Tag Archives: shorter_university

Secretly a Suitcase Campus

By the middle of Welcome Week, my desire to whine to Mark had dwindled. I was by no means happy in Rome, but my feelings of misery turned into a numb acceptance. The sorority girls were friendly to us and the feelings of newly found freedom were sinking in. One night Rachel and I stayed with the off campus boys until 3 AM. When we drove back to school and the only repercussion was the judgmental look of the night guard. I felt exhilarated for a moment. I was at college.

Sometime that week we went to lunch with one of the off campus boys and his friend. A town favorite was Harvest Moon Cafe on Broad Street. I think the fraternity President waited tables there and they served salads that vaguely resembled something from California Pizza Kitchen. For some, Harvest Moon was the hippest.

I’ll never forget that lunch because it was the first time I felt The Numbness. That afternoon at Harvest Moon, Off Campus and his friend (who I’d later learn was Austin’s roommate) sat across the table from Rachel and me and discussed hunting.

My mind wandered for a moment, and I realized I was no longer hearing their words. I’m from the South, but I’m not so southern that twang is immediately comprehensible. As they drawled at one another the words blurred together.

“So, lay-ust Wednesday we were hunting’ and ah saw the cahrayziest thang, it wuz lahk a durdurdurduhduh….” 

“Aw, Hay-uhl naw! Sheeeee-ut!”

I do love the South. I love rednecks, BBQ and I have the letters ‘ATL’ tattooed to my wrist. I have a lot of Southern pride, but, in this moment, the South felt alien.

It got worse. “Say-uh, Tiff-nay. What’d ew git on your S-Ay-Tee-uhs?” One quick note about me at 18 – I was an intellectual snob. I didn’t have any luck in other areas of my life so I clung to the idea that, at the very least, I was smart. I used this to justify my being incredibly judgmental towards anyone who wasn’t. I told Austin’s roommate my SAT score. I knew by intellectual snob standards that it was just OK. It may have been the reason Harvard didn’t welcome me with open arms.

Austin’s roommate’s jaw dropped,

“Shee-yut. Why are yew here?” His score was roughly half mine. I was under the impression that’s the amount you got for filling out the Scantron form. I paused briefly, I had come up with a lot of answers to that question in my first week at Shorter; I got a full scholarship; I’m going to be a musician; It’s God’s Will. Usually one of them would pop out of my mouth before I had a chance to consider whether or not I believed it. This time it didn’t.

“I have no idea.”

…….

On Friday night, Rachel and I decided to go to our first Welcome Week activity, which happened to be the last activity scheduled for Welcome Week – the Fitton Student Union party. Why, you ask, did we finally want to go to Welcome Week activity? Boys. Definitely just for boys. Earlier in the week I’d seen this boy walking with a group of Freshman participating in a scavenger hunt. He was tall, and wearing a cross t-shirt. Because I went to the International School, I’d rarely found a Christian boy to have a crush on. I daydreamed about meeting a Christian boy with a Jeep Wrangler who liked DC Talk and would take me on picnics and pray before our meal. Christian boyfriend would stop at second base and maybe one day he’d wash my feet before telling me he loved me like I’d read about in True Love Waits books. This boy looked like my imagined Christian boyfriend, and I pointed him out to Rachel.

He also had a cool name. I’ll mention at this point that I’ve changed the names of anyone with whom I’m no longer close who might not want stories of what they were like in college on the internet. So I’ve changed them, but only slightly.

“Do you know what his name is?” Rachel asked me while we picked tank tops to match our denim mini skirts.

“Ok, so either his name is Amsterdam or he lived in Amsterdam and now his nickname is Amsterdam. Whatever, he’s tall.”

“That’s cool. Some of the baseball players are cute.”

We pranced across campus to the student union, ready for our first weekend at college. As we walked through the parking lots, we noticed a suspiciously low number of cars and several students loading laundry bags into the trunks of their cars. The student union was practically deserted, save for a DJ playing edited rap songs and a couple of the foreign exchange students. That was the moment we learned that Shorter was a ‘suitcase campus,’ meaning that most of the students would leave each Friday afternoon and return each Sunday evening. Rachel and I sighed for a second and talked about all the fun things we could be doing if we were back in Atlanta.

Then it hit us… home was only an hour and a half away. We were on the road by 10 PM. We drove down highway 411, through Cartersville and over Lake Allatoona for only the third time. I was about to develop a very close relationship with that country highway.

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Campus

In a way, I knew what I was getting myself into by going to Shorter. Everything about the 76 mile trek from Atlanta to Floyd county screams, “Turn around!! No, seriously! …why the fuck are you driving up here?” The further you get from urban life and Democrats, the lower the clouds dip down in the sky. Driving on highway 411, staring at endless horse farms and fields didn’t feel relaxing to me. It felt foreboding.

Shorter’s campus did little to reassure me that doom was not impending. The first time I stepped foot on “The Hill,” I walked up the stairs from the parking lot to see its Sunken Garden. The pit of brambles and decaying bushes should have been converted to a barbeque pit when the Georgia Baptist Convention pulled its funding due to a disagreement earlier that year. Turning the pit into anything else would have worked. Instead it remained there – a reminder to all that Shorter as an educational institution was helpless without the monetary support of The Church.

I don’t have enough pictures of the school, so I’ve made you a map. It’s not to scale and somewhat inaccurate… but when I think of Shorter, this is what I rememeber.

The main campus I’ve mapped out above was set on the top of a hill. I’ll mention other buildings later, but I think you get the gist. There was one road on campus that led you up the hill and then in a big loop around this main area. Over the next two and a half years I’d walk and drive that loop countless times doing everything from praying to getting high and laughing about how scary speed bumps were to drive over. The one drive that sticks out in my mind the most was the victory lap we took in Austin’s SUV the moment I received my acceptance letter from Berklee and knew that I would be leaving Shorter for good.

What this map doesn’t show is how weird Shorter was in 2004. There’s so much to explain, but I want to point out a couple of highlights.

1.) The Taxidermy Room. Oh yes, it’s true… there was a room filled with taxidermy on campus. The story (not sure about accuracy) is that one of the biggest donors to the school had a penchant for hunting rare animals and spent a good deal of his fortune having his trophies preserved. When he died, he donated the collection to the school, and despite the creepiness factor, they didn’t feel right about not honoring the last wishes of one who’d given them so much. They piled the taxidermy in a room adjacent the student center and the smell of formaldehyde and the overall terrifying nature of the (mostly) endangered creatures quickly scared the students away from hanging out in what was once their common room.

The taxidermy arrived sometime in the 80s, but remained in that same room throughout my stay at the school. I’ve heard it’s the reason they had to make a new student union.

2.) Fitton Student Union. The new student union had everything a Southern Baptist school could ever need. It had a giant staircase reminiscent of the staircases used for prom photos that the school used to photograph every sorority, fraternity and young Republicans group on campus. There was also a mini-chapel used for Rush, a game room, a coffee shop and an anti-alcohol and drug advisory box.

You think I’m kidding about that last part, but I’m not.

In our FUCKING student’s center, there was a glass case devoted to reminding us about the perils of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. Right above the box was the composite photo of my future sorority. You can’t see it from this picture, but the labels on these bottles had phrases like ‘Sin 69’ and ‘Lung Death XXX.’

3.) Cooper Courtyard/ Mud Pit. 

We arrived at Shorter in the fall of 2004, and little to our knowledge the school was in the midst of a tooth-and-nail battle with the Georgia Baptist Convention. The convention was upset about the liberal teachers at the school, the fact that our pre-med department taught evolution (a course necessary to become an accredited university) and that some of the key faculty were (GASP!!) Methodists.

The college wouldn’t risk its accreditation by suspending education involving the theory of evolution, and the GBC wouldn’t allow for sinful thought to prevail at one of its sponsees. The Convention pulled its funding, and as the school entered a heated legal battle with the Convention, we moved our Bibles and mini-fridges onto campus.

Without knowing it, we entered Shorter at a critical time.

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