This is the last Tortured Torsion column. I have greatly enjoyed writing this column over the last three years. I always wrote with one eye on my professors, colleagues, peers and friends and another on those who regularly disagreed with me. I value them both.
I find it particularly poetic that I mark the end of this column with an assignment about my predictions for PSU. In particular ways, writing one’s opinions for others to read is the belief that somehow I, we, you can shape things in the not-too-distant future. Columnists warn and lament the actions of others and desire for things to be just slightly different than they are. This has been the case for me as a columnist, as well. Many times I joked that I might just as well be satisfied writing a horoscope. Regardless, the intention is the same, only one format has more words. So, this column is our PSU horoscope:
The years of sunshine (2005-2007)
University makes a quick move with surprising infusions of cash to invest in city real estate. Aging radicals hemorrhage cash in a city that they love and PSU benefits by default (but will take it anyway). The university looks longingly to the waterfront. Someone always wants a waterfront view. University leftists feel anxious about all the hoopla as tuition creeps up, benefits sink and students and professors smile a little less than everyone else. Academic all-stars put PSU on the circuit. People keep saying they “really like it here” when they pass through. Everyone worries a little more about job security.
The years of rain (2007-2009)
A little rain always follows a lot of sunshine. In this case, rain falls for over a hundred days in a row both years. Students really have a lot of indoor time together and campus-wide agitation and protests becomes a daily activity. Tuition jumps 10 percent. Students find easy targets in cowboy boots at the capital in Salem … and on the football field at home – annoyance towards athletics and other traditional activities grows fierce. In a bid to keep students happy, the “Viking” is dropped for a group of diverse students embracing each other. Everybody is confused. Everybody loves the new recreation center, though. We may be getting ripped off, but we look really great. PSU curmudgeons stop complaining about University Studies (finally). New students can’t even remember PSU without UNST anyways (students still only write “average” research papers, but they are exceptionally “well-adjusted”).
The years of the caffeinated classroom (2009-2011)
Starbucks opens an eighth campus location (not counting three Seattle’s Best Coffees and the Starbucks Bistro). Students now work in cutting-edge technological classrooms, ridiculously called Starbucks Caffeinated Laboratories. A campus partnership allows corporations to co-lease building space with the university. Holograms advertising special “seasonal” coffees are cast onto walls and artificial smells are vented into the air system. Everyone thinks it’s “brilliant” – except for the students trying to study political corruption, human rights’ abuses and the Latin American coffee plantations in an economic globalization class. Their class is cancelled. Taco Bell is finally kicked off campus.
The years of the rabbit (2011-2013)
“Faster, better, paid-in-full” becomes an unwritten motto among Oregon universities. Credits are streamlined and students coming to PSU to “re-make” their life are told to do it in four years, or consequently the four-year tuition plateau is replaced with fifth-year penalty tuition rates. Fortunately, ample credits are given for parenting, driving to work, recycling and working a full time job; one just has to “reflect” on such things and post them to the Universal Wide Web. “Re-making your life” is now a master of arts degree.
The years of sunshine (again) (2013-2015)
A large infusion of cash expands the university – glass and steel bridge is built across the Willamette River. Oregon gives up trying to be conservative, liberal and populist at the same time and adds a sales tax and funds education like it should have decades before. Five years later crime drops, jobs boom, Oregon has an economic and cultural renaissance and Portland State University merits a splashy spread in U.S. News and World Report. This is promptly critiqued by everyone as being too little, too late.
But somewhere in the middle of the country, I tell a stranger I graduated from PSU, and they know what I am talking about. I am really glad.