Monday, August 24, 2009

Brown: The Douchebag's Guide to Failure


I checked the September issue of GQ to see if it quoted me — not because I assume all magazines are likely to quote me at some point, though that would be nice, but because one of the writers, Andrew Corsello, interviewed me for a piece he was working on.

That piece hasn’t appeared, but I was made almost as happy by what did: GQ’s list of “America’s 25 Douchiest Colleges” (i.e., most obnoxious), and I think you know what institution came in at the top of the list, especially if you read all my Retro-Journal entries about going there. Yes, it’s Brown University — where, not coincidentally perhaps, the aforementioned Mr. Corsello went, writing comedy alongside me for the Film Bulletin and producing stuff that sounded not unlike GQ’s description of Brown (which, by the way, narrowly beat #2 Duke, despite some of my favorite people coming from or going to the state of North Carolina):

AFFECTATIONS: A belief that grades, majors, and course requirements are just another form of cultural hegemony; using the word hegemony.

IN TEN YEARS, [if you went to Brown, you] WILL BE: Living with your family in an old house that you quit your job to refurbish yourself (by overseeing a contractor) with painstaking historical accuracy in a formerly decaying section of the city that’s recently been reclaimed by a small population of white guys in hand-painted T-shirts who are helping you put together a health care fund-raiser for, and meanwhile being furtively obsessed with the growth and decline of your sizable inheritance and carrying on an e-mail affair with a stripper, all while leading a campaign against gluten and dabbling in absinthe.

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Down at the bottom of the list are #25 University of Virginia and #24 University of Texas — the latter being where studied (and near where now dwells) my friend L.B. Deyo, the sort of man with whom the Brown alum’s hypothetical night of absinthe-drinking, which might hypothetically have gone rather badly, might well have been conducted. (UT is also the sort of school where, hypothetically, the stripper the Brown alum corresponded with might well have lived, since Austin is weird that way.) In any case, Mr. Deyo gets the credit for this blog entry’s subtitle, since he once offered it, glum and deadpan, as the hypothetical title of his next book, causing me to giggle periodically for a good ten minutes or so, while he remained stone-faced, as he does so well.

And speaking of books and things that quote me, tomorrow a list of all the books, according to Amazon, that do so.  By the way, my mother’s reaction to news of Brown topping the GQ list was to observe that Brown doesn’t seem to crop up on the top of real lists of important colleges the way it used to.  Great.  $100,000 in 1991 money to end up eighteen years later on top of the douchebag list.  And I actually turned down Harvard, you know.  And Columbia.  And Princeton.  And Cornell.  The whole Ivy League except Yale, really — to which I didn’t apply because the world-famous divinity school had me worried (as an ignorant teen) that the place would be full of Bible-thumpers.  Arguably beats douchebags, though.


CollegePlacementPro said...

The desperate self-importance of this website is the definition of douchebaggery. I’ve never heard of you, and nor has anyone else.

I HAVE heard of several other douchebags who, like you, have Brown University on the winkle — O’Reilly, Horowitz, Limbaugh, Hannity, the Forbes group (run by a Brown alum, incidentally), and other right-wing simpletons.

Brown is, of course, not the bogey they’ve invented. To pick one telling statistic from among many: last year it was second in the Ivy League and fourth in the country for aggregate Fulbright, Marshall, Truman, and Rhodes winners.

The famous NBER tracking study (2005) by Harvard and Penn economists found out what those of us in the college placement industry have long known: Brown wins the April common-admit battle against every Ivy except H-Y-P, and against every non-specialist college in the country except H-Y-P-S. Oh dear.

GQ magazine notwithstanding, there ARE major subject requirements at Brown; engineering, biology, neuroscience, and international relations are the most numerous majors; et cetera, et cetera.

For 26 years I’ve been a college placement person (of some influence in the industry) and Brown is today, as it was when I started out, a top choice of brilliant self-starters.

Like Emma Watson, for example — who this spring chose it over Cambridge, Columbia and Harvard (she never applied to Yale).

Her decision won’t compute to a person like you, but the lesson here is for you to learn, not her.

Todd Seavey said...

CollegePlacementPro? I’ve been insulted by _the_ CollegePlacementPro? Sir, it _is_ an honor! I’d go to Brown all over again just to know you approved of my choice.

Jake (Brown '94) said...

See the Letters section of October’s Brown Alumni Monthly for CollegePlacementPro’s longer version of this delightful diatribe. In that context, of course, it will start, “I was schocked and outraged…” and conclude that the Brown Book Store should no longer sell GQ.

Todd Seavey said...

Still more civil than this comment sent in yesterday by someone identifying himself as “Wesley Willis” (who I believe is in fact a deceased Afro-punk singer or something along those lines):

_Brown is not without its ridiculous excesses, but I’m not sure I understand what GQ thinks it means by douchey, if Brown is the douchiest. Most star-fucking liberal? Weird. Drives internet traffic though.

Oh, and Todd Seavey, you’re an asshat. I hope you get face cancer._