Some holiday advice

Dec 022007
Authors: John Straayer

I’d written a piece for this column based on some recent comments on higher education made by Rocky Mountain News editorial page editor Vince Carroll, and information published in Colorado State University’s “Fact Book.”

But my wife took a look at it, and said: “Good grief, John! It’s Christmas time; nobody wants to read this stuff now. Dump it, or save it for later.”

I caved in, and wrote this instead:

To students:

The best holiday gift you can give to your parents and other loved ones, most especially those who help pay your bills, is a set of good fall semester grades.

So, as tired of classes and the library as you may be, and as anxious as you are to get out of here for a while, bite the bullet. That little extra push, nose to the grindstone, for just one more week or so may make the difference — no booze, adequate sleep, modest coffee consumption.

To Students again:

Besides good grades, what to get for parents?

Not more underwear, socks, ties and trinkets. We parents buy our own, have drawers full anyway and generally don’t like what you buy even though we pretend we do.

Buy them books. Good choices would be Timothy Egan’s “The Worst Bad Times,” a gripping story of the dust bowl, some of which occurred in south-eastern Colorado; “Imperial Life in The Emerald City” by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the story of Americans in the Iraqi Green Zone; and “Takeover” by Charlie Savage who takes the reader through the Bush administration accumulation of power and its implications for constitutional government.

I’ve asked my kids for “Einstein” by Walter Isaacson and Christopher Hitchen’s “God is Not Great.”

Ask any of your professors and you’ll surely get other very good suggestions.

To the Colorado State University Governing Board:

Make a new years resolution to review and rethink your “stretch goals.”

You may find that they are indeed doing some stretching and the stretch is on the wallets of the students and their parents. Is that your intent?

More permanent faculty — absolutely. Beyond that?

To Chancellor and President Larry Edward Penley:

As a Christmas present, take two-time CSU graduate State Senator and Joint Budget Committee member Steve Johnson to a hockey game.

Johnson is a hockey fanatic.

Invite CSU graduate Governor Bill Ritter and CSU icon Sonny Lubick to go along. All three are friendly and funny, full of great information and advice, and in combination should constitute a veritable comedy team.

No suits or ties, no steak or wine. Cowboy boots are OK, and lots of hotdogs and beer.

To Collegian Editor J. David McSwane:

Resolve in the New Year to make contact with one of your Collegian editor predecessors, Jim DeFede, who managed to both edit the paper and serve as ASCSU President.

He is smart and funny. You’ll like him, and learn from him.

DeFede was and is an outstanding and award-winning reporter. He was a columnist for the Miami Herald and got fired; the Collegian ran an article on the matter a couple of years ago and his firing drew a storm of protest from top American journalists.

Jim is still in Miami, now as a talk show host. Look him up. Call him. Invite him to campus.

Happy Holidays.

John Straayer is professor of political science. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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