Sesquicentennial fatigue is soon to set in

Photograph courtesy of Suzanne Angermeier

Daniel Walker

We, the assembled student body of Ursinus College, are scarcely but one month into the new semester. For some of us, it has moved very quickly; for others, I can imagine it has dragged on with terrible slowness; and for others still, they might not even remember that they are at a college. But there’s one thing that unites us, or at the very least is meant to unite us: the fact that without us – our passions, our tenacity and drive, and our parents’ money – there would be no Ursinus College.

This is a particularly significant year because it marks the 150th anniversary of Ursinus. The school is going all-out to celebrate this particular anniversary, probably because none of the numbers between 100 and 200 sound as impressive as 150. We’ve already seen a handful of events commemorating our sesquicentennial anniversary, and still more are coming down the pike.

I have no doubt that some of the sesquicentennial celebrations, which are planned to occur throughout the remainder of the school year, will be fun and engaging. But on a campus where most of the student body can’t even make it to the first week of December without collapsing into vaguely gelatinous piles of exhaustion and self-doubt, one wonders how the administration plans to milk an entire year’s worth of interest out of the fact that our institution is slightly older than Marcel Proust, Rosa Luxemberg, and the invention of the fireman’s pole.

The obvious answer would be to create events that engage students, that encourage them to explore the history of the campus around them and ponder their place in the grand scheme of it all. But, knowing the school’s predilection for branding and image-conscious attempts at marketability, I am skeptical that the need to create events like this will be met.

I think it’s genuinely cool that the school is doing things like staging a performance-art piece or putting together a fun play about our history, but it’s also very telling that these projects get the green light and Ritter, a building ostensibly meant to serve as the arts and humanities hub of Ursinus, is in such disrepair and dishevelment that it’s become a meme amongst the student body. Our campus is populated with under-paid service workers and debt-riddled students — several of whom happen to moonlight as under-paid service workers.

Ursinus isn’t perfect, and no institute of higher education truly is; but if the powers that be wanted to make Ursinus College’s 150th year the most memorable of its existence, they’d put effort into making the lives of their students the best they could possibly be.