SCRAPS FROM THE EDITOR'S
These are excerpts from a regular column in The Vector an informal,
unofficial, and unheralded publication I edited during my years
teaching at Lock Haven University. In response to overwhelming
demand (a couple of people at least) these are being archived here
for those strange people who enjoy wallowing in nostalgia.
Some of the references to then-current events may be puzzling, but
feel free to skip them, or relate them to more recent events of similar
nature (which can always be found). References to internal politics
at Lock Haven University may be easily transferred to situations at other
academic institutions. A few explanatory comments have been added in
Number 18, Late 1988
Two or three persons having at different times intimated that if I would get out
another issue of The Vector they would read it when they got leisure, I yield at
last to this frenzied public demand, and herewith tender this issue.
BIGGER AND BETTER
You may think we mistakenly sent you the "large print" edition of
Actually all copies are this size, and will be henceforth.
This issue inaugurates a new and larger format. We did not make this change
without due deliberation. The advantage to us is that it saves production steps
and simplifies the "mechanical" work of getting out each issue. The advantage to
readers is that the larger size is easier to read.
The only reason we could think of for sticking with the smaller format was
As soon as we realized that, the decision to change was immediate.
It does have a small disadvantage.
Students will no longer be able to hide The Vector behind their math or physics
books during class.
So, librarians, now is the time to have the previous issues of
The Vector leather
bound for posterity. From now on you'll need a larger size binding.
There's been a general staff shakeup here at Vector Headquarters. In an effort to
provide more diversity and variety in The Vector, your editor has issued a policy
directive to the entire staff, stating that henceforth, and from now on, anyone
conforming to policy directives will be subject to immediate dismissal.
A newspaper item caught my eye last year, about one of my Alma Maters, the
University of Iowa.
Iowa's president publicly apologized to those parents, friends
and relatives who were unable to get into
the auditorium for the spring graduation
ceremonies. Some had come very far to attend,
even from other countries, and
because the auditorium was filled, some had to stay outside.
That's too bad. I'll
bet some of the graduating students would have been happy to give up their
seats, if they had been given the option.
I would have, but back when I got my
B.A. at Iowa we weren't allowed the choiceattendance was mandatory.
Later I learned that with a little creative effort there were ways to get
out of attending the
ceremony, and still receive the diploma.
So, wiser in the ways of evasion, I was
able to skip my M.S. graduation ceremony at Iowa and
my Ph.D. ceremony at
Penn State entirely.
Why have ceremonies survived, even in
academic settings? Ceremonies are a
relic of a more primitive stage of
civilization. Why anyone would want
to attend these ceremonies is beyond
Ceremonies represent a triumph of
illusion over reality, emotion over reason, myth over truth.
I've heard it argued
that ceremonies satisfy a human emotional need to mark
important milestones in
life and to give the individual a feeling of belonging to a community.
But if we
were truly rational beings, we'd feel no such need for
ceremonies or ritual, for
we'd see through them as meaningless shams.
It is, I think, a measure of
education's failure that many college graduates still think that academic
ceremonies are important.
Even worse, some faculty and administrators agree.
If the quality of a school were to be judged by the impressiveness
of its ceremonies, maybe we should
hire David Wolper to stage
some really extravagant
shows. Fireworks might be a
nice touch at commencement, if it were held outdoors
at night. Perhaps the swim
team could put on a water
show while the band plays
Handel's Water Music. You
say this suggestion is inappropriate and absurd? I
agree. But is it any less absurd to think that ceremonial
events have anything to do
with the academic quality of
a school? Is it any less absurd to think that the
success of the football team is a
measure of the worth of a
Some people say that these
symbolic affairs are designed
merely to impress parents
and alumni. They say, for
example, that alumni would
not give financial support to
a school if the school didn't put on a good show on the football field and at
commencement ceremonies. They even suggest that we need such entertainments
to assure continued alumni support.
This argument is lost on me.
If a school grants degrees to people who have such
a shallow commitment to academics, then that school doesn't deserve support.
At a faculty meeting a while back I heard one of our administrators
(whom I will
not name, to protect the guilty) suggest (if I heard correctly)
that we ought to
institute some sort of "mental and physical
test, as a rite of passage" for students
early in their academic program! I could hardly believe my ears.
to me quipped, "Maybe we should tie them down and
tatoo the school emblem on
Are presumably educated people really willing to return to primitive
rituals, even to pale imitations of them? Well, apparently some are.
We still have the problem of fraternity initiations,
an abhorrent type of ceremony
which I think ought to be banned in any shape or form.
But, then, fraternities
and sororities no longer have much to do with the pursuit of higher education.
They have become little more than convenient settings for drinking parties.
Education should develop rational
thinking, the ability to see through
sham and pretense, and the ability to
discern the difference between illusion
and reality, between appearances and
substance. If education were really
doing its job, educated persons would
shun ceremonies, having no need for
such empty rituals.
Of course I am expecting too much of
education. "Education," as it is
dispensed in corrupted form at
educational institutions, does not cure
people of primitive modes of thought,
does not purge childish beliefs in
illusions, myths and fantasies, and
does not really develop good judgment
and rational thought.
Education also does not seem to cure people of the primitive urge to vent their
aggressions physically, by bashing someone, or to watch it being done on the
Please write your
complaint in the box below.
In the office of one of our Deans we
found posted a complaint form very
much like the one shown here.
THE VECTOR, YESTERDAY
A librarian asked for a complete list of Vectors published, to make sure the library
had a complete set. Our original intent was to get out two issues per academic
year, constituting a "volume". But some years got skipped. Volumes 1 through 8
have two issues each, except for volume 3 which has 3 issues. [Update: The
SCRAPS columns from the starred entries are now available at this website.]
- 1,1 December 1976; 1,2 April 1977
- 2,1 January 1978; 2,2 April 1978 *
- 3,1 Dec 1978; 3,2 March 1979, 3,3 April 1979
- 4,1 Nov 1979; 4,2 April 1980
- 5,1 Dec 1980; 5,2 April 1981
- 6,1 Dec 1981; 6,2 April 1982
- 7,1 Jan 1983; 7,2 May 1983 *
- 8,1 June 1986 *; 8,2 Fall 1987 *
- No 18, Late 1988 (mislabeled No. 17) *
- No 19, Dec. 1989 *
- No 20, Fall, 1991 (the last issue actually published) *
- No 21, Scraps of unpublished material we had on hand)
Return to Uncle Don's Notebook Archives
Return to Donald Simanek's front page.