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Auchter's Art: A gentle reminder

John Auchter for Michigan Public

When I was in college, in the days before Internet, there was a closed-circuit system to deliver news and announcements — TVs (large cathode-ray tube TVs the weight of a Volkswagen) suspended precariously from walls and ceilings in various public areas around campus.

The system only showed still screens, but it could play video with audio. So the professor of the video editing class got some of her students together and pitched the idea of us creating content. The folks in charge were a little dubious, but the initial pieces were some nice stories about sports and college history, so they gave it a green light.

Then I got involved and started to create (at least in my mind) comedy pieces. My instructor and fellow students were fully onboard. But the admin in charge of loading the content into the system, not so much. My bits proved to be popular with the audience but made her worry about her job.

Eventually I produced a new piece about the notoriously limited dorm space at that time at Michigan Tech. It was not unusual for three students to be assigned to a single room at the start of the school year. I pretended to be an investigative reporter who had discovered evidence in the form of a secret memo revealing that the Michigan Tech housing department purposely assigned 43 kids to a single dorm room and pocketed the money. Then I got a bunch of friends to jam into a room and I "interviewed" them. I also got the actual director of housing to be part of a scene where I go to his house for answers and he slams the front door in my face. (He thought it was funny.)

The admin, however, freaked. I don't know whether she thought it was real or that we had simply gone too far. But she declared that she was going to shut the whole thing down. My fellow students and I were indignant. Censorship! Tyranny! We schemed all sorts of ways to fight the power. But in the end, cooler heads prevailed. Our instructor carefully explained to us what was and what was not actual censorship, and she worked out a deal with the admin (the main selling feature: the fact that I was weeks away from graduation and would soon be gone).

The moral of the story? Well, there really isn't one. It's more of a gentle reminder that college students are supposed to be excitable and passionate and sometimes do things they, intentionally or unintentionally, are not supposed to do. Typically, the stakes and consequences are very low. But even when they are high like in these current protests, it's good to remember that the vast majority of those involved are, in fact, college students.

Editor's note: John Auchter is a freelance political cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Public, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.

Since 1995 John has created Michigan-based editorial cartoons for the Grand Rapids Business Journal, the Grand Rapids Press, and MLive Newspapers. His cartoons are currently featured at MichiganPublic.org and are syndicated to newspapers through the Michigan Press Association. John is an active member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. You can view an archive of his editorial work and other cartoons at Auchtoon.com.
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