All those years of hard work have finally paid off. Graduation is here, and it’s time to get the heck out before those student loan payments begin to ruin the celebration.
But perhaps a little bit of reflection is in order. After all, this campus has changed dramatically since this week’s graduates first walked onto campus back in 1999, 2000 and 2001. So much change has happened in fact, that it’s necessary to take a walk down memory lane, and see what things were like before a president named George Bush led us through a flailing economy and a war in Iraq … again.
In terms of physical buildings, this campus has changed a lot in the past four to six years. The prospect of a fully-functioning parking structure probably seemed like a fleeting dream for many students in 2000, but just last year, the Lot B5 parking structure was finally finished. (Better yet, the massive Lot B3 parking structure is schedule to be finished sometime this summer.)
The current state of the University Student Union is a far cry from what it was like in, say, Fall 2000. Now, the USU sports a fashionable giant hole in the ground because the entire facility is undergoing Phase II of an expansive construction plan. But back in the day, the ridiculous hole in the ground called “the Court of Community” was an intentional part of the finished USU structure, and the closest thing to a “retail outlet” the building had was a hot and sticky Subway that always had a line out the door right at lunchtime.
And let us not forget the spread of the Freudian Sip “franchise,” soon to have a third location in the new USU. Graduates probably remember the days of yore, when perpetually unhealthy Krispy Kreme occupied that little corner of the Matador Bookstore. It’s hard for me to remember a time when QuickCopies wasn’t in the Bookstore, but some of this week’s graduates can probably remember when it was just a hole in the wall in the now-defunct corridors of the old USU.
And on the academic front, things have really changed. For instance, starting in Fall 2003, CSUN became a “learning-centered” university after nearly 50 years in operation. Sarcastically cruel and on-the-nose criticisms aside, I’m told this is actually a big deal in some theoretical sense. Also, on the academic advisement front, the university is now looking into new methods to increase graduation rates and improve academic advisement.
Campus life has changed a lot, too. Prior to Fall 2001, students could have spent their Saturday afternoons at a Northridge football game in the now-condemned campus stadium on North Campus. In Spring 2001, the CSUN men’s basketball team was even more worthy of student support when the group went to the NCAA national tournament.
Many of this week’s graduates probably witnessed a seemingly endless cycle of student leaders hell-bent on changing this school for the better. The rise and fall of the Students Against War campaign, and with it the surge in midday student rallies, is just one example. An almost never-ending series of threats to the Educational Opportunity Program and the constant fear of student fee hikes always kept students entertained … and terrified. And speaking of terrified, try to recall what the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks felt like as a student at a major American university. Remember those moments.
Before all you graduates take your final walk away from the Oviatt Library and into the great open-ended future, keep your eyes open on your way out. If you can, imagine what this school looked like the day of your first class, when you were still new to this place you now call home, before the am-I-ever-going-to-find-a-job panic of real-life sets in. Get lost in that moment, and enjoy it, because it’ll be gone in a matter of hours.