Etchings in the Sand…

Thoughts and Photos from the Desert…


Duke University is getting bad press these days. Its lacrosse team had a very bad party during which a stripper was attacked and gang raped. You read the story, I'm sure. This type of thing seems increasingly frequent on the university and even service academy scene.

Attention has turned now to discussions of the bad town – gown relations in the Durham community.

When I was a student at Vanderbilt, we raised a lot of cain, but nothing like this. I have always considered myself a liberal fellow but sometimes these days identify with Archie Bunker singing "Those were the good old days."





It isn't just Duke.

For the past several years we have spent a few months during the summer just off the campus of Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. This is a beautiful campus, with high scholastic standing and obviously privileged students. Classy place.

These kids drive fancy new cars that cost more than their annual tuition, which is monumental, to say the least. They have a lively social life which often goes well into the night and is probably similar to that of Duke students (see above NYT article.) I would venture a guess that this is the pattern in many, maybe even most colleges and universities across the country.

Student relationships with the adult community can become, as you might expect, tense in San Luis Obispo. But I write specifically about student contact with senior citizens.

Our apartment complex sits right in the heart of student housing. We have 24 dedicated senior citizen apartments. Kids are not with but all around us. We are grandparent types, living for a brief summer period on their turf.

There is no apparent hostility – or affection – between the two generation groups. There is, in fact, no relationship at all. Any personal contact is pretty much avoided. They don't quite know what to make of us. Or we of them.

On occasion I have approached and chatted with students. Things went well, especially if I happened to be walking my two dogs. But underlying it all there seemed a distance and a suspicion that these people don't belong to our world.

I suspect this is increasingly true in many places. If it is, we may have a serious problem. Grandparents are a treasured resource for college students. Or should be. College students are a treasured resource to everyone. Or should be.

Something is missing here.

Comments, anyone?


4 responses to “Duke

  1. bo March 31, 2006 at 10:38 pm

    Having been a part of a family with Asian roots (Daniel’s mother), I see a huge difference in family philosopy between anglos and asians. Like our family, we all live all over the country, stay in touch, kinda, and all is well. I don’t see any of us kids moving in with you and mom, but in the Philipines, this would be normal. Andy will be spending next year in warm climes on the east coast so as to minimize communication (read: time zone) difficulties between the family. However, if his health becomes more fragile, I would prefer that he stay with us here, despite time zone challenges. Now, THAT’S family values!

  2. citrus March 31, 2006 at 10:49 pm

    Yes. My subject was the grandparent/grandchild distance. I read an article recently about students moving back in or remaining with parents after graduation. I have no doubt that this would differ in frequency and satisfaction along socio-economic, racial and even geographical lines. As you make clear, family values are broadly different between different cultures.

  3. PB April 1, 2006 at 2:25 am

    Again, I don’t know if this is any new phenomenon. When I was growing up, I had little to no relationship with either set of my grandparents; no animosity certainly, just not much there in terms of relationship. I loved what little opportunities we had to see them, especially drinking 8oz Coca Colas at Park Lake and seeing a bidet for the first time at Pappy’s house in Sequim and wondering what the hell it was, but the time spent with them were so few and infrequent. They made little effort to see or communicate with us, and vice versa. Just like anything else, you get out of something what you put into it. In this case with the grandparent being the adult in the equation, the nurturing of the grandparent/grandchild relationship probably needs to start with the grandparent, and at an early age with regards to the grandchildren, because then the seeds of a lifelong relationship can be planted. Harder to start that relationship when one reaches college.

  4. citrus April 1, 2006 at 4:25 am

    Uh, guys… I’m talking a generational distance here. Not a family thing. Though the family aspect is more than a little related. In the good old 70’s we used to use the phrase “generation gap.” We were talking one generation then. I am now talking two. Out here in geezerdom, people keep saying, “we’re going to see the Grandkids!” I roll my eyes and wonder what happened to the interim generation. The “grown children” as they are called. It’s crazy. No wonder each generation seems to prefer its own company to those who went before. Which, of course, is my point.

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