AM? I haven't a good answer for that either, so don't feel bad.

Benefits to the non-undergraduate population of what is modestly advertised as "The World's Greatest College Weekend" include ankle-deep vomit on Jordan Avenue, the inability to get anywhere near campus, and visits from some of the biggest names in entertainment (in the eyes of an 18 year-old, I suppose). I don't want to brag about my town, but if you want to see Soulja Boy and Young Jeezy in rapid succession, this is the place to be right now.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
"This is how badly I want to win the Indiana Primary. Also, see Young Jeezy."

I must be getting old. I certainly sound like an old man brandishing a rake at kids who encroach upon his lawn. Regardless, there is clearly an age at which this type of spectacle – seven consecutive days of dawn-to-dusk drunkenness – loses its appeal. I know that some adults partake of this type of thing (i.e., Mardi Gras) but I doubt they can handle it physically all day, every day for a full week. The body just can't function on Keystone Light and Taco Bell at 7:30 in the morning in the harsh glare of adulthood. We need occasional sleep. We need a decent meal at semi-regular intervals. And unfortunately we have things to do. In my case that "thing" is trying to hold the attention of young people and perhaps even teach them something. If I sound crochety it results from the fact that the average IU student is not known for his studiousness at any point during the year; institutionalizing a week right before finals during which the campus-wide interest in academics drops to zero feels like fate, nature, and the Higher Power giving us the finger. The University, for its part, is an enabler, all but winking and telling its vast herd of East Coast kids who couldn't get into Penn State "It's OK, we know what you came here for."

Cue loud barfing backed by the righteous, original beats of Soulja Boy.