Hold Your Head Up High

Carl Brooks

Well, that’s that. Most of the people I wish would read this have long gone, disappearing with their diploma quicker than slick snot down a deep drain. They leave in a hurry, clutching the certain mark of self-determination in today’s rampant America, the university degree. I’ll have one too, um, at least as soon as I get these #%^^!!@()## administrative details ironed out. I sweah.

And our graceful, forceful and apparently gleeful Chancellor Jo Ann Gora departs with us, holding a degree which only we could bestow on her: congrats from the Original School of Hard Knocks-you’re still alive. Her degree, it is hoped, will serve her well when she thinks back on the tooth and nail, uphill, outgunned , outnumbered, Little Big Horn that this campus is for all of us. Around here, a ladies’ room runs out of paper and we show up with four city councilors, a crowd and six thousand petition signatures demanding justice. It ain’t easy.

In the finest kind of Boston tradition, we made nothing easy for Gora and we can only hope she was tempered by the experience, as she gratefully departs for the traditional university campus, where they have springtime and laughter, soft, playful co-eds and vacant football stars, where studying is a verb one conjugates in Spanish class and there are dorms, sports, a private Board of Trustees and a state legislature one cannot reach by subway. Thousands upon thousands of giggly dimwits will look upon her in awe, for she will bear the invisible stamp of hardcore downtown on her brow. And we put it there.

You know, some people look upon their UMB education with a kind of quiet desperation, a feeling that, ‘well, it was here, and it’s still kind of cheap, and once I get through it I’ll get that nursing job or push paper, or make an extra 7 large a year…’. But I don’t feel that way. I came here because I learned, to my great shock and surprise, you can actually get paid to go to school- well, you’ll get aid and loans, and you get a lot of official mail ( don’t ignore it – trust me), but somehow, it’s a doable thing. Once the novelty of education wore off, I fully planned to rack up a 4.0 and skedaddle for BU, Northeastern, Harvard-some joint where people recognize the name.

But something happened, and I stayed my full five years. I already knew what college students were like at those other places – I’d seen them, worked for them, with them (though they hardly work at all- they only know how to bitch), and I realized they were absolutely pathetic, disgusting brain dead idiots who were getting handed every last thing their selfish and soggy little hearts demanded. Here at UMass Boston, I found real people. People who cared, people who knew what it meant to work, and to whom education was a ticket to a better place, a brighter life, not an extended adolescence to waste in idleness. Sure, it’s not MIT, and you know, sometimes the place looks like a three ring circus where somebody left out the acrobats and threw in a few extra clowns, but I’ve never been in a place where so many people actually care.

Despite that, I see a lot of the one shoulder shrug, the half-smile, when you ask people what they’re doing here- – there’s a feeling that we aren’t as good as a private university.

Well, we are BETTER. If there is nothing else you take away from UMB, if you forget every lesson, every professor, take away pride. You have worked harder, gone farther, and done more than any disgusting brat with a daddy’s credit card could do at any legacy school. We have families, we have one, two, three jobs. We have children that need to be fed and clothed and loved. We have grandfathers, mothers, brothers and friends who are sick and need our care. We have lives and we sacrifice them for the one thing that means more than money, more than precious time, more than exhausting nights alone – education. And when you meet someone from Harvard, don’t look down. Look them straight in the eye and say, “I went to UMass Boston,” and then put the fear of God into them. Look out world – we’re coming.