Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Feeling powerless? Watch "High Noon" with Gary Cooper

3 March 2005

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The big news around Sacramento today (well, the University anyway) is whether to change the name of the University from California State University, Sacramento, to Sacramento State University, a name that a university 'branding committee' (Yee-Haw!) came up with after several months of surveys, discussions and thumb sucking.
But like so many college efforts, there are lots of folks who weren't paying any attention (or who maybe didn't think it was such a big deal) until we got to the cusp of decision.

And now, NOW, it is to be the cause celeb of the campus, with a big debate in the Faculty Senate, a show-down vote, and probably the sound of the theme from 'High Noon' playing in the background. (Ah! The explanation for the photo with the blog!)

'High Noon' is one of my favorite movies, and not just because Gary Cooper runs away with Grace Kelly at the end, or because he pounds nicely on Lloyd Bridges in one scene, or because he throws his badge down in the dust, a nod to my own dislike of unearned authority. No, it's a favorite movie because the Coop has to stand up to someone/something he's terribly frightened of and, with precious little help, wins against long odds. It's such an American dream story. I play the movie whenever I know I'm going in to face a tough foe. Just the music ('Oh don't forsake me oh my darling') can get my blood up for battle.

The victories around the University are usually much less dramatic, mostly the kind of bureaucratic compromise that is so deadly dull it will put you to sleep - even as you read a blog like this! But the issue of the name of the University has become a big deal because the University faculty and students and staff feel so powerless. The school budget is cut, the governor proposes sinking the faculty retirement plan, reports say the whole of higher education is going down the toilet in a swoosh of 'special interests,' as our body builder-movie star-turned-politician labels anyone who doesn't agree with him.

So the faculty students and staff choose to fight this battle, this tiny sliver because it's the one battle where they actually can get a lick or two in before going down to what they know will be a defeat.

That's kind of an American dream story, too.

American statesman John C. Calhoun once said, 'I would rather be right than be president.' One of his opponents - a quicker wit than Calhoun - said it was unlikely he would achieve either.

On to a viewing of 'High Noon' before the Faculty Senate debate.


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