THROUGH A TOWNIE’S LENS
By Jock Lauterer
Ask any college town “townie” what’s their favorite time of year — and many are likely to say, now.
From Athens, GA, to Lawrence, KS; to State College, PA, to Chapel Hill-Carrboro, the start of the fall semester brings with it a wave of youthful energy, intellectual ferment and much-needed financial salvation.
This photo, taken years ago after a severe summer drought, captures all that freshie energy of a sun-splashed early morning outside the planetarium on FDOC (in student parlance, “First Day Of Classes), which occurs here on Monday, Aug. 10.
There he goes — off to his 8 o’clock class on the first day of the new academic year. Though I don’t know the bright lad with the jaunty step, it’s easy to imagine him an enthusiastic freshman, having left family and high school days behind, stepping out boldly into his new life in college.
But this fall, a year like no other, it’s all different. As my friend and colleague Eric Johnson says, writing in the latest UNC Alumni Review: “Nobody can tell you exactly what college is going to be like in the fall … the coronavirus has forced a series of high-stakes bets by students, parents and college leaders who are all eager to get back to some form of normal, even though normal isn’t an option.”
And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the recent video that has surfaced of a pre-rush sorority house party, in which a gaggle of collegiates, completely ignoring distancing and masking protocols, are witnessed having a grand old time. This is most alarming. Imagine how this all plays out when the rest of the 20K kids hit town ready to party hearty.
That’s where the CCC could help.
No, not the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Great Depression — this is the Civilian COVID Corps, a legion of retirees armed with smart phones and sharp tongues who would patrol town and gown on the lookout for aberrant pandemic behavior in need of some serious shaming.
After 30-plus years of teaching, I can do a pretty convincing impression of an irascible curmudgeon. And I bet I’m not alone. We old poops on patrol would whip those young whippersnappers back in line in short order.
What say, Chancellor Kev? Shall I call in the CCC?
Jock Lauterer began selling newspapers for Jim Shumaker and Roland Giduz on the streets of Chapel Hill at the age of 8. For the last 20 years, he has served as a senior lecturer and adjunct professor at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, teaching photojournalism and community journalism.