Welcome to the University

by Louie Crew

Appeared in Culture October 1991: 1 and in Pennsylvania English 15.2 (Spring/Summer 1991): 30.

© 1991, 2004 by Louie Crew

You have come more to an experience than a place. University, like universe derived from the Latin unus, 'one,' and the past participle of vertere, 'to turn.' A university is not a university until it has brought all together.

Do not let the name of your institution deceive you lest, regardless of its reputation, you end up with an experience more appropriate for a trade school or an advanced high school. Thousands who take up residence and work here for years, never experience the university as universe. You alone can assure that you do.

If you have not yet nurtured a close friendship with someone from a radically different culture, if you have not yet spent your last dollars on a book not a textbook, if you have not yet played staunch devil's advocate for a point of view that offends you, if you have not yet stayed up all night reading a difficult book not assigned for class, if you have not yet formed an intellectual friendship with someone brighter than you, if you have not yet rearranged your schedule for at least two weeks so that you can become an authority on some point most would consider too arcane, if you have not yet wandered for hours through the yard searching for a point that you might have made, if you have not yet written an angry letter protesting hypocrisy or injustice or intellectual fraud, if you have not yet explored in depth the major tenets of a discipline unrelated to your major, if you have not yet tried to impress a teacher with whom you fundamentally disagree, if you have not yet discovered a flesh-and- blood thinker who models courage more than any sports hero, you have yet to arrive at the university.

Enjoy your apprenticeship, but do not fail to notice that the universal parts of your experience here derive not from career plans, but from your intellectual rites of passage.

Welcome.


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