This week Chris and I were lucky enough to spend some time on the campus of Mississippi State University. We were there to entertain at their Spring Fling, an outdoor event with food, music and all sorts of fun amusements. The students could be painted with henna or a glitter “tattoo,” or have their caricature drawn.
Pop-up tents dotted the lawn, just outside of the stadium, in an area called The Junction. Huge speakers blasted some wonderful Mississippi blues. A cool breeze fluttered the grass.
The kids were having great fun. I loved seeing their broad smiles and sparkling eyes. There was a lot of giggling and furtive whispers as they had their tarot cards read, or their handwriting analyzed. It was so easy to get caught up in the excitement. Their exuberance was irresistible.
College is a time of personal discovery. It may be the first time to really experience a broken heart, or perhaps to break a few. We are supposed to go to college to learn how to think. Not a simple task. Growth can be painful. In a way, it may be a good thing that these kids are far from home, making choices that Mom and Dad would question.
However, a campus ought to be a safe haven for all those missteps and embarrassing experiences. A bad hangover, or an unrequited crush, should be the worst a college student will suffer.
We were at MSU about a week after the shooting death of John Sanderson. He was gunned down just outside of a dormitory room. Our visit also came just two days after One Goh murdered seven people at Oikos University in Oakland, Calif. I suppose the shocking thing is that these horrible murders are not a real surprise. We hear “Columbine,” or “Virginia Tech,” and instantly remember what happened.
I was an art major at The University of New Orleans from 1991 to 1995. The study of art sounds easy, doesn’t it? In the three years before I enrolled, one graduate art student committed suicide each year. While I was there, another art student was murdered by her boyfriend, who then drove around town for a few days with her body in the trunk of his car.
I am not blaming the art professors for the suicides. Nor can I explain what made a love affair suddenly turn hideously violent. College (and high school, as well) is challenging and demanding. The pressure can prove to be too much for a fragile psyche. But it all begs the question, “What would have happened if these people did not have such easy access to weapons?”
I have asked this question before. I asked it when two men were killed in The Elbow Room, and when two local men perished in a confusing late-night confrontation.
Yes, I know that crazed people will always find a way to do harm. But I am sick of hearing that “guns don’t kill people.” Really? Then what does? When was the last time a headline read, “Seven die after a lone fighter punched them”?
I am not against hunting. I am against hunting humans.
I was impressed with those very young MSU students. They had big goals and plans to take them on grand adventures. But it made me sad to think that some of the excitement is muted by fear, and the sense that there could be something ominous lurking on campus. School should be an island of peace in an ocean of real-world problems. It should be a place where exams, and dances, and your GPA are the biggest concerns. Isn’t there a way to make that happen?
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina. Email reaches her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.
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