A week at Ashland University

Collegian Staff

During the week of Nov. 12, five Collegian reporters set out to cover the campus way. Chronicling snapshots of college events, these vignettes represent Ashland University in five days—detailing academic success, employment changes, sporting events and a special night in Convo.

Monday, Nov. 12

It is nighttime—6:15 p.m., to be precise. You are walking northwest. You have an induction ceremony to attend.

You pass Amstutz Hall and cross Broad Street. You notice people lifting inside of the Troop Center. In there, you know it is warm. In there, there is light.

You are outside.

You continue down Moss Hill Drive, walking behind the visiting bleachers of the stadium. You notice that the ground is drying from the rain earlier. You look up at a streetlight above and notice that now it is snowing.

You notice something else about that streetlight—it is the last along this road.

You have yet to pass the tennis courts. When you get that far, you can no longer see the road ahead. As you go further and further, the darkness becomes overwhelming. Your shadow stretches in front of you, and then disappears. The trees that surround you are not trees, not now. They are blackness.

Down the hill, you reach your destination. You briefly forget that you’ve been here once before. It’s an odd place, this. From the outside, it feels as though you’ve been transported to another place all together.

There are no signs to tell you that you are in the right place. You see no one.

You are not even sure when you walk in the door.

As you turn the corner to the dining room—you assume that this is where the people are—you’re once again transported to another place. The white wallpaper turns into wood paneling, everywhere.

The centerpiece of the room is a grand mahogany table. At one end of the table are three unlit dinner candles that alternate white and red.

As you take your seat, the ceremony begins. Chapter president Megan Wise reads a script as she lights the candles. They all have a meaning, but you don’t remember what it is. You just know that, before you know it, the ceremony is over and photos are being taken.

You have not even finished your coffee yet.

You know it will be even colder outside on the walk back, so you refill your coffee. You grab a white chocolate-macadamia nut cookie as you leave the dining room and walk out the door.

Amstutz becomes visible again as you crest the hill. Headlights come up from behind you, and president Fred Finks opens his window.

“Do you need a lift somewhere?”

“No, thank you.”

You are already back.

Tuesday, Nov. 13

“Are you a student here?” one of the rock wall climbers had asked him.

Patrick Edwards, who often climbs with students after his nine-to-five, had smiled, the Rec Center employees explaining otherwise.

On Tuesday, November 13, Edwards makes his round through the Rec Center. He high-fives his employees, the one’s he inspired to leave an imprint on the facility. Edwards’s imprints can be seen in the new machines, the new divider hung from the ceiling for the basketball courts, and the racks of mountain bikes for rent in the storage room.

But mostly, his imprint can be found on the people.

Edwards chats with Joni Gill at the equipment check-out desk. He helped build her confidence—she’s assertive now, not as shy.

As he walks amongst the whirring and plucking noises of the badminton games, Jake Ewing shakes his hand. They are playing racquetball tonight.

He sees professors reverting back to their youth. He sees smiles. He sees the differences he’s made.

Edwards, assistant director of the Rec Center, was one of 12-15 people whose positions were cut in order to save Ashland University $850,000 in response to a budgeting error.

When Edwards found out he was being laid off, he wrote President Finks a thank you note, grateful for having the opportunity to have worked at AU. Finks read the note at the all-institutional meeting.

Edwards has received an abundance of support from this community.

“How will your grandma feel?” Darlene Bean, Administrative Assistant, had asked him, knowing that he won’t be able to see her as often when he moves to work elsewhere.

His grandma—that’s 89-year-old Fran Baney. People know her by her family business in Ashland, or by her relationship to the Adi Pi sorority at AU.

Edwards knows her by the time she told him to touch his mashed potatoes with his finger to see if they were hot enough so she could proceed to smash his hand into them, by leaving Edwards voicemails, saying, “Hey, I haven’t seen you in forever and forever,” and then proceeding to describe how her TV isn’t working again, and she wants to kick it.

He knows her by that Sunday at the breakfast table, eating pancakes and Jell-O together, after the Friday he found out. She cried.

“Everyone here at the Rec knows that she is my entire life,” Edwards says.

He cried with her.

But he is optimistic about the change.

“When I leave on November 30, I can leave and have full faith in my employees and know that they will continue to make the Rec Center better because they believe in it,” Edwards says.

Until then, he continues making sure the rec is uniform daily, answering 50-60 emails, completing stacks of paperwork, repairing treadmills, evaluating employees, and high-fiving students.

“There’s more here than just a paycheck.”

Wednesday, Nov. 14

The bleachers on the home side of the gymnasium were pulled all the way out, the team benches were in the same exact spot as they always were, and there were the usual spectators of parents and roommates. But once the gym started filling up around 6:40pm you could tell that this was going to be an interesting night.

The spectators, once the gym was filling up and the one side of bleachers were full, was as segregated as convo. There were the usual cliques that stuck together like a fly on sticky flypaper. The football players, who probably weren’t even there to see the actual game volleyball sat clustered together near the entrance, the pole-vaulters sat in the front row near the middle, the rest of the track team sat about 7 rows up from there, and then you had the typical cluster of parents, whose players are best friends sitting together.

Tonight’s game marked the seniors last ever game in Kates Gymnasium. As soon as the game started there were the familiar calls of “Lets go AU!” and “Lets go ladies!”. But the chants seemed to be in vein as the first set came to a close with the Eagles having lost. All of the energy was sucked out of the gym and the fans were silent. It was as if Northern Michigan bound and gagged the fans and told them to “shut the hell up while we dismantle your team”. The second set wasn’t too much of a change with the Eagles losing that one as well.

When the second set ended those with the “they lost two straight sets so that’s the match” mindset left. If only they had known what was about to occur. As soon as the 20-minute intermission was over the Eagles came out as high energy as they were when they started the game. There were the usual cheers, high fives, and butt slaps. Once the girls stepped on court for the third set they had all the energy in the world but the spectators didn’t seem as attentive as they were before. But amidst the random conversations, the women were staged a comeback not seen in years.

Thursday, Nov. 15

The sidewalks are completely vacant. Despite being only 6 p.m. it’s a pitch-black night. Light beams spill out of the windows of convo along with the sound of laughter.

It’s Thanksgiving dinner at Ashland University.

Convo is sea of students. Everyone is yelling at each other but with hundreds of people stuffed into convo you have to yell just to talk to the person across the table. The roar of people is deafening but no one seems to particularly care.

The smell of turkey and stuffing lingers in the air on the west side of convo. Pumpkin pie hangs heavily in the air of the other side.

There isn’t an empty table in sight. Groups of friends or athletic teams have pushed tables together so the usual footpaths between tables no longer exist. Navigation is like navigating a hedge maze. No one seems to mind that either.

Even the people standing in line are pleasant. No one angrily glares when the people in front of him or her make a long order. The workers behind the counters all smile as students place their orders.

Conversations around convo vary table to table.

“Oh my god,” says one girl to her table of friends. “We are seeing Breaking Dawn in five hours!”

One of them pounds her fist on the table in excitement.

Another table a few feet away discusses the Ashland University football team.

“This is the first I’ve ever really cared to follow the football team,” says the student in the TKE shirt.

“Yeah,” his friend in the red hooded sweatshirt agrees. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if two teams from Ashland actually went to the championship?”

The dessert table is adorned with dozens of fall themed snacks. The pumpkin pie vanishes as soon as it hits the table. So do the pumpkin rolls.

“Seriously? You’ve had 8 pumpkin rolls!” shouts one sorority girl to another.

“Shut up! I know I’m going to get so fat,” she replies.

One student comes in late and there is nowhere to sit. Someone approaches him and offers him a seat at his table. There is a look of surprise on the late students face. He smiles.

“Thanks, man.” he says with a genuine smile.

Friday, Nov. 16

It’s late in the afternoon on a Friday. As the daylight begins to leave, so do many of your friends and classmates. With no classes until Monday, you now have nearly 72 hours to do whatever you want. But what do you want to do?

Luckily, this particular Friday offers something that very few Fridays do. Curious, you head over to the Rec Center, swipe in and open a door you never knew existed. Inside is an athletic competition.

As you take your seat, you look below at a group of people who are in their natural environment. Theirs. Not yours. Here, in the Messerly Natatorium (funny, you thought it was just called the pool) there is a summit being held between representatives from Ashland, Malone University and Wayne State University.

These are “the swimmers.” They come to dinner every night with their hair soaking wet and sit at that long table behind the fish bowl. They stick to themselves, mostly, and they seem nice enough, but they’re just… different.

Of course they are. Now, as you see them doing what their name implies they do, you have a newfound respect for them. They are more at ease in the water than out of it. It’s what sets them apart.

The competition starts, and you’re still having trouble making any sense of it. Yes, the whistle blows, and yes, they’re swimming from wall to wall, and yes, you know they’re racing… but you can’t tell who is who and… oh, if you just had one of those cheat sheets that would give you all the answers…

And then… it happens. You recognize that Australian guy, Alex Sheil, about to jump off the platform. You watch as he tears through the water—seemingly shoving it out his way—two lengths of the pool at a time with each of the four strokes. He’s way ahead of his competition. The crowd is cheering.

Then, that tall girl, Julie Widmann (she’s a national champion, you know) makes the pool look like a bathtub. She swims to the wall and back in 23.15 seconds, which—you’re told—secures her a spot at Nationals again.

By the time the relay team of Sergio Sanchis-Peris, Tyler Remmel, Sheil and Braxton Wright reaches the wall barely ahead of Wayne State, you’re fully mesmerized. Swimming is cool. But it’s time to go home. There will be more swimming tomorrow. You will be there.