Thursday, August 25, 2011

* Cornell Clearing the Animal Haze

Beginning of the End 
to the Animal House Era in Higher Education

I lived a block from the Clutter house in Eugene, Oregon in 1985.

The Clutter house (owned by a family so named) is the actual building used as Animal House in the famous movie with John Belushi.

I attended slam dances in the basement of the Clutter house which sported  an earthen floor and field-stone walls. One band named Poison Idea, had a "vocalist" whose concept of entertainment in between monotone screams of inanities, was to suck beer from a bottle and spit it fire-hose-style from behind the microphone out over the assembled  dancers. For an encore, he'd hack up a  lunger and spit it on a beam over his head, then wait for it to drip and fall on his own face.

Charmingly inventive chap.

I was 42 years old at the time.  My role at the dances was "free-lance writer."  I had interviewed everyone in Eugene who had anything to do with the making of the  1978 movie, including the secretary to the president of the University of Oregon who took me into his office and showed me the very spot where the horse stood next to the president's desk. (Yes, the university permitted an actual horse to be filmed in the president's office.)

I had a friend who was producer at 60 Minutes at the time, Harry Moses, and I called him to alert him to the fact that folks were trying  demolish  Animal House  to make way for a dentist's office.

By the time his aide called me back about the story, bulldozers had leveled the building.

Now, 2011, Cornell University's president  has announced in a N.Y. Times Op-Ed piece (link above) that he intends to level the hazing mentality that Animal House represents. 

Why did this leadership take 34 years to emerge since the release of Animal House in 1978?

The March USA Today ran this headline: Does 6  deaths in  6 months make Cornell 'suicide school' ?

Note: When I lived in Ithaca, the Roumanian dancer, Iris Barbura, ended her life by throwing herself into Triphammer Gorge. She was still alive when they found her a day later.

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