We’ve all had a professor who wants to be a cool guy. He probably asks you to call him “Pete” or “Dr. V,” and insists on dropping references to whatever tripe is currently making the Billboard Top 40 rounds. We get it, Doc, you know who Drake is. Stop making eyes at that blonde freshman with the low-cut shirt and go home to your wife. Regardless of how they try to make you think of them as one of the guys, you know that not one of those suits would be caught dead at a party or tailgate. That’s where Dr. Michael Wesch of Kansas State sets himself apart.
Dr. Wesch, an award-winning educator in anthropology, recently took it upon himself to get more in touch with his students’ social lives. A recent assignment called for documentation of college night life, and Wesch decided to participate as well. One of his students’ propositions? Go to a fraternity party. He discussed it on a recent episode of The Chronicle of Higher Education’s re:Learning Podcast, and it sounds like he had a good time with it.
Wesch’s responses are marked with “A.”
“A. The proposals were to climb buildings, to get to rooftops, and so on; go to a frat party; and then go to the college bar district and go dancing. I think they all just viewed it as a lot of fun. The fraternity party, frat security is serious stuff, and they don’t just let anybody in.
Q. What do you mean? Describe that.
A. There is a list. Then you come to the door, and you have to make sure that you’re on the list. Then once you’re inside, if you don’t look quite right, they’ll ask you over and over again who are you, what are you doing here, and of course me, I look like I’m 40.
Q. Fair enough. You are.
A. The only people who didn’t ask me were people who’d had me in class, and they were more just like, “Woohoo,” like they’re so excited. I think it helps us that I’m a popular professor on campus, so that when people did recognize me, they were excited to see me. A lot of them knew me.
Q. You’re not a stranger.
A. I’m not a stranger.
Q. In fact, people were taking selfies with you at this frat party?
A. Yeah. I mean, there is like a line for selfies at one point, which is just kind of embarrassing. Yeah, it was really hard, actually, to then just experience the night. Because I think the common experience is to feel anonymous in the situation. I think students go in, and they just feel like overwhelmed by how they’re just one in a big sea of people. I didn’t have that experience at all, and I kind of regretted that. I wished that I could be a little bit more anonymous just to have that experience.”
While Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey are getting poo flung in their general direction, Dr. Wesch is witnessing the beauty of real American culture. The only risks involved are the occasional drink spillage and maybe a treatable STD. Who wouldn’t watch the shit out of a documentary that’s all about a 40-year-old professor adapting to life among a fraternity? He could observe the primal nature of a pledge lineup, analyze the logistics of a well-stocked cooler, and immerse himself in the cottony glory of a well-pressed button down.
Sure, he wouldn’t be the same man afterwards. Office hours would feature a few more Natty Lights and finals week would consist of way more violent screaming, but the Oscar and the new contacts in his phone would all be worth it. Do it for us, Dr. Wesch. Do it for science..
To listen to TFM’s writers talk with country music star Luke Combs about the funniest thing he saw while playing frat party gigs, subscribe to The Inside TFM Podcast on iTunes or listen below.
Image via YouTube