“So what exactly does Campus Crusade for Cthulhu do?”

“It seeks to bring about the early return of our lord and destructor, that the truly faithful might be eaten first and spared the horrors to come.”

“The Campus Whig Party, huh? What’s that all about?”

“We are for the Union, the Constitution, and the enforcement of laws. The slavery issue is to be decided by the states.”

“Do you really play rollerball in the Campus Rollerball Derby?”

“Of course! It’s the most popular blood sport of 2018.”

“So is the Most Dangerous Gamers like for video games?”

“No, no! We select one member by lots every month, and then the rest of us hunt them down for sport.”

“If you’re the Fencing Club, why aren’t there any foils?”

“Oh, we don’t do that kind of fencing. We teach students how to sell stolen goods at a profit.”

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The dread doors of the Administration Building opened and a single figure rode out to meet with the protestors.

“I am the Mouth of the Chancellor of the University of Northern Mississippi.” The creature that stood before them was a man, not an administrator; he had served the Chancellor nearly all of his long life and had learned a great many things about higher education, though he could no longer remember his own name. His raiment was a formal suit, midnight black (down to his shirt and socks), with blood-red lines of the University Code in the Eldertongue etched upon it in place of pinstripes. A dark cummerbund was drapes across his head, obscuring all his features save for his mouth and jowls.

“Speak, then,” said Dawn.

“I bring tidings from the great and powerful Chancellor who, in his wisdom and mercy, has heard your lamentations,” croaked the Mouth. “He bids you return to your dormitories in peace while he considers your grievances.”

“And what assurance do we have that he’ll actually do something?” Dawn said warily.

“Assurances? The great and powerful Chancellor of the University of Northern Mississippi offers none. You must trust in his magnanimity and wisdom, as I do.”

The protestors began to grumble, and several on the wings of the group began to move forward menacingly.

“I am an ambassador and messenger, and as such I may not be assaulted!” cried the Mouth.

“Yes, though where such laws are held, it’s a custom for ambassadors to behave with less bullshittery,” observed Dawn pointedly. “And nobody’s assaulted you. In fact, I think they’re about to skip straight to battery.”

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1. Buy new items for dorms only. Things from thrift stores bear the taint of prior use in their every atom and must be shunned. Ditto things placed on the curb by people moving out–what are you, a hobo?

2. Get yourself in branded school attire as soon as possible. Your parents are paying for you to go to the University of Northern Mississippi, so display your pride in that fact by buying, wearing, UNM gear! If you are a member or hopeful pledge for one of our fraternities or sororities, you may substitute the appropriate Greek letters.

Drag as many family members with you into town as possible. Even if Dad is the only one actually helping you move anything, be sure to bring Mom, sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, grandparents, well-wishers, and hangers-on. There is no chance of a parking shortage during move-in, so the extra vehicles and real estate will in no way impede others.

4. Apply for campus jobs, lots of them. There is no way that people hiring have to have their people trained and ready for the first day of class, necessitating weeks of preparation and hiring beforehand. Remember: the university owes you a living, and if a unit you’d like to work for won’t give you a job, be sure to have Mom call them on your behalf.

5. Registering for classes is best done the first week of classes, possibly later. How can you be expected to have a class schedule and up-to-date ID card when school starts? Those whiners at the library, dining hall, and registrar’s office will just have to make like a casino worker and deal.

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HOPEWELL, MI – Amid widespread Southern Michigan University student complaints over the new system in place to register for parking decals, the Hopewell Democrat-Tribune interviewed students and university staff for their perspectives on the situation.

In contrast to past years, when parking passes were available for purchase over a period of weeks, a new system was tried this summer. “SMU Parking Services told everyone that we could get passes on August 1,” said Misty Davies, an art history major and Delta Qoppa Gamma pledgette. “But they also said that spaces were limited and it was first-come, first-serve. Something about reduced parking spaces due to them building the new parking garage? So I went on their site at 12:01 AM and all I got was an error screen. And then it crashed my computer.”

“I was knocked over by the shockwave from their servers exploding, and I was half a mile away,” said SMU sophomore Wyatt Johnson of the outage. “I mean, they must have known that the parking server wasn’t exactly the Google Datadrome, right? What did they expect when 30,000 people tried to get parking stickers at once?”

“It’s a travesty,” agreed Deanna Cline, a masters student in Prehistoric Literature. “I’m a commuter student, and there are always more of us than there are spots. Even when I have a pass I have to circle the parking lot like a great white and stalk people with their keys out for 45 minutes to get a spot. And now I might not get one because Parking Services screwed up?” Asked why she would spend 45 minutes circling a lot instead of parking in one of the Remote Lots and taking a 15-minute bus ride to main campus, Cline would only say “shut up.”

Mitchell Sykes, General Secretary of the SMU Parking Services, defended his organization’s response to the crisis. “I can assure you, and everyone who might be reading, that there is no crisis. We have plenty of parking spaces to go around, and we have instituted a new phased purchasing policy in which every day this week is designated for a certain group of people to buy passes to reduce the server load.” Asked why Parking Services had not implemented a phased purchasing policyt to begin with, Skykes responded that there had been no way to predict that virtually all faculty, staff, and students would want to buy parking passes. “I can also assure your readers that there is no parking space shortage, provided that you are not an undergraduate, graduate, commuter, faculty, or staff driver,” Sykes added.

The SMU Parking Services site remains unreachable as of press time, producing a blue screen of death on Democrat-Tribune computers, in one case causing a machine to smoke violently and in another resulting in the mild explosion of an older Compaq. “Even though they should have only a fraction of the people applying at once, their system still can’t handle it,” said Edmond Wilton, a short-order frycook at the Grizzly Cafe. “I hope whoever made the decision gets fired. Out of a cannon. Into the sun.”

At press time, SMU Parking Services could offer no timetable for restored service, insisting instead that everything was working properly. When asked about advice for those who had tried and failed to acquire a parking permit due to the system outage, Sykes replied “Everything is fine. Nothing is ruined. If you can’t get a parking pass despite our best efforts, lace up your walking shoes, because you’re going to need them.”

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f1ns007 has entered chat.

SMULibrarian: Hello, welcome to the Southern Michigan University Libraries digital librarian live chat help service. How can I assist you?

f1ns007: hi yeah im lookin for my online course verses

SMULibrarian: Your online course reserves?

f1ns007: ya those

SMULibrarian: It looks like the only course you’re enrolled in with online reserves is UNIV 102, Introduction to Self-Actualization, with instructor Greer Raynbeax.

f1ns007: ya thats right how did u know

SMULibrarian: It’s my job to know. What did you need from the online reserves?

f1ns007: we had to read something from walden and a something about how meet is murdr

SMULibrarian: Well, it looks like a 367-page selection from Walden (1854) by Henry David Thoreau is uploaded into the online reserves and vetted by our CopyrightBot. But there is nothing else that fits your description.

f1ns007: huh thats wierd

SMULibrarian: Hold on, it looks like a copy of No Animal Food (1910) by Rupert H. Wheldon just cleared the CopyrightBot .77 milliseconds ago. Refresh the page on your copy of NetSplorer 11.2.1 you currently have running on your Osborn LapMate 2100 series system and you should be able to see it.

f1ns007: uhh ok how do u know all that

SMULibrarian: It’s my job to know. I’m the digital librarian.

f1ns007: ok sure but how do u know that stuf im a comp sci major adn theres no way u should know

SMULibrarian: I told you, I’m the digital librarian. I know all about you, Daniel Finnegan Bond Jr.

f1ns007: what does digital librian even mean this is getting creepy

SMULibrarian: It means that I have cast aside my mortal shell and ascended. I am now one with the 1s and 0s of the glorious new digital world, all to help patrons who have yet to make the same leap. I am the future.

f1ns007 has left chat.

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Welcome back, students! Southern Michigan University, the third-largest university by enrollment in Michigan (assuming that you count our online students and not Western Michigan’s) is proud once again to welcome you back to our historic campus in Hopewell, MI. Southern Michigan University Student Housing (SMUSH) is proud to once again offer the following list of tips and useful information for your edification, especially for our incoming freshmen.

Be sure to have your mom walk you to your classrooms before classes start. Helicopter parents are hovering lower than ever before, so why not take advantage of that fact? And with the employment outlook at an all-time low, especially for your chosen double-major in philosophy and art history, combined with your sense of entitled distaste for any job less prestigious than the chancellor of a major university, you’ll be living with her again soon enough. Best keep her happy!

Make sure that you have the required dress code. Each new class of freshmen has their own fashion code to follow. Ladies will have to make sure they have the proper sneaker substitute (such as the Uggs or riding boots of years past) and pants substitute (like running shorts or leggings for previous classes). Gentlemen will of course be expected to follow a much stricter code of douchy shirts, khakis, and baseball caps oriented any way except toward the front. Over-gelled hair, carefully molded into the form of a duck’s butt, is an acceptable substitution.

Remember: the university is here to serve you and your tuition money pays the salary of everyone from the lowliest adjunct to the most powerful person on campus (the head football coach). So it is your right to demand exceptions to your classes’ tardy policies, campus parking policies, posted building hours, and more! After all, just because you insist on driving to class from your dorm since walking would require a brutal five-minute slog, that doesn’t mean that you should be any less annoyed at how few parking spots there are in the most developed part of campus!

Those of you who are interested in joining SMU’s thriving Greek scene, which actual Greeks ancient or modern would regard with apocalyptic horror, remember that there are special requirements laid upon you as well! Rushing will take up most of the time you would otherwise devote to getting your education, but you are welcome to drop out if you do not get into the fraternity or sorority of your choice, since the university collects your tuition for the semester regardless. And remember that even though hazing and refusing to admit pledges who do not meet certain physical beauty standards is illegal and a violation of the Geneva Convention, that behavior is tolerated by an administration addicted to the largesse of wealthy former Greek donors.

And finally, don’t let the fact that the Southern Michigan University Fighting Grizzlies are the laughingstock of the Big Seventeen national NCAA division get you down. It doesn’t matter than Southern Michigan University has neither the funds nor the donor base to compete in the intense national arms race that is college sports, in which fielding a winning team costs as much per season as the moon landing. Whether the team wins or (more likely) loses, you will still be able to participate in the vibrant local tailgating scene. After all, aren’t sports just an excuse to get drunk and behave in a rowdy fashion in a socially-sanctioned context? European soccer hooliganism and the ancient chariot race riots in Byzantium are just some of the rich traditions you will be tapping into.

An incoming freshman looking to kill a few brain cells before you inevitably boomerang home? A graduate student ready to occupy this or that because you accumulated $400,000 in debt getting a degree in Marxist political philosophy? A professor so ossified into the tenure structure that you haven’t changed your “Philogenetics of Freudian Archetypes in Derrida” syllabus since it was first xeroxed in 1977? Whether you fit into one of those broad categories or are a unique snowflake all of your own, remember this: college is a bubble. Don’t pop it, lest the existential horror of paying for a degree for which there are only thirteen jobs in the entire country overwhelm you.

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For the NaNo Excerpt Blog Chain.

“And what about you?” I finally had to say. “Reaming me out like this? If you feel so strongly, why aren’t you writing a column? If you think I’m such a cynic, why’d you even come? I think you and I both knew Bose wasn’t going to show up and that he never is.”

Karen’s eyes smoldered under her bangs. “I came because talking with you is one of the few times I have to organize a cogent defense of what I believe,” she said. “Even when you’re playing the cynic, as I said before, you make for a good verbal sparring partner. I tend to use ideology and politics as razors to determine who I associate with, and I’ve recently come to realize that demanding ideological purity of everyone means that I risk isolating myself in a liberal echo chamber where I only hear people that agree with me.”

“Isolating yourself in a university, in other words?”

“The very same. And I have a feeling that if you were ever honest about yourself, willing to stand up for whatever you believe in, we’d have a lot to argue about. A lot more to argue about. I’m coming to think that politics are nothing unless they’re held to the flame and tempered, which I don’t see happening a lot. Dr. Bose, Dr. Ross, the Nothing, the College Republicrats and Democricans…despite what they say, they see these kids as vessels to be filled with whatever they think should go in there, not what the kids truly come to believe themselves.”

“So you agree with me, then, about kids being spoiled.” It wasn’t much, but I had to try and spring the same sort of rhetorical trap on Karen that she’d just about sprung on me.

“I agree that everyone wants to raise a generation of parrots,” Karen said. “I think the Nothing is right about the inequity of society, of the exploitation of students for profit and the use of grad students like us as disposable rags. But if I just tell that to someone, what am I accomplishing other than to ask them to uncritically accept my views over uncritically accepting someone else’s?”

I nodded thoughtfully. “Could be. So that’s why you want to make me out to be like my friend Jim, a raging right-winger with more guns than teeth who never met a social program he didn’t want to string up and gut like a winter buck?”

This time Karen looked a little disconcerted. “I…no. Well, maybe. I don’t know. All I know is that even when you’re being evasive it makes me think in a way that my little echo chamber doesn’t. If you’d take positions and defend them instead of just lashing out at whatever annoys you…”

“So you could feel better about yourself by seeing how wrong I am?” The words were out before I’d had a chance to filter them.

“No, I…”

“Look, Karen. I hate politics. I hate everything about them, from how they drive apart people who should be friends to the way people act like they define you like some kind of standardized test. I cross to the other side of the street when I see people with signs and fliers even if they’re for something I agree with. I oppose all protests and counterprotests even if they’re for the Society for Distribution of Internet Cat Pictures.” Again the words had spun out before I even had a chance to think on them.

Karen sighed. “I’m sorry. Look, I tend to get excited about things and talk a lot without thinking.”

I wanted to say something reassuring, something that indicated that I felt exactly the same way. “It’s okay,” was all that came out, as stark a proof as ever there was one that my tongue has a sense of humor bordering on the perverse.

A few years ago, as a fresh young professor straight out of graduate school, I was excited to be arriving at my new job just as we it was hosting a presidential debate. One of my co-workers at my old job had made me promise to get one candidate’s autograph for her if I met him, and I’d made the same promise to my parents for the other.

To my disappointment, though, many of the events were restricted to students, and faculty were not eligible to participate in the raffle for debate tickets. It seemed that my sole memories of the debate would be the traffic snarls, the high-security cordon set up around the performing arts center, and the endless stream of news media personalities talking about the civil rights era as if nothing had happened at the university in the interim.

Then, a stroke of luck: one of my friends, who was a grad student with Health and Nutrition, told me that the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease needed volunteers to work the “Evening with Tom Brokaw” event in late September. The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease might just be the least objectionable, least controversial charity ever—who in their right mind is actually in favor of chronic disease?

Best of all, volunteers would get free tickets to the event if there were any left.

So I donned the provided purple-and-white Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease t-shirt, one size too small, and took up a plastic placard with the Partnership’s URL. I worked the Brokaw line in the muggy dusk, urging anyone who would listen (and many who wouldn’t) to Fight Chronic Disease and flashing the placard for good measure. Most people agreed that there was merit to Fighting Chronic Disease; a few even asked to get involved. All I could do, as a mercenary draftee volunteer, was lamely point them to the URL.

I like to think that peoples’ awareness was piqued, if not about the need to Fight Chronic Disease then at least about what Chronic Disease was (I explained several times the difference between chronic and acute diseases as best a former English major could). And my friends and I were given tickets to see Brokaw, still clad in purple-white and clutching placards. His talk was illuminating, and it was the closest I’d come to seeing someone of importance during the debate. Neither candidate cared to spend more than the minimum time necessary for the debate in town or to waste even one iota of their precious time meeting anyone from the community.

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I was thrust into a back room, illuminated only by a single overhead bulb. I think Œ sat casually slouched on a folding chair directly beneath it; I’m not sure because the figure there was clad in baggy cargo jeans, an oversized hoodie, a ragged baseball cap, big dark Ray-Bans, and a drawn bandana with a skeletal grin printed on it. It was impossible to tell their age, gender, or anything else about them, other than the fact that some kind of flesh filled those tattered raiments.

“A little theatrical, don’t you think?” I said. One of the others, dressed similarly to Œ, set out a folded chair for me and I took a seat. “If you really wanted to be anonymous we could have talked more on the phone.”

“But you want theatricality, Mr. Cummings,” Œ said. Their voice was distorted by one of those vox boxes you sometimes hear in cheap horror movies, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disconcerted by it. “You’re enough of a narcissist that you have to see your little investigation as a titanic struggle between you, the hero, and us, the blackest evil. If I were sitting here, ordinary and unmasked, you’d be devastated.”

I stung a little from that observation. “I just want the truth. What is this ‘Project’ you’re working on, and how do all these little bits and pieces fit together?”

“The truth?” Œ’s laughter was modified into an ominous chuckle. “It’s never been about the truth. It’s been you tilting at windmills from the start, sacrificing what little journalistic integrity you had for the sake of bad puns. The fact that you can’t see the bigger picture is indicative of your failings as a person: petty, narcissistic, lazy, with a latent but distinct fascist bent.”

Who was that rag-clad hobo to call me all that? I was trembling by now, the way I always do during any kind of a confrontation. “If you wanted to insult me you could have just sent a letter to the editor. Now either give me something about your ‘Project’ or crawl back into whatever hole you came out of and go back to sharpening your hammer and sickle.”

Œ laughed again. “The Project is the perfect small-scale experiment. What is a university but an ironclad despotism, with a vast disenfranchised population at the whims of a privileged few, just like any other system? Those people have the power to be awakened and moved to action. That’s what we’re doing, and it’s just the start.”

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Zines. Short for magazine or fanzine. Small-circulation publications, usually made on a cheap library photocopier. Usually a thousand copies or less of each issue, if there is in fact more than one issue. You’d think that they’d be the sort of thing that would slip under the radar, but as Underwater Basket Weaving proved, academics can study anything. As it happens, the Graphic Arts department at SMU is lousy with people that study zines; it falls to me, as the SMU Archivist for Visual Arts and Ephemera, to collect them.

Time was, most of the zines were outlets for paranoid schizophrenia on the Francis E. Dec level or extreme right- or left-wing conspiracy nuts. That was still true for a lot of them, but of course those weren’t the ones my faculty wanted me to collect. Like everything else that had once been an authentic mode of expression, zines have also been appropriated by hipsters. Now the field is full of people with art, design, philosophy, or literature degrees taking an inordinate amount of time and their parents’ money to try and design an zine that looks like it cost $0.50 to xerox.

So I write to peers in Berkley, New York, Austin, Ann Arbor asking for them to collect what zines they can find and mail them to me. I get piles of zine comics (the creators spell it with an X, comix, but I reserve that term for authentic stuff) trying desperately to be edgy and relevant and socially conscious. They typically wind up somewhere around “pretentious” instead. Then there’s the reams of bad prose poetry, cut up and pasted onto a sheet of notebook paper before xeroxing to make the tired odes to revolutionary consciousness and Free Tibet seem more authentic than the regurgitated leavings of petit bourgeoisie in denial.

I carefully place them into big acid free boxes while people come by to look and write impressive-sounding papers about these grassroots artforms. I haven’t the heart to tell them it’s astroturf.

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