The Oracle

Hamline in retrospect

Coming to the end merits the question: was it worth it?

Sean Hanson, Senior Collumnist

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Hamline is a mixed bag. This may be an obvious statement, but my four years spent entrenched in the university merit a retrospective weighing of its pros and cons. On the chance that this column is bottled and flung into the Mississippi and discovered by a Louisiana high school grad who is considering coming here for football and accounting, he should have the facts. If the reader is him, here is the lowdown.

Hamline is almost nobody’s first choice of school. It is a place for people who were rejected from their first pick or could not afford to go somewhere beyond the upper-Midwest. Others yet come here for sports, having relinquished dreams of D1 competition. And still others have more vague reasons, with the first-pick attendees practically a novelty.

If Hamline really is your first choice, then you must know exactly what you are looking

for. That is, a school with a leadership-hued coat of paint and the social atmosphere of a mid-sized high school, cliques and all.

Maybe the small student body count and quaint location made for an intriguing prospect﹣the image of a high-minded institution tucked away in a quiet neighborhood in the big city. A launching point for exploration of the inner and outer world.

This place can be those things to the right mindset. The marketing promises as much with personalized admission letters and seemingly exclusive scholarships that seduce your gaze from pointing at similar schools. You know that, by God, somebody read your application essay and responded to its specific details, and so maybe someone in high places is looking out for you. Maybe this is a signal to plunge into the brick-laden atmosphere (sold by a polished campus tour) and make this the start of your next chapter.

Upon arriving, you will find that behind the curtain is an institution that, regardless of its PR, feels distant and money-hungry. This semester’s textbook fiasco is a prime example of the experience not matching the price tag. Every year the president sends another email extolling Hamline’s virtues, followed by an announced tuition hike that feels like a toll from beyond the grave. School spirit is a nonentity. Bistro food is mediocre in comparison to what other private schools offer. Anderson Center, the “paperless” student congregation point, is glossy but without the crackling creative energy found at the hearts of University of Minnesota, Macalester or any number of Twin Cities contemporaries.

Hamline’s positive qualities are found in its people. They are zany, and almost to an individual each possessing a few odd personality disorders and flashy idiosyncrasies, myself included. Camaraderie is formed over a collective apathy for anything remotely academic, tempered by an understanding that everyone here is a dreamer, a seeker of something glimpsed in the periphery of Hamline’s reddish sphere. Doubt this? Ask around Anderson. The students are beleaguered by trials both real and imagined﹣usually academic, always signaling doom﹣while maintaining strained pluckiness and an enthusiasm for the Next Big Project. Degrees are a means to an end, and the end is one dream or another, like an unpublished poetry collection half-written in Starbucks.

Ushering students along on their journeys are the dutiful professors who make the price of tuition worth it. With such small class sizes, you are bound to develop personal relationships with professors in your area of study. They will be your mentors, doleful taskmasters and generous benefactors. They are compassionate and capable, and they will make or break your success depending on the effort you put forth. As a chronic sloth and inattentive student, I say this: do not waste their patience or good will. They are Hamline’s real selling point.

I do not regret my four years at Hamline, and I do not think anybody who stuck it out really could. With the amount of first- and second-year students who dip out, those who remain proceed with a knowledge that they have made their bed and they will lie in it, and that acceptance comes with its own contentment. But were I to get a do-over of the last four years, I do not think I would attend again. There are less expensive ways to get a degree with far more connections and benefits. The personal, professional and academic growth I gained here cannot possibly dynamite a path worth taking through the necessary mountain of loans. But it sure was fun while it lasted.


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Hamline in retrospect