Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The alumni questionnaire

My law school at my old alma mater is setting up an alumni program to compliment the existing university's alumni relations program. So one of my old professors who used to teach me Juristic Technique--which I passed at the end of the year but never quite understood its thrust or importance--is now the acting Dean and he sent me a letter that arrived in the midst of yesterday's snow storm raging in Pennsylvania requesting that I fill out the enclosed questionnaire. I have to admit the questions weren't as invasive as I thought they'd be. Basically, the school (used to be called a faculty when I was there but has now Americanized to 'school') wanted to know what I'd been up to and if I'd be interested in reading Law School Alumni news on their website, by email or receive it a magazine format similar to the existing University Alumni magazine. They also wanted to know if I'd be willing to contribute articles to the magazine, if I'd like to hear about UK and Welsh lawyerly things--definitely crossed an 'x' in the NO box--and if I'd be open to law students contacting me in the future.

This trend toward forming alumni associations is, to me, an example of what I call the Americanization of the British higher education system...and I mean that positively. American colleges and universities are notorious for having fraternity and sorority clubs (haven't decided if that's a good or bad thing as yet, though have to admit it does appear a little strange when seen through European eyes) and large alumni associations where people can network and find jobs for each other if they so desire.

The only time I came across this sort of association before I moved to the States was a long time ago. I was sharing a house in London with a chap who'd graduated in law from Oxford University and he used to receive this scrappy newsletter (desktop publishing was not yet mainstream) periodically in the mail with news about the goings-on of people who'd graduated from there, who lived overseas, who had died, etc. He was a friendly but odd bloke--lived in terror of his very stern father, sported an earring before it was fashionable to do so in England and wore leather, had a sackful of female friends with names like Annabel who came to dinner wearing twinsets and pearls and who were clubbily pretentious in that British upper-middle class sort of way. He could also be arrogant and patronizing when required. When he first showed the newsletter to me, I was impressed notwithstanding its overall ragged appearance and said so, but then walked into the trap (I'd been out drinking the night before so my brain was soaked) when I mused aloud, "I wonder why my university doesn't do something like that."

Never one to miss an opportunity, he removed his thin, hand-rolled joint slowly from his mouth, his lips curled into a triumphant smile, and his dark-ringed eyes gazed at mine fixedly as he said, "Damian, this is an Oxford world, an Oxford world."

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Damian McNicholl saw a page at talked about high school class reunions that sent me here. So how long have you been running your own site? ttyl