The answer to “Where do you see yourself in five years?” never included attending my college reunion. Yet there I was this weekend, fitting on my small talk hat, heaping burnt Mexican rice onto my plate, listening to how the evening band’s cover of “Shout!” is always a crowd pleaser, side-eyeing the guy who lived on my floor freshman year and asked me “Do you have any Irish in you? Do you want some?” (Disclosure: No and no.) AKA: Not my type of party.
But you know what? I actually had a great time. I don’t think it’s just because I went with low expectations, it was more like I just let go and had fun. Though Facebook has watered down the significance of seeing people from five years ago with its constant, sometimes passive, barrage of updates and who-got-married, being in the actual physical presence of those people is inimitable by any contemporary social networking technology.
What you missed at SCU’s Grand Reunion.
- Bursts of “Oh my God! Good for you!” uttered multiple times from within multiple social circles at multiple events – Wine reception run-ins are the original status update.
- The Crocodiles‘ first song of the night at the ’91/’96 party: “I Only Wanna Be with You” by Hootie & The Blowfish
- Immediately followed by fierce stink eye coming from Mayka’s corner
- Unidentified Blonde Female to Mayka: (Aggressive dance moves forcing Mayka back onto the dance floor.)
- Intoxicated Male Attendee to Mayka: “Your hair…is blue.”
- “Music is better 90s in Malley”
- “On it!!”
- The Cha Cha Slide, Electric Slide, and Macarena, but also:
- “No Diggity,” “Shots,” and “Friends in Low Places” (Believe it or not, I know how to Tush Push.)
- “Let’s go to the Loft!”
- Professional Clubbing, the Reprise:
INT: THE LOFT. Midnightish.
Unaffiliated Male: What’s your name?
UM: Nice, I’m Bobby.
UM: Where you from?
Mayka: San Jose.
UM: Cool, I’m from Fremont.
So did you go to San Jose State?
Mayka: (Clearly out of her game and unable to generate little white lies.) No, I went to Santa Clara.
UM: Did you graduate?
Mayka: (A bit incredulously.) Yeah? I just came from a graduation!
UM: Oh, word? [Oh, the charm of Man Jose!] You look young.
Mayka: (Awkward laugh.) Thanks.
UM: I’m twenty-three.
Mayka: (27.) I am not twenty-three.
Didn’t that list just make you nostalgic for The Santa Clara Campus Bulletins?
Why I’ve never been interested in college reunions.
Immah be blunt. College reunions are super White. I am of a minority ethnicity. I’m well familiar with the sense of not being reflected in media and publications, and not feeling an immediate sense of belonging in some more established American rituals like wearing big hats and betting on horses. So that’s…
Why I went to Reunion.
Typical for many universities but atypical for Bay Area institutions, Santa Clara University’s self-identifying students of color only constituted for one-third of its undergraduate population when I was attending. I did a lot of work with cultural groups on campus, and cultural work is not easy work. Because of the challenges at the time and the inevitable burnout, I essentially resigned myself to not be involved with the school after graduation.
That didn’t happen. A couple of years ago I was prodded by some friends and approached by the university to start the campus’ first ever Asian Pacific Islander Alumni Chapter. March 2010 seems incredibly late for a 150-year old Northern Californian institution to recognize its API alumni, no? We got together and got it established, and we’re still getting into the groove of growing its membership.
While this all may sound like criticism, it’s really just a de facto observation of the system’s conditions. (And I’m not talking “The System” like there’s some sort of conspiracy against people of color becoming active alumni.) If you look at American education’s history, there are simply more Caucasian grads than anyone else. It should be expected that alumni participation is more represented in that group than any other. Then also factor in: legacies of university families, the converse situation of many first and second generation students who don’t have those family ties to a university; the differences in income between Caucasian alumni and alumni of color, determining how much an alumnus can gift toward their school – really these are all just byproducts of who has had access to education longer. (Though these days female presence at SCU has been greater than male presence for years, despite the campus having only gone co-ed in 1961.)
Back to the API Alumni Chapter, I figured we can’t collectively build a strong alumni group until we start having a presence at alumni events. I told myself to get my butt into Mahatma Gandhi gear and start being the change I wish to see in the world, starting with going to all the old stodgy events I swore off before if only because I myself stereotyped them as “old” and “stodgy.” It’s not that I was never invited to participate before, it’s just that I ignored the invitations and assigned them to some imaginary “Others” guest list.
If the college reunion is “White,” then it is White because people of color do not attend. If people of color do not attend reunions because they don’t cater to their interests, then people of color need to get involved on the planning side to bring in better DJs, choose better food, and make the major event planning decisions. The issue is not that we’re not invited, it’s not that we self-segregate – It’s that in not being reflected in these events, it requires an abstract form of outreach to get involved and change the overall picture. Think Miss Representation. Minorities in ethnicity, physical disability, gender, sexual orientation, and more than just those categories should be familiar with this sense of not belonging to mainstream events. It’s going to be awkward at first, but sometimes you just have to put yourself in the statistically token position, in hopes that next time there will be more of you.
Going back to campus after five years when I haven’t gotten married, pregnant, or moved out of the Bay seems a bit premature in some ways, but in consumer technology terms I now recognize that the people who go to the fifth year reunion are the early adopters. We are more likely to attend the ten-year and come back for the fifteen and subsequent multiples-of-five milestones. Without us, there is no marketing material to grow the presence at future Grand Reunions. Hopefully by word of mouth, people talking up the five-year experience will make later Grand Reunions seem more worthwhile.
I am honestly already looking forward to the next Grand Reunion. I hope to see the number of familiar faces double, if only so I can shake each of their hands and give them solid well wishes. (And then subsequently transform the ’06 reunion experience into something that more closely resembles the house parties of old as opposed to the cocktail dresses-on-rented furniture approach.) Looking forward to grow this group and this overall effort. ’06!