The Benchmark of Achievement

Edited For Content

By staff writer Mike Forest

April 6, 2005


   11 Semesters
   6 Years
   46 Classes
   123 Passed credits (out of 138)
+ Thousands of dollars
   1 piece of paper.

I was confused by this equation, so I called up the registrar’s office, which was kind enough to answer my questions:

Me: Is this a magical piece of paper?
Registrar: No.

Me: But it will at least guarantee me a job, right?
Registrar: Only if you have a real major. What was your major?

Me: Film studies.
Registrar: *Laughter and then dial tone*


That’s right. I’m graduating. I’ll no longer be the old guy who shuffles around in slippers and a robe carrying a mug of coffee and a pipe. I’ll no
longer be here to snatch ready and ripe freshmen from the advances of novices. No more coasting through on the government’s loaned dime. No more professors. No more
books. No more falling asleep in boring lectures while checking out the hot-girl-who-sits-four-rows-in-front-of-me’s…uh looks. I’m gone.

I’m entering a very special time in my life. I’m changing my status from “student” to “alumni”— which means of course power,
prestige and general awesomeness. The good people of MSU have been helpful in making this all-important transition by getting an early start and already beginning to call
and ask me for money. A very odd pledge drive.

I was already on the phone when it happened. My call waiting beeped, so I checked the number. It was from a campus line so I thought it might actually be important; I said
my goodbyes and clicked over. Turns out I should have saved those minutes.

“Hi. I’m calling from the Senior Class Gift Committee—”

“Yeah, the people who put plaques on benches? Gotcha.” I had been thinking about leaving my mark on the place that I’ve spent a quarter of my life. I
might be able to give them a couple bucks.

“Each college is doing its own gift this year so the money pledged will go to your area of study. Which college are you in?”

I told him which department handles my business and he told me that they were building a $40,000 state-of-the-art teaching facility for the
College of Arts and Letters.

$40,000? Look, I know this place. I’ve been here for a while now. 40 G’s MIGHT cover the cost of wallpaper. Determined not to let my cynicism take over, I let
him continue.

“We’re asking for $50 per student this year.”

Fifty bucks? I was thinking more like $10. “I don’t really think I can afford that right now.” Undeterred by my claim of poorness, he launched into part
two of his spiel.

It was then that he said the only two words to really set me off. I would have been fine with talking to him and ending the conversation cordially, but no, it was not
meant to be.

“We have a payment plan. You can send in two payments of $25 or five payments of—”

“Wait. Wait. Excuse me, did you say ‘payment plan?’”

“Yes, sir. I—”

“Do you have any idea how much I owe this university and other creditors?”

“I uh—”

“Let me get this straight. You’re going to be sending me a bill—”


“You’re going to be sending me an INVOICE for a gift from me to the university?!” The poor kid. I told him that I’d send a quarter a month
for the next 17 years and hung up on him.

There goes five cell phone minutes I’d rather not pay for.

“And on your right, kids, you'll see the
vomit-stained Forest Can, praised for its record of never fighting back.”

Call me crazy, but I’d rather come back 20 years later and point to a bench I helped buy. A bench is something useful. It’s
somewhere to sit and reflect. Somewhere to make out on. Somewhere to sit and smoke down with your buddies. If you’re brave enough, something to have sex on. It would
give me great pleasure to make a stop there when I give my walking tours of places on campus I remember: bushes and trees I’ve peed on, trash cans and sidewalks I
threw up on, dorms that I hooked up in, and bars where I spent all my loans.

All this gave me an idea. I started calling all the student affairs and alumni foundation offices asking for donations for my own organization:

“Hi. I’m with the Financing Undeserving Collegiate Kids agency and I was wondering if I could have a minute of your time to talk to you about our program? Each
year we choose one barely-graduating student and give him or her the gift of a lifetime. We send this winner on a trip around the world, shopping for a new wardrobe, to
the Supercuts for a haircut (which I, I mean, he REALLY needs) and we pay for all moving expenses in addition to covering all loans he or she may have incurred while a
student. It’s a prize that only a few deserve, but it gives one pathetic individual the chance to make a fresh start without being burdened by the weight of past
mistakes. Can we count on you for a donation?”

Again, feel free to call me crazy, but I’ve made ten grand already.

This idea is also getting pitched to major TV studios for a reality show. It’s already copyrighted so don’t try to steal it. I shouldn’t have to tell you
this, both of my faithful readers, but I’ve already had an ENTIRE column stolen verbatim by a “journalist” from a college whose name rhymes with
“booster,” “cooster,” and “rooster.” I know, I was as surprised as you. But that’s a story for another time. I gotta go.

“Where?” you ask.

I’ve got a bench mark to make.