Seniors Say Goodbye

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Thomas Kiphart

After two-and-a-half years of working behind the scenes for the business department here at The University News, I had to jump at the chance to put in my two cents. Nothing I have to say will be too earth shattering, so please don't hold your breath. Keep in mind I'm just the number-cruncher around here (however, I would also like to consider myself an untapped literary asset for the paper). I'll leave the works of written splendor to the rest of the seniors on the editorial board.

Saint Louis University has been very good to me in a number of ways, so I feel I have neither the right nor the reason to deliver any "haymakers" to the administration, or to the school in general, as I depart. However, throughout the last four years of "hanging out," "being sweet" and "frattin'," there is only one group on campus that has sparked the ire of my wandering mind. This organization is the Student Government Association.

This is in no way intended to be an attack on the executive board and senators of SGA. Rather, I am speaking more toward the distinct sense of apathy that can be felt on campus in regard to SGA. While SGA is often the butt of jokes, the senators should be commended for their involvement and representation of our students (although I have a hunch that having the ability to put "Student Government Association senator" on a resume is all the thanks these students are looking for).

However, SGA is perceived on campus as a powerless organization existing only to inflate the egos of those participating. Unfortunately, I am not sure I can argue with that perception. With that said, let me state that I am simply ranting and raving because Saint Louis University will become a better institution when its students truly believe in and care about the association that is supposedly representing their most pressing needs.

Though I realize it is a two-way street, I believe a primary responsibility of SGA senators is to find a way to light a fire under the asses of their constituents. When the senate convenes every Wednesday night at 5 p.m., senators must understand that they are present not only to hear themselves speak, but to also represent the hundreds of students under their jurisdiction.

In my opinion, I would not be satisfied with the job I have done as a senator if I was not convinced that I had done everything in my power to inform, educate and, most importantly, motivate the students whom I represent. Many people believe perception is reality. So, until the majority of students view SGA as a legitimate, useful body, its true influence will be limited outside of the minds of the senators that govern.

So, there you have it. I hope I have not pissed off too many senators. But until we meet again, let me leave you with what is most important: Go Reds, Bengals and Bearcats. What a four years it has been.

Thomas Kiphart is a senior studying finance and international business.

 

Annie Mulligan

"If anyone ever doubts you, hurts you or tries to make you believe you can't do anything you aspire to, you just tell them that there's an old lady back in Nebraska who thinks you're amazing, intelligent and can do anything you dream up, and that that old lady has a gun."

"Do you really have a gun?" I asked, bemused.

"Of course not," she replied.

While it may be an unusual compliment, I think about the time my co-worker said this to me whenever I'm going through a rough time, and can't help but smile.

It's wonderful to have someone believe in you so much, even when it can be hard, at times, to do so yourself.

I have come to the end of my final year as an undergraduate here at Saint Louis University. And senior year-a year that was rumored to be filled with both hope and fear about what will become of us in the future-has lived up to all of the hype.

As I look back on my own four years at SLU-and watch my little sister as she begins her journey as a freshman at Rockhurst University in Kansas City-it's hard for me to believe how fast the time has gone.

While some may gripe about the perceived inadequacies of our education or the University, I will never, ever forget the wonderful experiences that I had as an undergraduate. They have been some of the most memorable, enlightening, life-changing and amazing experiences that I have ever had.

With just a week to go, we seniors don't have much time left to make the most of our experience as undergraduates here at SLU. We've been through a lot together, from moving away from our parents for the first time freshman year to the junior-year crisis, and soon we'll all take the stage together as we receive our diplomas.

Collectively, we've learned volumes about biology, communication, business, English, aerospace engineering and theatre. We've done more than most of us could ever imagine ourselves doing and more than our parents could have hoped for.

But beyond what we have learned from our professors and textbooks, we have learned a great deal about ourselves. We learned to have faith in ourselves when no one else believed in us. We learned to have self-confidence when presenting our own work in front of a classroom of other students and professors. We learned that we should stick to our beliefs, trust in our convictions and to fight for them, while remaining open-minded to the views of others.

The message I'd like to send my fellow seniors is this: Thank you for making this the best four years of my life. Thank you for continually inspiring me, challenging me and for your friendship.

And for those of you who will remain at SLU after this year, always remember where you came from, who you want to become, and that there is someone, somewhere, who believes that you can do anything you dream. No matter how looming or stressful your future may seem, never forget that you are the one who will decide what's best for you. Good luck.

Annie Mulligan is a senior studying communication.

 

Robert Seefeldt

While reading Tom Wolfe's most recent novel, "I am Charlotte Simmons," I often felt a chilling sense of intrusion. Has Wolfe been watching us? Here? At Saint Louis University? Possibly.

Wolfe, now in his mid-70s, is recognized by even the most passive follower as the social critic of our era. For that reason alone, it is significant-to us, at least-that his most recent behemoth work focuses on collegiate life. We live in a time and a country where greater than 60 percent of high school graduates go directly to college. In fact, there are currently more students at universities or some other form of post-secondary school than there are in high schools. We are at the crux of a demographic shift in the United States, placing us in a quickly homogenizing social class that becomes increasingly distinct as the years pass.

Now, before I go any further, I will not be the first or the last to point out that "Simmons" is certainly far from the stuff spun from literary gold. Still, in spite of its flaws, there are these moments that occur every 20 pages or so that any college student could look at and mistake as instances from their own life or the life of someone they know.

There is the fraternity king turgid with machismo-an uber-male that walks into class 10 minutes late and hungover, donning tearaways and a backwards hat. He chooses a major that does not insult his libido, and hopes of one day working in an investment bank-though he's not exactly sure what it is an investment banker does. There are the sterling intellectuals who use superior intelligence to compensate for their perceived social awkwardness. There is the superstar basketball player who, in spite of his celebrity, feels jaded as the only white starter on the team. Finally, there is Charlotte Simmons, a naîve genius who can practically recite Madame Bovary in its native French, but lacks any of the life experience that Flaubert writes of. She is a "good girl," a virgin at multiple levels of implication, who struggles between intellectualism and the hard-frattin' lifestyle to find a composite of experience that represents life.

To be sure, none of these characters could possibly exist exactly as Wolfe presents them; but the scary thing for me was, in retrospect, I can see a bit of myself in any of them during various points of my time at SLU. Many of you likely feel the same. We, as college students, and human beings, for that matter, are naturally insecure. We compensate for our insecurities with our strengths, until some level of comfort can be reached. Every four years or so, the process begins anew.

Clearly, Wolfe has never been a purveyor of joyous personal affirmations. Yet, through "Simmons"' 800 pages, there is much he manages not to mention. It seems to me, college students, after spending four years as one, desire most of all to better themselves-and, if unselfish, the people around them. With the danger of sounding wholly unremarkable, I'll leave it at that.

It's true, and this is a fact Wolfe pushes to the background in the face of the debauchery and sin his novel dwells upon at great length. We may be the products of a quickly homogenizing group, but we're going to have college degrees, dammit! Considering that, I would say, though Wolfe may disagree, this is a fairly high watermark in the history of homogeny. And for me, SLU will always be a high watermark of my life. "Simmons" is something to think about, but college is something not to be forgotten.

Robert Seefeldt is a senior studying accounting.

 

Joe Palazzolo

Before I jump ship, I want to thank Saint Louis University for having me even after a professor at my former school told me that my "academic performance [was] deficient in every measurable aspect." He was a crusty old curmudgeon, this professor, and I'm sure he's dead now, but perhaps that's merely me being hopeful.

Deficiencies be damned, I transferred to SLU as a junior. Sure, I'd have appreciated a few more pennies thrown my way here and there, a gracious nod to my toils, but, broadly speaking, SLU did right by me.

I ferreted out the best professors (and found one in particular, whose prodigious knowledge, amiable soul, unremitting generosity and love for language have paralyzed the grey folds of my brain with wonder), the best courses that my major afforded and a host of benevolent and exceptional students, without whom this University would surely founder.

If not for a certain DPS officer of indeterminable age, squiggling along the general parking lots in his cart, issuing $25 tickets with morbid cheer, I'd say my stay here was priceless.

Okay, the $75 graduation fee was gauche, and the opacity of the administration, as with other private schools, renders the idea of shared governance a hollow thing, but my loans are already processed and my walking papers are presently being drafted. Besides, the pay rate of my anticipated profession will leave little room for discretionary spending, at least for the next two or three decades. But I'll pay my dues eventually. I promise.

For all the guff that we toss at the money handlers, they're a decent bunch. But never cease firing; complacency breeds neglect, or something.

Some students think that SLU is fragmented and inhospitable to the brand of pride that cements students at other universities. My tenure at SLU hasn't seen astounding success in the arena of sports, but we've had our moments. Student organizations-and the Greek system-pump more blood into this University with each passing year-and their success is usually commensurate with the quality of leadership exhibited within each group's executive board. Props, student leaders.

And the University is growing, too. Enrollment numbers are creeping higher and higher. I only hope that the University pursues promising faculty with a similar appetite in years to come.

That said, I think I'll finish with a story.

Padding along the Quad one night, I saw a guy peeing on the Billiken statue. A steaming arc of urine painted the awkward little thing across its midriff. I strode up behind the guy and asked him why he was soiling our mascot, to which he replied coolly: "It's good luck." He finished, unperturbed by my presence, and stumbled away. Not 24 hours later, I watched as an unwitting prospective student stroked the pee-coated Billiken's belly affectionately for "good luck."

The implied moral of this story is at once heartening and damning: Stop pissing on the Billiken, folks, and he'll stop pissing on you.

With that, I take my leave.

Joe Palazzolo is a senior studying communication.

 

Andy Leonatti

Four years. Jeez! If my wildest dreams come true, I won't see any of you again.

I kid. In my time at Saint Louis University, I have lived what has seemed like 100 lifetimes, more bad than good, but all the same, experiences that have turned me into what you see before you-a lanky, lazy curmudgeon who will be spending the next 12 months doing intensive training for a field which will net me exactly negative $1,000,000. But I'm also totally sweet, for the first time-loving life.

Four years ago, I was a lanky, lazy curmudgeon who lived inside a shell as thick as Bob Dylan's perineum is dark and treacherous. Seriously, whenever I went to class, I would turn up my headphones as loud as possible just to avoid starting a conversation with someone, not because I didn't like them, but because I didn't want to give anyone any reason to hate me. I was perfectly content in my sphere of neutrality, so I became that nervous guy that motored around campus with his head between his shoulderblades.

At first, I blamed it on the fact that I came to a college with an enrollment twice the population of my hometown. Idiot. Then, I tried to blame it on all of you-you rich, uppity spoiled kids who have never had to work a day in your life. Asshole. Finally-and it took about three years-I had to change myself.

So here's the lesson for you people who find yourself in the same boat that I did. Lighten the f– up, all of you, before it's too late.

If you're too scared to say hi to someone again because you don't want to jeopardize that 30-second conversation you had with them during Oriflamme, you're going to find yourself in your room, alone, a lot. If you can't be friends with that hippie down the hall because he makes a disparaging comment about your political party or religion, you are destined to wallow in a sea of mediocrity.

Now, I'm not saying party your ass off all the time; I still think that attending school at a place like SLU is a privilege not to be drunken away. And you can't do that if you don't get out there and make yourself known. Join clubs.

The most fun I've ever had at SLU has been during my three semesters with the U. News. GO TO CLASS. Engage your professors, and you'll be able to work them over more easily than Ed Vedder writes the most mind-blowing songs in the history of the entire universe. And for God's sakes-ask that girl out. Trust me on this one.

So, as I go out with a bang-and not a whimper-there are numerous people I would like to thank. Fr. Seibert, you re-kindled my flame for writing that was quickly dying. Dr. Meyer, you may not know this, but you've been my mentor. Dr. Cohen, thanks for placating the Nader voter in your class and helping me voice my opinion. Dr. Goldman, thanks for that sweet couch every Tuesday morning.

Joe, for being my "husband." Ivers, for eggs, beer and showing the dangers of procrastination. Heather, for being a friend no matter what. Mike and Dude, for offensive humor; and Claire, for helping me finish this deranged, ludicrous and insanely sweet journey to the edge and back.

So, look for my sweet byline in The New York Times years from now and be jealous. And then laugh when you realize you have made millions of dollars more, aren't a stressed-out alcoholic, and don't think you're cool because you correct everyone's grammar.

Andy Leonatti is a senior studying communication.

 

Jack Smedile

This generation of America, our generation, has a rendezvous with destiny. In our brief stint on this Earth we've had things thrown at us that other generations can't even imagine, though I'm sure they each overcame similar struggles in their own right. But we saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War and Cher's second successful comeback tour. We lived through the mind-boggling Billboard chart-topping hits of "Breakfast at Tiffany's,""Hook" and "Tubthumping," about which the rest of the country rightly asked "what the…?" We saw Michael Jordan play, retire, play, retire, play and finally retire again. Heck, Mike Tyson bit a man's ear off and threatened to eat another man's children.

And our college experience was no less heinous than that of our adolescent and pre-adolescent years.

Looking back over these past four years, it's amazing to see all the stuff that happened when we weren't looking.

In the second week of school we were greeted by an atrocity that defined our generation: Sept. 11. With just two weeks left we were introduced to Pope Benedict XVI. What a way to bookend a college experience.

In between, we heard about "Stacy's Mom" and Tim McGraw's dad. We took diet tips from sunbathers from Miami beach and from an out-of-shape doctor named Atkins, whose death we mourned, even though he told us that "bread is bad and red meat is good." We saw our brothers and friends go to war. We saw the first democratic elections in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iraq. We even saw Libya give up their nuclear program. We saw the death of Ronald Reagan, perhaps the most influential person of the last 50 years, save that of Pope John Paul II, who we also just laid to rest.

We bought iPods and laptops and cellular phones. We saw the death of Enron and WorldCom and the fallout of the "dotcom bubble burst."

We saw Britney break up with Justin, J.Lo break up with Ben and Paris get down on a home video. We said goodbye to our "Friends" and to "Sex and the City."

Ironically, we saw the Sword of Loyola given to a pacifist, and we saw a former President, Jimmy Carter, win a Nobel Peace Prize in one instant, and then turn around and travel to Venezuela to certify the wrong winner of a Presidential election. We became a generation defined by AOL Instant Messenger, Thefacebook, cable modems and DSL. We even saw Jose Canseco publish a best-selling book.

We saw Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather retire, even though we never watched them anyway.

We saw the Boston Red Sox win their first World Series trophy in 85 years and, for the first time in a long time, we didn't see the New York Yankees win one.

We saw the rise of right-wing ideals materialize in our collegiate ranks as we started to pay attention again to the politics of our country.

We heard about Scott Peterson killing his wife and unborn son, and Michael Jackson molesting yet another kid, but we were numb to it all anyway.

We forgot how to write letters, how to call home every now and then just to let our parents know we were still alive and, also, how to take things seriously. We started constantly using sarcasm as a defense mechanism, and we became cynics in that we saw things as they are, not as they ought to be, and that fact alone didn't bother us.

But we also found things to be passionate about, found people we cared about and found problems we could do something about.

We went from being naîve to being romantics. We put up with partisan politics, the death of objective media, rising gas prices and the falling dollar, and we came out better because of it.

In short, somewhere between the time we met our freshman year roommate and the time we took our first real job, we grew up. And 20 years from now, long after we've forgotten the names of the friends we swore we'd never forget, we will be able to look back on our college experience and not only wonder how it is we got through it, but also see that the stuff we put up with these past four years either made us stronger or didn't really matter in the first place.

We are a generation filled with people full of themselves, which isn't such a bad thing, it turns out, because we are ready to take on the world. We are growing older, and more impatient, by the minute. Twenty years from now someone from our generation will surely have cured cancer, someone will have visited Mars and someone will have written a work of literature that will transcend time, as Shakespeare and Homer did.

We most surely are a generation with a rendezvous with destiny, and over the past four years I think we have done a fine job of getting prepared for that meeting. I simply can't wait for what the next 20 years have in store.