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  • The Importance of Being Miserable

    Posted by Jay Manifold on November 25th, 2005 (All posts by )

    Right, that’s enough thankfulness for this year. UofC College and B-school alum Bill Roule sends this story and comments:

    This younger generation certainly lacks the guts we had. When we went to Chicago, we knew we were going to be miserable. We wanted to be miserable. We were proud we were miserable. Where is the sense of accomplishment if the task is easy? Seeing how the family can raise $1M in bond, I have my doubts that anyone there can explain this to her.

    They’re wimps, all right. Notice this paragraph in the story:

    None of the fires did serious damage. But after a fire was set in Swift Hall on Monday morning, and in three adjacent buildings on the following day, a number of the 12,000 students on campus had felt unsettled, said university spokesman Larry Arbeiter.

    “Unsettled”? Unsettled?! They should have felt: 1) mildly interested in her technique; 2) amused by the prospect of retelling the story back home to horrified family and friends; 3) numb from finishing two papers and a physics problem set the previous night; or perhaps 4) nothing at all due to having seen no direct sunlight in several weeks. Not “unsettled.”
    Pussies. ;^)

     

    12 Responses to “The Importance of Being Miserable”

    1. Lex Says:

      That is a classic U of C story. Some nutjob takes 11 years to graduate, than cannot move on. Hers is an extreme case, of course. But actual psychotic conduct is fairly commonly encountered on the glorious quads of our beloved Alma Mater, but is usually more of the skulking, leering, stalking or snivelling variety. The truly U of C spin on this though is the weak-wristed ineptitude of the attempts. U of C people cannot even make a decent molotov cocktail without over-intellectualizing it. She didn’t really, really want to wreak havoc, she just wanted to be paid attention to. She can explain it all to the prison chaplain. Ha.

    2. James R. Rummel Says:

      Good post, Jay.

      James

    3. Ginny Says:

      Probably all of you are too young to remember 1968 – where students sat in the hallway chanting all day & I’d go home with headaches, where they found Flacks covered in blood (he looked at me, gulping my sandwich, with a glazed look as they carried him off the elevator). I actually had the feeling by the summer of 69 that those green squares and fake gothic buildings were the saddest place on earth. But that was mostly just me and not them – as all your fond memories show.

      What strikes me about this story is the police & reporter seem to be recording her remarks as if, well, as if these had anything to do with reality. Is this political correctness, fly on the wall reporting, or what? Surely they don’t consider her complaints as part of the dialogue here? Maybe Rummel can explain.

      Groszko said she had been under a lot of stress because her degree had not translated into a job and she believed she had worked too hard at the school, said Detective Kevin Flanigan. [Employment screening actually seems to have worked in this case.]”She was having a rough time getting through,” Flanigan said. “She actually did end up graduating… Maybe after she graduated she realized that maybe she shouldn’t have had as rough of a time as she did and she took it out on somebody.”

      Chicago was crazy to take her back (another person who was given every extension in the world ended up shooting the people who had made those exceptions in another college shooting a year or two ago.)

      What kind of institutions do you think housed her in those long years between admission & graduation

    4. Jonathan Says:

      My last quarter as an undergrad I shared an apartment with three other students. When I moved in they all seemed OK, though one of them came across as a bit strange. Over time it became clear that the apparently strange one was a normal and decent guy, while the other two, who were grad students, had severe behavioral problems and were leading marginal lives full of troubles and desperation. The University, at the time, and maybe still if the current story is an indication, was the kind of place where you could get lost if you weren’t focused or if you had personal problems. This was particularly true for grad students, and there were numerous anecdotes about people leading bleak lives while they nominally worked on their dissertations for eight or ten years or until they gave up.

      The flip side of all this is that if you were a smart and ambitious undergraduate you could get access to senior faculty and the sky was the limit. But students who needed more help and direction were sometimes left to twist in the wind. I don’t know how things are now.

    5. ed in texas Says:

      What’s the deal, anyway? She was just trying to combine a psych major with a physics minor and ended up with arson. Worked in global warming, too. (If ever there was a major psych, she’s it.)

    6. James R. Rummel Says:

      Probably all of you are too young to remember 1968…

      I was 4 at the time.

      …they found Flacks covered in blood…

      I had nothing to do with it! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

      Surely they don’t consider her complaints as part of the dialogue here? Maybe Rummel can explain.

      I once asked a professor why people who followed his profession spent so much time obsessing over university politics. He said that they have to spend the majority of their time talking to kids that just moved out of their mommy’s basements. The lack of adult dialogue drives them mad.

      My impressions of college as a workplace is that it’s an artificial environment, a hamster wheel that has little to do with the real world. This is necessary for a place of learning, but it also means that some people immersed in that place forget what the real world is like.

      But you should take my comments with a grain of salt. Sometimes I rub academics the wrong way.

      James

    7. Enoch Says:

      There is a time, in the life of some students, whether prior to or soon after graduation, contemplation of degree requirements, for all it may or may not have been worth instill, dyspeptic, doubt. In this case, evidently, the poor woman saw fit to broadcast her angst by torching the very environs of her misery. If she’d been graduated with a degree in the creative arts would we have seen a university wall spray painted with blasphemic images and slogans? Grant her kudos for academic achievement; record societal condemnation for her negative industry.

    8. Robert Schwartz Says:

      “Probably all of you are too young to remember 1968 – where students sat in the hallway chanting all day & I’d go home with headaches,”

      I was there 65 to 70. Although, in all honesty memory is a bit hazy.

      “where they found Flacks covered in blood (he looked at me, gulping my sandwich, with a glazed look as they carried him off the elevator).”

      Wasn’t he a sociology prof, tall, balding, thick glasses. Did he get beat up? by whom?

      “I actually had the feeling by the summer of 69 that those green squares and fake gothic buildings were the saddest place on earth. But that was mostly just me and not them – as all your fond memories show.”

      No, it was a sad place, a sad time, and I was not up to it. The fondnes is for lost youth.

    9. Ginny Says:

      Yeah, Flacks started SDS. Some guy turned on him with a machete knife. It was not attractive. Yeah, he was holding the glasses, I think. Rumors were it was some right-wing nut. I don’t know, I left a few months later. I do remember they put off deciding if he was going to get tenure until he got out of the hospital and then he didn’t get it. But the demonstrations were mostly over some woman (Dixon? something like that) as well as, well, all the things people demonstrated about in 1968, the war and life and stuff.

      My year at UC was on a different level then the rest of you; there was no way a school like that would have accepted me for grad school. I was a hick even by Nebraska standards and after losing my scholarship my first year I went on to make a series of stupid choices in work (there were the nine months full-time at the mental hospital & scho pro) and men. Besides I’d just walked out in the middle of my second grad semester after a blowup with my boyfriend.

      Having worked at the library in Lincoln, the first place I applied for a job in Chicago was the nearest library. That was probably an okay idea but I did a lot of stupider things (and stupider the next year when I packed up to hitchhike through Europe). And everything seemed so bleak.

      By the way, I threw this out before and no one bit so I figured no one was around those years, but if you were, do you remember the Clark? (I think that was the name?) About a block from Civic Center plaza? That was my escape that year; I loved it – double bills, changed daily. Incredibly cheap. It introduced me to all the great directors, surrounded by people who saw it as one great flophouse.

    10. Jay Manifold Says:

      You got all serious on me. ;^)

      The readmitted-student-who’s-crazy is practically an archetype at Chicago — I recall a story told me back in ’88 by a guy who’d just graduated, of a female grad student who’d supposedly been accepted while in a mental institution and had returned to Hyde Park, where she somehow functioned but was visibly quite nutty.

      The sadness Ginny speaks of may have peaked in the late ’60s; it is my understanding that the decision to deal with the Admin bldg takeover in ’69 by doing nothing was pure psychological warfare. Just let the kids sit there until they gave up, which of course they did after a couple of weeks, whereupon every one of them, plus anyone observed assisting them in any way, was expelled. Not that I symphathize with what they were promoting, to the extent that it was at all coherent. But it all seems a very Chicagoan approach: grind them down with sheer hopelessness.

      I was at the University in the late ’70s. I can tell you that it was a pretty sad place then, too, and for me the misery was as much a matter of struggling in a place where I had expected to thrive as it was anything to do with the workload, however staggering. I’ve had episodes of misery since, but none of them have had anything like the quality of my years in Hyde Park. And I made a whole bunch of mistakes, then and later, but everyone I’ve ever spoken to about the University of Chicago experience, whether they graduated or not, gets the same look on their face and remembers the same feelings. If my parents had had the slightest idea of what was going on, they’d have been terrified, so thank God they didn’t.

    11. Jonathan Says:

      A then-friend of mine said: There is no joy in this place. He sure had it pegged. It was a great university but it wasn’t for everyone. Both the City of Chicago and the U of C always struck me as places that made life bleaker than it needed to be.

    12. Anjali Says:

      Why couldn’t something that interesting happen while I was there? All we got was a few power outages and the usual spate of suicides.