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Good students, better vandals

Peter Schroeder | Monday, May 1, 2006

Well, it’s my last column here for The Observer. As such, I’m going to take the opportunity to talk to you about memories, about the time I’ve cherished at Notre Dame and about the simultaneous fear and excitement I face as I enter into the real world. I’m also going to weigh in on the war in Iraq, proper chicken caging technique, abortion, gay marriage, campaign finance reform, tolerance and diversity, the Vagina Monologues and the latest edition of “Jockular.” You know, the one that you think is offensive, but you’re not entirely sure because it looks like it was drawn with a foot?

Just kidding. Actually, I’m going to talk about the library. American Studies majors, you may just want to turn to the horoscopes at this point.

With finals looming overhead like an obese vulture, the prospect of heading to the library becomes more and more of a reality for most students. The harsh buzz of fluorescent lighting, the low chatter of the “study” group next to you and the overwhelming claustrophobia of the study cubicles. It’s enough to drive any student mad. However, for centuries, the bored and frustrated student has found a way to fight back against academic exhaustion: petty vandalism.

Yes, like cave drawings or hieroglyphics, the scratching of a Bic into the wood of a study cubicle has long been a rite of passage for the student desperately trying to avoid any actual work. It provides the writer with some precious moments of thought not devoted to academia, and it also provides future readers with something to stare at that isn’t in a textbook. Everyone who has ever studied in the library has come across some of these vandalism vignettes, but no one has ever actually given them much attention. Until now, that is.

With no regard for my own physical wellbeing, I’ve accumulated over a hundred actual library etchings from the entire first floor and roughly half of the second. I stopped there to keep myself from spiraling into a dark void of madness. And I got hungry. Nonetheless, looking at a large amount of student soliloquies provides a deep insight into the soul of the studier.

For some students, it seems that writing in cubicles serves as an open mic for a budding career as a comedian. Jokesters would pen some knee-slappers like, “Jesus Saves … at Martin’s,” “Catholic Rebel! Eat Meat on Fridays!” and “UND(ies).” After searching the library, it is evident that this nation’s future Jerry Seinfelds, Jon Stewarts and Gallaghers are hard at work writing material on cheap wooden cubicles. Of course, it is important to remember that they are working on material in lieu of studying, so I think it’s also safe to say that no future Nobel laureates are in this group.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing obtained from searching library writings is the hope of past students that we now realize as unfounded and deluded. Things like “Cubs 2003 World Series,” are key examples of this proud hope of a procrastinating student coming to a tragic end. In fact, the high and lows of the football team’s recent past is lived out in study cubicles. Freshmen, just pretend to know what an unsuccessful football team is like, you lucky jerks. “O’Leary – 12/9/01. I was there at the beginning. I was there at the end.” “10-13-02, ND is 6-0 under Ty, now 8-0, 10-3, next year all the way!” “ND Football 2003 – Why are we so bad? Tyrone Losingham.” “12-14-04 ND Football resurrected, Go Coach Weis!” One can only hope that next year we see vandalism like “Brady Quinn – Heisman Trophy,” “Notre Dame – National Champions” and “I’d never seen a man weep and wet himself on national television before. Thanks, Coach Carroll.”

For many, cubicle writing is simply a means of venting. Things like “Finals Suck,” “I Hate Orgo,” “LSATS Bite” and “I Hate Calc” run rampant in the library. Perhaps these students fear that others may believe that they love calculus and other nerd-related fields, and these writings are attempts to allay those suspicions. Consider suspicions allayed.

However, it appears that sometimes intense studying will simply drive a student into madness; I can offer no other explanation for these ones. “Curse you, Red Baron,” “The Batman Lives On,” “I pooped a hammer,” and “My intestines are over 2 miles long.” President Jenkins, please consider easing the workload of the student body; it’s driving them insane. And also apparently making them poop hammers.

While you’re cramming information into your brain at a frantic rate, don’t forget your surroundings. And heck, if no one’s looking, leave a message for future frustrated students, it’s as much a part of our heritage as the Four Horsemen and Rudy. Scratch one for the Gipper.

Peter Schroeder is a senior English major. As for plans after graduation, he is open to suggestions. He can be contacted at pschroed@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer