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Wednesday, August 9, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 166 

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About the Cougar
 

Columnist gets wistful as academic career ends

Steve Forsberg

As hard as it is to believe, the summer is almost over. The thermometer may not show it yet, but any day now we will be blessed with nice weather. And as the seasons roll on, so does life here at UH. One class graduates and another enters in an endless procession of either progress or futility.

My tenure as a resident professional student is almost over. Provided that my paperwork does not get lost, I'm told I'll be mailed a diploma within six to eight weeks. To heck with a graduation ceremony -- I just want it entered on my official transcript so that I can get a job not requiring a hair net. Actually, I already have a job lined up with the only employer in the nation that still values a liberal arts education: the federal government. I guess that is just further evidence of how backward the government is.

Having been a columnist for several years at various college newspapers, I've noted that you can never quite get around to writing about all the things you'd like to. For various reasons, there are stories that will just have to wait for someone else to tell them, if they ever get told.

Integration at UH, for example. I have visions of the Cullen family barring the door to registration and sweater-clad youths carrying signs like "Cougar Red forever, Black never." Hard information, however, is apparently hard to come by. Searching through various University records, I found nary a mention of the subject -- though pictures taken in the '40s and '50s showed a lily-white campus. While looking into it, however, I did stumble across the "Red Scare" material and how UH was a commie bastion back in the early '50s.

Faculty and staff stories are always problematic. Basically, the administration does not want anyone to know very much about its affairs. So, even though you can look up your professor's salary in the campus budget, getting a copy of an actual contract can be a chore. This is of primary importance for coaching jobs. You can find a "line item" base salary figure -- but apparently information on incentives, sponsorships and other things are closely guarded secrets. Let's just say that recent coaching changes made that particular research moot.

Still, athletic departments are powers unto themselves, and writing about them seriously is the fastest way to get into trouble. If you want to rehash the drivel they hand out in public material, people line up to talk to you (even if you work for a meager college paper). Just ask about a felony, however, and see how they like you.

It is even worse in the "real" world. Most major papers, the Houston Chronicle included, are little more than free advertisements for big league sports. God forbid they should report something that endangers one of our beloved franchises.

The first rule of journalism is "reinforce the preconceptions of your readers." When it works, people love and laud you. That is one reason I would never consider myself a journalist. I'm enough of a heretic to state that, in 90 percent of the cases of student complaints against professors, the students are the ones more at fault. Yes, you (or your parents) are paying to come here to UH. That does not mean that you are guaranteed an "A" or daily spoon-feeding. (Talk about begging for hate mail.)

So, as I was writing before I wandered off, for everything there is a season (turn, turn, turn), and the season is about to change. Here's hoping that everyone is headed for better times.

Forsberg, a senior history major, 
can be reached at sjforsbe@bayou.uh.edu.

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