April 28, 2006

I Heart Humboldt

So, this video from the Jay Leno show is making the rounds: 16 MB Windows Media file or 4.4 MB Real Video. One of my husband’s colleagues sent it to him, thinking it was hilarious. I watched it, and I am caught between being horrified and not really caring about it. On one hand, it typifies all the stereotypes that the University is trying to overcome. Years worth of recruiting effort could be ruined by that video. And most of it is just not true. It is not legal to smoke pot here, and I hardly ever see anyone smoking in public. Yes, there is pot here. But there is not more pot there than there was in Kalamazoo, Michigan or Seattle, Washington, or any other college town that I have lived in. And that guy that ate the dirt? He was from the other team. He was not from here. Not to say that there aren’t lots of wacky people here. In fact, that’s part of why I love living here. I love it that there’s a guy that plays softball in the field next to my house wearing jeans and suspenders and a trucker hat, looking like he just got off the tractor. And I love it that on my drive home I go by fields filled with horses, cows, alpacas, llamas, and the occasional camel. I love it that folks make biodiesel and live off the grid, right down the road from the folks who spend Saturday nights at the race track in Eureka. But I love this wackiness because of the way that it mixes with the intelligence and earnestness that is here. There are great people doing great things, at the university and in the community. You don’t see that in the video. There is also a beauty here that is striking. They don’t show that from the stadium where the Crabs play you can see both the ocean and the mountains. My house is both in the middle of the redwood forest and right behind a stable that boards a bunch of horses. I can be at the beach or up a mountain in 10 minutes. But then I think, I really don’t want other people to find out about all the good stuff and come here to ruin my little corner of the world. So Jay Leno can make fun of us as much as he wants. The part that does bother me, though, is that we are working hard at HSU to battle some of these stereotypes that just aren’t true. The pot is a big one, but so is the issue of multiculturalism. It’s true that there aren’t many black folks here, and that we are in one of the least diverse parts of California. The U is working hard on this issue and has been for years. We actually have a pretty robust Native American Studies program and a fair amount of Native American students from what I understand. I don’t know. I guess everyplace has it’s stereotypes to overcome— I have preconceived notions about lots of places that I’m sure aren’t remotely true. But it’s not part of my job to market those places. And we are too small and have worked to hard to have some stupid comedian put together a rambling clip about how freaky we are. How do other schools overcome these kinds of obstacles in their marketing?

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