Civil Discourse Now

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An alternative to The Monon Bell "stag" on November 13.

   Many people hype the 1960s as a decade of, well, decadence. From my extensive field research in the 1970s, and interviews of people who were in their late teens or early 20s and either in college or the military or both in the 1960s, the period, particularly after release of The Beatles' album "Revolver"---as an arbitrary, perhaps, but no less accurate gauge of change in there---was a time in which conventional mores were tossed aside to some degree. With all due respect---a cliche that indicates a following passage will be negative in some way toward those to whom the "all due respect" is meant---to those 1960s people, the 1970s were far more wild. The 1970s were post-Pill and pre-AIDS. We were sure marijuana would be legal almost any day. The Vietnam war came to an end. Nixon was forced to resign. And people partied.

   Beginning my freshman year of high school, I scoured "The College Handbook" (I believe it was called), a thick volume in our high school's library. In it was listed nearly every college and university in the United States. If a college even sounded interesting, I sent for a bulletin. In those days, schools would send a bulletin and application forms and information if one only requested. There was no charge. I had a shelf full of college bulletins. I wanted to go away to school---as in away from Howard County. I had read Fitzgerald's "This Side of Paradise" and knew intellectual liberation was optimized by existence largely independent of parental oversight. At the start of my junior year, I eliminated a lot of schools from my informal list.

   Washington & Lee was amongst the schools that made my second list. The place had a good academic reputation and it had a law school. Later, on a family trip, we swung through Charlottesville (UVA was a possible, but not very prominent, second-lister) and then Lexington, the town in which Washington & Lee was located. Also located in Lexington was Virginia Military Institute, then an all-male school---as was Washington & Lee. The fact W & L was not co-ed had escaped me. In Lexington, as I saw all guys walk around in states that ranged from boredom---one student sat in a second-floor window sill and stared out into space as we drove by---to frustration, I realized an all-male school was not for me.

   Eventually I chose DePauw University, a co-educational institution.

   At DePauw, women were my peers. We partied together. We hung out together. We talked about all the serious and deep topics I had hoped to talk about when I dreamt of college years before. The perspectives they had were different from those to which I otherwise would have been exposed. Of course, DePauw University's  arch-rival, some 25 miles to the north in Crawfordsville, is Wabash College. 

   Wabash College is one of the few all-male colleges left in the United States. Two years ago, I debated Carlos May on the value of single-gender post-secondary education. Carlos is a Wabash alum. He cited, as advantages to single-gender, post-secondary education, that the educational environment was much more low-key. In class, Wabash students did not have to worry about someone hitting on them or worry about how to hit on someone else. Guys could be guys and learn in an environment free of---I guess the other half of the human race.

   Wabash is a decent school. Wabash has won the last five Monon Bell football games. That is okay. I debated Wabash something like a dozen times and memory fails me as to a single loss we suffered on those debates. However, students in all-male colleges lack a significant component to their education. They lack interaction, as peers, with one half (slightly over, actually) of the human race. Sure, they might take courses taught by women. They might have cooks in their dorms or frats who are women. Their mothers visit them on weekends when they are not on road trips to campuses where there are women. In their world, however, women occupy positions either of superiority or inferiority, not equality. That hardly offers an education for life in the 21st Century.

   Each year DePauw plays football against Wabash. For years, a "stag" was held a few days before the Monon Bell game. A "stag" is an all-male party. DePauw and Wabash alums would meet for dinner, after-dinner jokes, and drinks. Women were excluded. The "stag" fell out of favor for about a dozen years. Notions of equality and resistance to discrimination seemed to hold sway. A couple of years ago the "stag" was resurrected. Last year I volunteered to give the after-dinner speech for DePauw. I never had attended a "stag." I was asked to give an outline, to the DePauw side of things, of the remarks I intended to give. The speech focused on the black-and-white, monochromatic world of a person who attended a single-gender school, as told from the point of view of an amnesiac who wakes up in Mayberry, a la "The Andy Griffith Show." Members of the committee asked to meet with me. They suggested my remarks were not appropriate for the gathering and gave me a sheet of Ohio State-Michigan jokes into which I could substitute De Pauw and Wabash as appropriate. I declined. They thanked me, hoped I held no hard feelings, and said they would get someone else.

   This year I received a notice from the DePauw Alumni Association that the "stag" would be held on November 13 at the Murat Shrine with drinks served at 6. Since the e-mail came from a DePauw Alumnus and a DePauw alumna (that is, for those unfamiliar with Latin, a male and a female, respectively), perhaps women now were allowed at the "stag." I e-mailed back to ask if this, indeed, was true. I was told the "stag" still is all male.

   Consequently, for those alums of DePauw and Wabash out there who find the concept of the all-male "stag" antiquated and offensive, I propose an alternative. Let us meet at the same time on the same date---November 13 at 6 p.m. Instead of the Murat, let us meet at the Broad Ripple Tavern. Alumni and alumnae will be welcome. We still can give each other good-humored jabs about our respective alma maters. We can all speculate who will win, as students from our schools endure incremental brain damage---either on the field each play as they bang against each other, or in the stands as students down various concoctions of alcohol. While at the Murat Shrine, people will tell after-dinner jokes and chortle in testosterone-laden fashion, we can talk about whatever we wish. There might be women at the Murat, but only as servers. There will be woman at BRT, as alums, spouses or significant others, friends, and, sure as servers. We shall tip heavily.

   There are transgender Wabash alums. During our debate two years ago, I asked Carlos May if Andrea James, perhaps the most prominent transgender Wabash alum, would be welcome at the "stag." He said, somewhat ambiguously, all Wabash alums were welcome. Somehow, I must question his statement.

   So it is that I issue this invitation. Perhaps this is more in the nature of a public notice. If you are an alum of either school, let's all meet up at the BRT at 6 p.m. November 13. BRT is at the corner of Carrollton and Broad Ripple Avenue. Everyone is welcome. No one is excluded. And one other matter on which I would correct Carlos---seriously, you guys didn't think about sex in classes? None of you did? We come from the same socioeconomic class. The same percentages of people at Wabash and Depauw are gay or bisexual. So---get real. Of course, at DePauw, the student body is much larger, therefor there are more DePauw alums in those categories by sheer number. Plus, half of our students are females, therefore we have a lot of lesbians. Not all lesbians are lesbians full-time. That is another perspective of higher education to which we had greater access at DePauw than did the boys there at Wabash.

   Let's meet up at Broad Ripple Tavern. I'll wear a DePauw shirt and baseball cap. I will forego the "Wabash Sucks" t-shirt I still have. It doesn't fit, after all these years. On Saturday, November 16, we shall stream Civil Discourse Now "live" from Moore's bar at 17 South Indiana in Greencastle, from 11 am to 1 pm           

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