Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Center for Push-ups and Chaucer at PSU

As I walked to a meeting at Portland State University this morning I passed one of Portland’s many big-hole, tall-crane construction sites.

I thought the sign on the site read, “Academic Student Recreation Center.”

The name gave me pause. “Academic student”?

What, pray tell, other kinds of students are there at PSU? Non-academic? Are they going to ban blue-collar vocational students from the new center?

I wondered as I ambled on whether an “academic student” was cut from the same rhetorical cloth as the “scholar athlete.” The latter term (reverently intoned by baritone sportscasters) suggests that all athletes are scholars (not mere students, mind). “Scholar Athlete” is a title worthy of undergraduate and alumni idolatry — and future product endorsements.

“Academic students” are really, really serious, I concluded. Not like those low-life, non-academic students who go elsewhere.

I’d like to think that PSU is secure enough with its admissions policy that it could refer to its students as, well, students. So why not just a plain, brown wrapper “Student Recreation Center”?

The name bothered me all the way home to my computer where I promptly searched “academic student recreation center.” I got only one hit, in the minutes from the May 4, 2007 Washington State University Board of Regents meeting.

What happens in Pullman stays in Pullman.

So I modified (as they say) my search and discovered that the name of the nascent PSU building is the “Academic and Student Recreation Center,” which is mildly less puzzling than “Academic Student Recreation Center.”

Questions remain.

Perhaps there are academic students out there who can explain what “academic recreation” is. Or does the name indicate that the center will be a place where academics and recreation take place under the same $71 million roof (yes, that’s the cost)?

Collegiate multi-tasking will have a new home on campus. Yes, you can do your Chaucer assignment and push-ups at the same time.

Or perhaps "academic recreation" is the logical consequence of the trend to make education a joyous romp, worthy competition for Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show.



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