Reconciling Graduation in a Disconnected World

Written by: Kevin Cox

A coworker at my high school job told me that the architect responsible for how UConn looks today began his career in Texas. In Texas, an architect builds on different elevations with diversified building heights to create wind tunnels and propel hot air throughout the town. He applied his studies to Storrs and amplified our cold. Wind rushes between misplaced buildings and natural hills.

Source: Kevin Cox

UConn, for me, has always presented questions of connection. Graduating soon and trying to construct a history from my earliest days here,  I’ve found the vastness of our campus, the potential intimacy and isolation within it, almost seems to have intimated the transition to online classes. Yet the influence works in both directions; taking classes online has changed how I remember campus retrospectively. I imagine myself in a bird’s-eye view from above (cows, lawn, lake, Kevin)–it’s an altered perspective that comes, I think, from seeing my own image on screen for three semesters. Remote learning is disembodied, and memories from campus are depersonalized under its influence, infected by a mirrored little WebEx rectangle inviting me to dissociate, eroding my memory along the way. What once felt real now has a hollow sensation. I attribute meaning to graduating and it doesn’t resonate–eyes like an art dealer’s, counterfeiting meaning in eyes programmed to appraise only profit.

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With memories changed by an online interface, I’m trying to find what’s remained. Literature is an inexhaustible subject; there’s always more to say, and graduating feels like leaving an upbeat video conference at its resolute stopping-point. With so much on the table, it’s hard to conceptualize graduation itself  as any sort of culmination. Thoughts of what I’ve learned lie next to thoughts of what I haven’t mastered alongside conversations unfinished, as if I’m leaving the proverbial glass  half-full.

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We were discussing Elizabeth Bowen’s The Death of the Heart (1938). The adults in the novel were around a table, the phone was ringing, and they didn’t know what to do or say. Professor Barreca asked what we thought of the passage. Much like the adults, we stammered until she said something along the lines of: they’re sitting around a table, the phone is ringing, and they don’t know what to do or say. The passage implies the futility of the adults’ apprehensive relationship to the orphaned half-sister they’ve taken under their wing. It was meaning found in the absence of words, and it should have been obvious. I was, as has happened a few times in college, taught how to read. 

That WebEx prison hasn’t to my knowledge changed the way I remember the books I’ve read under the guidance I’ve had. And in that, UConn stays with me, its influence is irrevocable, and the conversation, at least in spirit, continues.

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