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December 1, 2005


Mission? Impossible! heading Photo collage by Rick St. Charles.
Above: Photo collage by Rick St. Charles.


When HSU students returned home from their summer break this year, they found to their horror that in their absence and without their approval, Saruman's orcs had built an outrageously hideous, culturally offensive and ludicrously expensive structure at the entrance of their beloved alma mater. Naturally, their first instinct was to tear it down, but since the North Country Fair was approaching and they had to make animal costumes for the All Species Parade, this gesture had to be postponed.

Now that the fair is over, the students are out in force picketing in front of the Gates of Mordor, encouraging passers-by in cars to honk if they are similarly aggrieved, and those on bicycles to ride en masse in the slow lane of Highway 101, occasionally darting into the fast lane to avoid the CHP.

The idea for the gateway was inspired by in independent study that cost $46.3 million and suggested that stagnant campus enrollment at HSU could be stimulated by gussying up the campus' appearance. I can just imagine some high school senior and his parents poring through brochures from dozens of colleges:

DAD: Look, son! Here's a school that's number 1 on the Top 10 list of providing a stellar education in the major of your choice!

MOM: They guarantee you'll get a high-salaried position with a Fortune 500 company within 24 hours of graduation and they're offering you a full four-year scholarship!

SON (excitedly): Forget that! Look at this gateway!!! I'm going here!

There are three reasons students are furious about Rollin's Folly. First, the structure was built without their permission. This is like when your mom comes into your room and cleans it up while you're away at summer camp. There are documented cases of children having apoplectic strokes upon entering their altered-state rooms. Their main fear, of course, is that mom found their stashes of drugs, sex aids or, worst of all, diaries, now known as "journals," with entries such as: "Tried three hits of ecstasy today on top of five shots of tequila and a fat nug, then went midnight skinny-dipping with Bambi and Thumper at Houda Point, where that Great White took a surfer's leg off yesterday. Woke up on the buoy in Shelter Cove."

Second, its Mediterranean-style design resembles California Mission Architecture, which is Culturally Insensitive for Wiyot Indian lands! This is such a politically incorrect faux pas that they may as well have designed it to look like the entrance to Auschwitz or Buchenwald. Ironically, the Encinitas hermitage built as a surprise for Paramahansa Yogananda, where he wrote most of his Autobiography of a Yogi, is the same style! In his ignorance, Paramahansa stated that man's vocabulary was insufficient to express his joy and gratitude upon seeing it for the first time. "Astonishment, delight!" was as close as he could get. Had his disciples (who, in his words, "lovingly plotted" to build the estate) known that it would have mortally offended the Luiseno Indians who used to live there, they might have changed their plans. Instead of building it to look like a Taco Bell, symbol of centuries of oppression, they might have thought "outside the bun," so to speak, and chosen a different style, possibly a "golden arches" motif.

Third, it cost a buttload of money. This at a time when funds are so tight that two custodians are now doing the work of 50, professors are being laid off and classes being taught by people bearing WILL TEACH FOR FOOD signs and students studying by the glow of candlelight reflecting off their bongs. Needless to say, $350,000 would have bought a lot of light bulbs.

But what strikes me as curious is that the gateway looks unfinished because of the two blank mural-like coves on either side. It's as if some deranged decorator came into your house, hung frames with nothing in them, said "Works for me!" and left, handing you a bill for as much as it would cost to build an oil refinery in the Arctic Circle. My guess is that the students, returning like Frodo and his band of hobbits to reclaim the Shire, frightened off the Uruk-hai that were hired to put something in the mural spaces, possibly the severed heads of Student Council members.

So here's my solution: Each year, the student body will nominate and then, through a democratic election overseen by newly trained Iraqi security forces who will ensure that HSU administrators don't get within 200 feet of the polls, vote for two of the world's citizens that they most admire. These nominees could be dead or alive, of any race, creed, nationality or sexual persuasion. Art students under the direction of Duane Flatmo and the Rural Neural Puerile Sterile Feral Squirrel Mural Bureau will then paint these likenesses in the coves. I propose the only stipulations be that in each election, one honored personage will be a woman, one a man; and under no circumstances can it be anyone Bush would nominate for the Supreme Court.

Personally, I'd like to suggest John Cleese (and if we hurry we can get it done before his Feb. 2 gig at CenterArts); and Lucille Ball, not so much for I Love Lucy but because in the midst of our nation's deepest depression, she inspired us to lift ourselves up and carry on with the stirring words, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," which historians credit as the dominant reason she was elected to a precedent-breaking third term as president.

So why two people primarily famous for clowning around and playing the fool? Because I think the most important thing a student can remember when passing though that prestigious gateway into the hallowed hallways of academia is: Don't take yourself too seriously. No, wait, that's not it. It's: He who laughs last, laughs best. Hmm. That doesn't sound right, either. How about: It is sometimes easier to get forgiveness than permission. Yeah, that's it. That's what they're teaching there.


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