November 2012 Living Colby Essays


The Promise of You

Ever since the Echo approached me about writing a piece for the opinions section a few weeks back I have been trying to settle on a topic. Insofar as "opinions" pieces are supposed to give some insight into what the writer believes I decided to share some of what I believe with all of you. So, with a nod to NPR and its long running series This I Believe, I would offer the following:

I believe in good novels and cheesy movies and reruns of Seinfeld.

I believe in handwritten letters sent by snail-mail. (Cursive or printed, at one's discretion. Using hearts or smiley faces to dot one's "i's" is unacceptable.)

I believe in Levis 550's (red tag) blue jeans, well-worn sweatshirts, canvas Chuck Taylor's, and Bean's Wicked Good slippers.

I believe wearing flip-flops in January is dopey.

I believe in Santa Claus, Dr. Seuss, The Giving Tree, and Winnie-the-Pooh (A.A. Milne's stories a lot; Disney's movies much less).

I believe voting is both a right and a responsibility.

I believe in registering with a political party but not voting a straight party ticket.

I believe in the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Bach's violin concertos, and Beethoven's 7th and 9th symphonies. I also believe in lots of musicians and composers whose names don't begin with the letter "B."

I believe in alliteration. And sarcasm.

I believe in the designated hitter. And I believe 99% of the people who oppose it are self-important blowhards who think making a double switch is the intellectual equivalent of splitting the atom. The other 1% just need to get over it. Big Papi going deep beats Cole Hamels striking out looking by a lot.

I believe in Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Period.

I believe in the Boston Red Sox, and that if there ever was a "Curse of the Bambino" it ended when Dave Roberts stole second base in the top of the ninth inning of game four of the 2004 ALCS.

I believe in reading actual (as opposed to virtual) newspapers on Sunday morning.

I believe you should know the words to your national anthem and your college's alma mater and I believe you should stand up and sing them when they are played.

I believe in doing all, not just some or most of the reading and written work that is assigned for every class. But I didn't figure that out until I was a 26 year-old graduate student so I will understand if you're rolling your eyes right now.

I believe in hot tea, ice water, and beer in bottles.

I believe in standard shift cars, front-wheel drive, and snow tires. And I totally believe in heated seats.

I believe in Martin acoustic guitars. I believe everyone who is able should have the experience of singing in public at least once in their life.

I believe humility is good for the soul.

I believe in shaped skis and high-speed quads. I believe in Mulligan's on the first tee because who really cares.

I believe in shooting far-post and low, and staying with your marks until the play is over.

I believe in doing crossword puzzles in pen.

I believe listening is more important than speaking and hearing is more important than listening.

I believe in making the bed and rinsing the toothpaste out of the sink and doing the dishes and not leaving clothes in a heap on the floor. But I also believe that if I don't have to look at, smell, or climb over your mess then I'm not going to get worked up about it.

I believe paying taxes is, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "the price we pay for a civilized society."

I believe talking in movie theaters should be against the law.

I believe in cheering for your team at athletic contests.

I believe it's better to be a Mule than a Bobcat or a Polar Bear any day.

I believe in woodstoves and hugging your kids and tipping well.

I believe cruelty is our worst transgression and kindness is our greatest gift.

Mostly, I believe in the power of education; teaching and learning. I believe college matters and I believe in Colby. I believe that pushing the boundaries of what you know and questioning what you believe and stretching your ability to think is essential to realizing your full potential.

And above all else, I believe in the promise of you - Colby students. I believe that you care about Colby and yourselves and each other and your communities and the world. I believe that you are smart and industrious and creative and hard working. I believe you have a sense of responsibility and a sense of humor. I believe you do not fully know the breadth of your own capacity for hard work, for knowledge, for compassion, for discovery. But I am certain you will find it. 

I believe in the promise of you as I have believed in the promise of those who came to Mayflower Hill before you and I will believe in the promise of those who will walk in your footsteps here after you're gone. I believe in the promise of you because I believe in Colby. And more, because I believe in you.

*This piece also appears in the Opinions section of the October 31, 2012 issue of The Colby Echo.

Getting It Right The First Time

Sometimes you don't get a second chance.

Every day we make dozens of decisions without even a flicker of hesitation or a moment's pause to consider the consequences. And let's face it, in most cases the consequences aren't worth pausing to consider. Do you use your Crest Extra-Whitening or your roommate's Colgate Total? Cut through the Lovejoy tunnel or go around? Lunch in Foss or Dana? Butter or cream cheese on your bagel?

But there are also some seemingly routine moments when there is more riding on the hasty decisions we make. Hitting Send on the angry email you wrote to your English professor after getting a "C" on a paper. Punching the gas to get through an intersection as the light is turning red. Embellishing your grade point average during a job interview. Hooking up with someone you just met when you're drunk.

Most of the time things work out. You re-call the angry email or apologize to the professor. You get through the intersection safely. You get a different job where they know your actual GPA. You decide that maybe you're going to just go back to your own room when the party's over. Most of the time the worst doesn't happen.

But not always.

Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes people get hurt. And most of the time when things go bad in those moments for students at Colby alcohol is involved.

You don't have to take my word for it. Take your own.

According to the results of the NESCAC Alcohol Survey that 72% of Colby students completed last spring, 44% of Colby students did something they later regretted last year because they'd been drinking. That's roughly 830 students. Fourteen percent - 250 -  had unprotected sex. Twelve percent - 220 - had an unwanted sexual experience.

My message isn't that alcohol is bad. I'm not saying don't drink. You get to make your own determinations and choices about if and how you are going to drink.

More importantly, sexual assault is never the result of careless behavior regardless of whether or not alcohol is involved. Sexual assault is a violent crime for which perpetrators bear all responsibility. Full stop.

What I'm saying is that more often than not moments of great consequence sneak up on you. They're embedded in what feels ordinary and easy and like no big deal until suddenly it's not.

What I'm saying is that we care about you. What I'm saying is we want you to have fun and enjoy all aspects of your life here. What I'm saying is we want you to be safe. What I'm saying is we want you to care for yourselves and each other in all moments.

Life is going to keep happening. Your days will always be peppered with decisions about toothpaste and condiments and red lights and drinking and love interests. And if you take just a little time to consider what consequences may be right in front of you then your chances of having fun and staying safe go up exponentially.

Set some limits before you start partying.

Look out for your friends and make sure they are looking out for you.

Intervene when you see someone who is heading into a potentially risky situation.

Know about the support services and resources and policies that exist here (see the Student Affairs and College Policies and Procedures pages and related links on the Colby website for details).

Don't ever hesitate to call for help any time you feel unsafe or unsure. We all need help every once in a while. The courageous choice is to ask for it.

Sometimes you don't get a second chance. But most of the time with a little forethought and looking out for yourself and your friends you won't need one.

Jim Terhune
Dean of Students

End of Semester Nutties

Okay, it's the end of the semester and everyone is tired. And stressed. And busy. And cranky.

And all those things at the same time are almost always a recipe for less than good stuff.

You know what I'm talking about, right? Your friends' and suitemates' sort of quirky, sort of annoying habits start grating on you in ways you never imagined possible.

After not picking up or cleaning your room for three months you embark on extensive nightly cleaning and
reorganization sprees to avoid starting any of the three papers that you have due in the next eight days.

You find yourself searching the internet for career opportunities with Cirque du Soleil because, let's face it,
college isn't really that important anyway.

Okay, maybe not the Cirque du Soleil thing.

All kidding aside, it's a hectic and demanding time of year. The tired we all feel is the accumulated fatigue of an entire semester of academic demands and dorm/apartment living and athletic practices and theatrical/musical rehearsals and community service work and organizational meetings, etc. It's a fatigue that's fed also by days that are getting way too short and temperatures that are getting pretty darn (or perhaps a different adjective of your choosing) cold.

And all of this - the work and the tired and the fast approaching winter -  make it a whole lot easier to get kind of irritable and snarky. And being irritable and snarky has a way of leading to, you know, poor judgment when it comes to studying and personal interactions and certain kinds of social decisions.

Hey, look in lots of ways it's okay. You're allowed to be tired and stressed and crabby. It's all part of the human condition.

But it's also good to be aware of it when we're tired and, you know, those other things. And at those times - which is to say these times - it's good to try extra hard to summon our best selves. To be more disciplined and thoughtful in approaching class assignments. To be more mindful about social choices and the potential implications associated with them. To be more deliberate about the ways we take care of ourselves and each other.

The end of the term tends to be all-nighter season. And cram-for-exams-and- push-out-12-page-papers-at-the-last-minute season. And live-off-cold-pizza-and-vending-machine-junk-food season. And there's-no-time-to-go-for-a-run-or-to-the-fitness-center season. But the truth is the end of the term is when getting enough sleep and approaching work in a balanced way and eating right and exercising are even more important than they usually are - and they're pretty important all of the time, right?

Yeah, it's crunch time. There's no getting around it. But it's not time to panic. You've got this. Be good to yourself and to your friends and to the people around you.

Remember too that there are lots of people here (advisors, deans, counselors, campus life and hall staff, etc.) available to help.

Anyway, take care, good luck, and let us know if we can help.


Jim Terhune
Dean of Students

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