Monday, August 11, 2014

Come Follow the Band

I moved to Columbus in 1991 and thought a buckeye looked like marijuana and Woody Hayes was a band leader. And me, the son-in-law of a local hero football coach.

 I stuck around and I learned and I'm glad I did.

If anyone wanted to dig into my behavior during my college years, 1974-1978,  I would never be able to run for president, apply to be an astronaut or teach Sunday School. I've never done any of these things, out of my own limitations and probably not because I remember running naked down Commonwealth Avenue in Back Bay on a freezing night in 1977. No naked man is seen to his best advantage in the bitter cold. Trust me.

I was basically a good kid,  but I was eighteen-nineteen and had all of the testosterone driven immaturity one celebrates at that age. I had graduated from fart jokes to booze and a more raucous sense of responsibility. Eventually I lived in a horrible apartment (million dollar condo today) with two other guys. Steven Tyler and Aerosmith moved out and we moved joke. Look what the years did to Steve!

All this by saying that many of us behaved just as predicted. Irresponsible, loud, drunk and wanting to be seen as sexually adventurous when we were not. And yes, faculty and administration of the large university I attended knew all about the crazy goings-on. I don't think any of us would have been allowed to completely self destruct, but running a 25,0000 student University was a big job. As one professor said to me, "If you want to be a fuck-up and waste your parent's money, nobody is going to stop you;."

One thing I have learned in recent years is that to live in Columbus is to embrace athletics and the wonderful sights and sounds athletics inspire. Or is it the other way around? No matter. Band rehearsals can be heard from my house, two miles from campus. The sounds mean autumn, pleasure, peace and a sense of being where I want to be. The football-band combo is the the ultimate glue making a community. The extent of this is not understood unless you've been here a while, but it is a large part of what makes this town a community. Newcomers can't and won't get it. It takes a few years.

I'm not surprised by any obnoxious student culture. Been there done that. I'm not surprised by sexual hijinks real or imagined, nor by dirty books nor by marching undressed etc. As an old man now and a parent I'd love to be appalled, but my own behavior was no better in the waning years of the Nixon administration. (Did Watergate make us behave worse?)  I'm surprised when a leader whose complete authority is less than two years old just disappears-poof!-when this student behavior is made public. Made public? You'd think no one out there had never met a college student. You bet, most of them these days are responsible and mature. Still, the eighteen year old brain is not the forty year old brain and by forty-an age I have not seen in many years-one hopes one is 'cooked' enough to keep our underpants on in public.

To say "we didn't know" about such behavior is disingenuous. To say we are shocked and we disapprove, no to one and okay to the other. An opportunity to use people whose loyalty, enthusiasm and skill have been long proved has been blown. Instead we have a mishigas that is not going away. A great institution of higher learning and I'm a proud alumnus by now-is being made a national laughingstock. Bad will prevails and the kids, athletes, musicians and their leaders are being penalized en masse.

Rather than fire capable leaders and penalizing students, I wish a community meeting could be held. Have it in the Shoe. Invite band members past and present, alumni, current students and welcome the community. Leaders of the University and the Band could say, Well, we have a problem here. Students should never feel endangered and our reputation is at stake. Let's stop this behavior, Period. Two strikes and you are out. OK. Good. Now, here;'s a cookie. Go home,

A public mea culpa and the public declaration of a low-tolerance policy. Be very public about putting everyone on notice. Let the band play in the shoe once a year for everyone to hear, for free-along with a brief 'update'. Involve everyone is solving the problem and being proud of ownership in the band. I'm just sayin'.

The opportunity remains for those to correct a mistake and get the public on board with developing the environment best conducive to study and leadership. The environment for which students yearn-maybe secretly-and for which their parents hope. It ain't here now, and is very greatly deserved.  

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