My mother, like most good Jewish mothers, is a master at the rare art of the newspaper clip-and-send. Now, this is not as easy as it sounds. It takes years of practice to properly master this tradition, which has now been passed down from mother to daughter for generations of scissor-bearing, paper-cutting women. And, while this tradition is not limited only to Jewish mothers, in my experience, Jewish mothers tend to be especially adept at inspiring equal parts productivity and guilt via the random mailing of a newspaper clipping from last week’s Times. You see, these clippings are rarely as benign as mere funny comics or that other great clipping realm of Jewish mothers — the coupon. No, the clippings my mother sends me are largely of the “you-should-look-into-this-opportunity/job/event/something-else-to-fill-your-already-full-to-the-brim-time-with” variety.
That’s why, when I recently received an envelope — thick with the telltale bulge of a newspaper clipping and covered in my mother’s unique combination of script and hurried scribbling — bearing my parents’ return address, I opened it with that special combination of dread and excitement that only years of receiving similar “gifts” from my mother and grandmother could inspire. This time, however, things were different. This time, I hit on the holy grail of maternal clippings material — that rare and amazing gem of an article that, rather than tout the benefits of something else that would require me to waste some of my precious few sleeping hours researching, actually made me feel better about my life. It was like praise, validation, and motherly pride all rolled up in a big bundle of newsprint.
This article, clipped from the Wall Street Journal‘s Weekend Journal Edition from November 10, was titled “Beyond Berkeley,” and it focused on how increasing numbers of college applicants are choosing increasingly selective state schools rather than the more expensive private universities they would have attended in the past. And right there, mixed in with the Bulldogs of the University of Georgia, the Fighting Gamecocks of the University of South Carolina, and Bucky the Badger up in Wisconsin, was our very own UCSB. With a picture of Storke Tower, majestic against a perfect blue sky and some perfect student bodies parading around in shorts, UCSB was literally sitting pretty in the WSJ‘s list of the “Up and Comers: Eight schools that are raising the bar.”
The little box dedicated to UCSB touted our average applicant’s GPA — 3.98 in 2006 to be exact — our relatively reasonable out-of-state tuition, and the more than $400 million the school is currently pouring into construction on campus. Plus, they mentioned the fact that five UCSB faculty members have won Nobel prizes in the past eight years. Pretty impressive overall, and who knew all that obnoxious construction noise and all those inconvenient detours would pay off with a mention in a prestigious newspaper? And guess what they didn’t mention? Nowhere in the article was a single comment about the UCSB party scene, a condemnation of our Halloween celebration, or a derisive remark about our proximity to the beach and proclivity for the sun-and-surf lifestyle. In fact, the mention of UCSB in the article — although small — was one of the most positive pieces of press I’ve seen about our school, other than the stuff the school puts out itself. Thanks Mom.
And, while we’re on the subject of school pride … guess who got to see Jon Stewart live in his only West Coast appearance at their very own Thunderdome? UCSB students. Granted, the packed — and I mean packed, I haven’t seen the Thunderdome that full in my entire UCSB career — audience had its fair share of out-of-towners, older local residents, and City College kids. But, for the most part, the Gaucho pride was out in all of its glory on Saturday night, as Stewart spoke to a resounding Thunderdome stomp that echoed through the cavernous building every time he made a good point or a great joke. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen or felt more Gaucho pride coursing through that place — and my own veins — since I started as a wide-eyed freshman three years ago. And, damn did we have good reason to stomp.
Forget being able to study buzzed, mastering the art of casual sex and beer, and all the other lovely acronyms people have attached to UCSB in the past few years. This weekend, thanks to Jon Stewart, the WSJ, and the slowly but surely shifting tide of people’s perceptions of UCSB, I finally felt like I was attending the University of California at Santa Barbara — a place where the partying is as hard as the studying, the sun is almost always shining, and the students have real reasons to be proud of what goes on both on and off campus at one of the eight best up-and-coming universities in the nation. Being a devout liberal and coming off of an “I just saw Jon Stewart” high, I never thought I’d say this, but here it goes — amen, Wall Street Journal, amen.