Wednesday, April 24, 2013

No. 407 – Open Invitation

Performer: Santana
Songwriters: Carlos Santana, Dennis Lambert, Brian Potter, Greg Walker, David Margen
Original Release: Inner Secrets
Year: 1978
Definitive Version: Live Aid, 1985

My tenure at Wabash had a one-way trajectory—all up. Each year was better than the last, and the culmination was my senior year.

That year, when I had my bootleg Live Aid tape on constantly on my Walkman going to and from campus, I was Mr. Wabash Sports. I was the voice of Wabash football and basketball, sports director at WNDY, sports editor at The Bachelor and chief researcher at the Wabash sports information office.

In fall 1985, I added a new title: TV-show host. The sports information director wanted an interview show with the football coach to be run before the tape-delayed game rebroadcast on the local access cable channel. Was I interested in conducting the interviews? I’m Mr. Wabash Sports, aren’t I?

We taped the Monday after the game, so we’d talk about the previous game and then the one to come. I prepared a series of questions, trying to think of enough things to fill a segment of 15 minutes or so. It wasn’t difficult.

Another thing that wasn’t difficult was being on TV. I never was nervous like I thought I might be and like some people get (such as unqualified North Dakota news anchors, to pick out a random example).

First, I already had been on live radio for almost two years, so speaking to people through the media wasn’t new to me. Second, my internship the previous summer at a Columbus TV station showed me that only a few people were in the studio. That’s the way it was during the interviews. It was Coach Carlson, the SID, the cameraman and me. You speak to them, not the people watching at home. It was no big deal.

So, I was a known entity at Wabash—the exact opposite of my high-school career. It was because of this—and that I was an honors English student (story to come)—that I was invited later my senior year to take part in a tenure student council.

This was quite an honor and certainly the most important activity with which I was involved. Tenure at Wabash—like at any college—is a huge deal. A professor worked at Wabash for six years and then either was tenured, or given a lifetime contract, or let go. That I was invited to participate, which would determine a person’s professional fate, was a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

I was asked to evaluate Dr. Rosenberg. Aside from being an English professor, Dr. Rosenberg was a big writing mentor during my junior year, and he was my second-favorite professor behind only Dr. Herzog, my academic adviser. TO me, it was a slam-dunk.

About nine students met one afternoon with two senior humanities professors in a closed-door discussion. The debate went for an hour or so, and the key issue centered around that fact that if Dr. Rosenberg got tenure, it would mean that all six English professors would be tenured, and the English department would be closed to new teachers until someone retired—a rare but not unprecedented result.

A few argued that to close a department, the professor in question must be outstanding. I agreed and responded that Dr. Rosenberg met that standard—in fact, all of the English professors were equally excellent. I was pleased to see most students agreed with me.

Soon after that meeting, Matt and I had Dr. Rosenberg and his wife over to our apartment for dinner—we both were in his black-lit class, as I mentioned—and I told Dr. Rosenberg that I was on his tenure student council and that I spoke eloquently and forcefully on his behalf. How successfully I spoke, I couldn’t say. He was genuinely touched.

I still can’t say how successfully I spoke, but I know this: Dr. Rosenberg was granted tenure. That was a more satisfying outcome than that of any game I called at Wabash.

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