Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

32° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Advertisement
Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Advertisement

Advertisement

Dream of ducks and democracy, not czars, tsars

I was dreaming the other night of gold medals, figure skating and Jonathan Katz, when, sadly, University President Henry Bienen bum-rushed my subconscious.

He was teaching a class on physical education. I was sitting in the back row of a with a bunch of “fake” athletes – fencers, bowlers and others who could never attract the attention of a peppy cheerleader.

In class, Bienen unveiled the midterm assignment: a 10-page term paper on gender and jumping jacks. It would be due the following day.

The assignment sounded odd to me, with its imminent due date and strangely vague topic. Was it men, or women, or the interactions of men and women in a co-ed gym class that he wanted us to discuss?

Jumping jacks are certainly a rich topic for academic inquiry. The sight of bobbing breasts in gym classes often distracts boys who jockey for a choice, but discreet, viewing position. And some of them, of course, must confront the particular problem of having worn loose boxers to class instead of form fitting briefs.

I asked Bienen for more information on the term paper, but he could only offer me the repugnant responses of a politician.

“Do you want it double spaced?” I asked.

“Hmm, I’ll form a committee and get back to you,” Bienen said distractedly.

“But can we write in the first person?”

“This isn’t a democracy!” he grumbled.

At that moment, I awoke from what was fast becoming a nightmare. Beads of sweat soaked my brow as I wondered why I was dreaming of gym class and our esteemed president. How much of that was a dream? How much was real? The words sounded so uncannily familiar.

Then I realized that I had heard Eugene Sunshine, Northwestern’s senior vice president for business and finance and Bienen’s right hand man, use the same phrase while speaking down to students at the nominally open Associated Student Government Lagoonfill forum. He told us that old Hank likes to say, “This is not a democracy,” when he’s kicking around Rebecca Crown Center with his administration buddies.

It was only a “nominally” open forum because the ASG moderators subtly steered clear of questions from those inveterate troublemakers, students with radical hair-dos. But the anti-democracy sentiment came through loud and clear.

If this university is not a democracy, then maybe Bienen should be stripped of his title and renamed University Czar, or University Tsar. Either one would be fine, as long as a student advisory board made the titular choice between Cz and Ts. That would help students feel like they have a say in campus decisions, even if it’s only on such weighty questions as the spelling of Bienen’s new autocratic title.

If this university is not a democracy, then why should students vote for “representatives” who will comprise Associated Student Government, the students’ muzzled and toothless dog? Perhaps the new czar could just pick a few students to act as kapos, overseers of their peers. But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Now that the administration is paving our ponds, building over our basketball courts and pile-driving my subconscious, it makes me wonder how much left on this campus is sacred.

More to Discover
Activate Search
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Dream of ducks and democracy, not czars, tsars