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September 09, 1976 - Image 30

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-09-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

'doge Yen


Thursday, September 9, 197+6

1'~ 1~ivi THE MICHIGAN DAILY Thursday, September 9, 1976

(Continued from Page 7)
together in my mind now, but I remember my roommate. My
first college roommate ever, right? Even though this was only
orientation, I might make a really good friend, right? I couldn't
wait. After a couple hours of sitting around, it was obvious that
he could.
When he finally showed up, I wasn't even sure he could see
me, let alone become a friend. Tim Tribley stared at the world'
through about an inch and a half of concave lens, an obstacle to
perception not half so great as his almost total lack of social
awareness. I tried to communicate; we simply were not on the
same frequency. All the standard questions were met with stu-
pendously boring failure; no, he didn't know what classes he
wanted to take; no, he didn't have any friends here; no, he
hadn't really thought about what he wanted to do after college;
no, he didn't know what dorm he was going to live in because,
well, actually, he wasn't going to live in a dorm at all because
he was going to commute from Plymouth every day.
Tim and I didn't spend much time together those three
days. I did see him once though - on the Diag one day last year,
squinting around as if he was still trying to find his first class.
Stared right through me.
THE OTHER GUY I REMEMBER from orientation became a
friend in East Quad just a month or two later - Nick the
Greek, we called him - but, oh, that first woeful impression.
During the first big meeting, while Gary, my saviour, was ex-
plaining the different aptitude tests we had to take, this giant
unfolds himself toward the ceiling, scratches his curly black
bush of hair, and has the poor judgement to open his mouth.
"Listen man," he says to Gary, who was a little startled by
this glowering Hades. "Listen, like, do we got to take these






tests?" Gary's eyes widened. Sure, he said carefully, they were
standard tests, you had to take them to get admitted. Nick went
on, undaunted by this proclamation of practicality. "Yeah, I
know, man, but what if like, you know, you don't want to take
no tests?"
Gary was firm and Nick sat down slowly with a low "Ah,
shit." Were the next two years to be a series of Nicks and Tims?
* * *
Y HIGH SCHOOL WAS WHITE without exception. My par-
ents had marched for Open Housing and so forth, but the
only black person I had known all my life was the woman who
came to clean once a week. So my parents and I were curious
as we drove to Ann Arbor in September, my clothes and books
wedged in around me. We speculated cautiously on my future
roommate. "He could be black," we mused, the nervous smile
of the lily-white liberal gracing our features.
And indeed he was - Edward T. Wiggins of Los Angeles,
California. He wasn't in the room when I took a first load of
clothes in, but his picture was there on his desk. Edward T., his
six feet four inches decorated with a flaming yellow football
shirt and gym shorts, strode into the room a moment later with
an electric smile; "Ed Wiggins" - he stretched out a hand the
size of a plate - "What's happenin'?!" I wasn't entirely sure,
and I don't think he was either, because neither of us had lived
with a member of another race before, and all the anti-racism
rhetoric we had both heard all our lives didn't matter any
more; there we were, white and black, black and white, shak-
ing hands and smiling, but self-conscious as hell.
Our color mattered less, we found, than the fact that we had
both left girl friends at home, that we were both scared of being
away at college. We tested each other for bias that evening in
the painfully subtle ways that blacks and whites inevitably will.
We came out okay.
But Lord, what a figure Edward T. cut in East Quad those
first few days. "I had a scholarship to play football at UCLA,
man, but I wanted to come to Michigan for the quality of the
play. They just don't play like the Big Ten out on the Coast."
Sure, we all believed him. I did, anyway.
And he was engaged - every night about eleven he'd haul up
my brown bean-bag chair, drop himself into it, dial Doris in
Los Angeles, close his eyes, and talk . . . for forty-five minutes.
Ed wore an I.D. bracelet that must have weighed about five
pounds, and he wore it to bed, in the shower, everywhere. He'd
raise eyebrows up and down the hall when he'd stride out of the
room on Saturday nights with his four-inch green heels and his
bare-midriff leisure suit. All the while, of course, he'd banter
about "starting practice" and about his times in the hundred-
yard dash.
But I began to wonder, after a few days, when the only
working-out Ed had done was with a frisbee on the lawn of
the School of Education. I could be discreet no longer. When did
practice start? I asked. Well, he said, he had called up the
coach, but they already had the squad made up. What about his

scholarship at UCLA? Well, he hadn't exactly gotten a scholar-
ship, but a recruiter who saw him play said he might get one
if he applied. "Coach says I'm too light to play ball. Damn. I
guess I'll have to wait until spring practice starts. I'm gonna
put on weight though, man, just as soon as I quit smoking."
He never did quit smoking, nor did he gain weight, no mat-
ter how many forays he made down to the old Pizza Bob's mobile
unit outside the Quad every night at 11:00. He did talk about
trying out for the baseball team in the spring, but then he got
involved in a fraternity and never got the chance. The phone
bill for that first month was almost $400, and when Ed left Ann
Arbor in the spring, never to come back, it was still unpaid.
* * *
IN THAT FIRST SEPTEMBER Ann Arbor seemed fresh and
new to everyone. Everyone but me - I was excited, but I felt
tied to the campus in a way most fledglings did not. --
Bent on a career in journalism, I tiptoed into the Daily's
offices on the pretext of buying a subscription. The city room at
the Daily is like a huge cavern with a high, arching ceiling sup-
ported by garsh, blue beams, and I felt like a subterranean ex-
plorer on the brink of my first major discovery. Scared that I
might be spotted as an interloper, I snuck into the little library
off the main room.
The sanctuary was a quiet hiding place from the humming
city room. The tile walls were lined with metal shelves holding
bound volumes of thousands of Dailys dating back to 1888.
I took down the volume marked "February-June, 1941" and
parted the yellow, dusty pages. Carefully turning through the
weeks of April and May, I was stopped abruptly by the sight of
my own name. There it was in large italic type under a picture
on a lean athlete clad in white. It was my dad; he was captain
of the tennis team in 1941, and here was his picture and my
name on the front page of the Daily.
Like everybody, I walked around a lot those first couple of
weeks, but I saw some old ghosts invisible to the others first
exploring the campus. Across from East Quad (my residence,
which was only in the building stages when my parents gradu-
ated) was the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. Many others
who went by scoffed at the stately columns and ivy - symbols,
they thought, of a sheltered way -of life gone with the Fifties.
But I looked through the hedge to the porch and saw my parents
to be saying goodnight after the 1940 spring formal. Men weren't
even allowed into the foyers of sororities then, so every Friday
and Saturday night at the one a.m. curfew the Kappa steps
would be ornamented with twenty or twenty-five couples in
various stages of embrace, an unabashed army of romantics
getting along as well as they could.
At the corner of Washtenaw and South University, I glanced
up at the red-brick house under the trees - Phi Delta Theta,
my father's fraternity. There he was, playing ping-pong on the
little veranda at the side of the house, and a guy was bugging
him to go out with his date's roommate. No, my dad said, he
had other plans. C'mon, the other guy said, she's terrific, you
can't lose. If she's so terrific how come she needs a date, my
dad wanted to know, but he finally gave in, and a few weeks
later was accompanying my mom up to the Kappa porch every
In the little canyon between Waterman Gym and the Dana
Building, through which a couple of thousand people trudge every
day as their North Campus buses depart, I saw my dad again,
though several years older than he had been at the Phi Delt

house. He was waiting to register for his first term of laA
school. Suddenly, the crisp autumn air was jarred by a pierc-
ing, "Heeeeey, Tobin you sonofabitch!" It was his best friend,
Charlie Ross. They hadn't seen each other since they left for the
war four years before, and hadn't known if they would ever see
each other again.
BY NO MEANS WAS this fraternity stuff for me though. I was
at the other extreme when I began - the Residential Col-
lege. In that last den of Sixties activism the mere mention of
the obsolete and blatantly sexist fraternity system was nearly
grounds for expulsion. But I found at the end of the fall term
that neither was East Quad my niche, so, reluctantly and quietly,
I decided to look at fraternities.
It was to be a discreet move. A couple of friends and I plan-
ned to look places over for boarding only - no initiation and
rituals for us until we thought we wanted it, which we doubted
would ever happen. That it did indeed was a surprise to all
three of us.
At any rate, we trudged up to the rambling house into which
we later moved for a rather self-conscious dinner and mutual
inspection with the fraternity brothers. Chatting after dinner with
the committee appointed to scrutinize prospective boarders, we
expected a well-rehearsed public relations show, but no battle
such as the one that followed could have been planned.
We sat on red sofas and chairs around a fireplace in the spa-
cious living room, just a little ill-at ease, getting the spiel on in-
tramural sports and parties. A serious young man with a neat
little moustache was telling us about the social fund, how much
it was and so forth, when one of his so-called brothers, with a
toss of his shaggy hair, explained that part of the social fund
was going for dope this year, and, in his opinion, it was about
His serious colleague bristled, glancing sideways at us then
turning back with a glare. "Jeff, we voted against that. No
dope with house money," he said quietly. Jeff bristled back.
"What?! No way! We said it was okay!" Turning back to us,
he said confidentially, "Don't worry, we're having it."
The temperance advocate was adamant. "No dope. The
Board would never allow it. We simply can't be buying dope with
house funds." It began to look to us like this was a private little
moral campaign of his own, but he appeared to have his way.
Not knowingwhether to be relieved or disappointed that frater-
nities had, in fact, stayed sober and proper through the decades,
we looked to the disgruntled Jeff for guidance. With a glare at
the Puritan and a flourish of the army parka he clutched, he
bounced to his feet, stalked to the door, and seeing that the
Puritan couldn't see, gave us a big wink, curled his thumb and
forefinger into the "okay" sign, and mouthed the words "We'll
have dope" with a big nod. He departed in triumph, but there
wasn't any house-bought dope in the fall.
S .* * *
THfE LITTLE STRUGGLE of Jeff and his apponent came near
the end of my first year here. The moralistic approach to the
issue belonged more to my father's day, when a kiss was strictly
forbidden inside the Kappa doorway. Certainly it was only a
faint echo of the ferocious debates over Vietnam and the draft
of a few years ago.
I was perplexed that first year, like most of my colleagues.
The points of view here blur together - Tim and Nick and Ed
and Jeff, and all of these melt with those ghosts I see from tim e
to time.

(D'C1 C3 tad :

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History, Philosophy, and Literature



I'll bet that as a freshperson you are eager and anxious to
experience the heady thrill of actually becoming a card-
carrying student at the U. of Michigan. Well, they say that
experience is the best teacher, so let me lay a few of mine
on you to prepare you for the confusing state of affairs that
is the Universityof Michigan.
For those of you who are, in fact, overanxious, please,
for your own sake-cool out. You will find that fortitude and
patience alone are omnipotent when it comes to dealing with
the problems and frustrations that are daily occurrences.
After a while you will know, as do I, that long lines, con-
fusing forms and conflicting instructions are part of the
curriculum pontrived by a crazy little professor who sits on
top of Angell Hall thinking of ways to irk innocent students.
(I swear it's true). The only reason his class is not listed
in the time schedule is because it would be too difficult to
cross list. You see he works in every department.
BLASE IS THE only way to be around this place I've
found, because if every little setback becomes unnerving, you
may eventually wind up as an alumni of Ypsi State Mental
Institution-insead of the Big 'U'.
For instance, what is there to say when you find that the
roommate they stuck you with is occupying the room with
seven cars and refuses to pull the twin beds apart because
she has a lot of company? Don't laugh! This actually hap-
pened to a friend of mine and she had to deal with this
At first, her Resident Advisor "advised" her to be demo.
cratic and reason with the broad. But how do you reasonably
deal with someone who can stand being in a closed room
with seven cats?
IN THE END my friend found that the only real and valid
way to solve the problem was to democratically kick her
ass and put her out.

All freshpersons will encounter problems that they have
not dealt with before, but black students will find their per-
ceptions and reactions to be unique.
OUR SOCIAL, economic and cultural experiences dictate
that our ideas on certain subjects will be different. It will
probably be difficult for you, as it has been for me, to cope
with people showing up for classes in their mink jackets
when you're scuffing to buy toothpaste.
Why is college life going so smoothly for everyone else?
Why does the "social scene" seem boring and repetitive
to you when it's such a trip to everyone else?
SUCH QUESTIONS, along with the aforementioned "little"
irritants will begin to weigh on your brain and make the
University experience an unpleasant one if you let it. The
trick is to keep ahead of the game and remember that you
do not live at, or belong to the "University of Michigan
Rather, begin to develop interests and outlets not directly
related to the everyday grind and find contributions that you
can make relative to black students and the surrounding
Face it-your four years here are ones that you have
chosen to endure-in preparation for future endeavors. This
University was not designed with your concerns in mind and
your encounters will reiterate this point. Maybe my attitude
is a morbid one, but I think the most worthwhile thing you
can do, is try to make the University responsive and account-
able to you, the student it supposedly serves, and prepare
yourself as best you can for the field you have chosen.
Feel free to talk to other students and faculty and gain
some insight from their experiences. And keep a clear
vision of what you expect to achieve. Best of luck.
Robin Cain is a senior and a history/Bachelor of General
Studies major.

Letter to the uninitiated




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