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Dean's Blog

Welcome Class of 2017!

August 16, 2013

By: Mary Anne Fitzpatrick

It is a rainy Friday afternoon in Columbia. The fall semester is quickly approaching.

On Saturday, casually attired faculty and staff will arrive on campus to help students move into their dorms.  There are many stories of senior administrators hauling heavy suitcases up the steps into the dorms, only to turn around and find the young male student whom they are helping toting a pillow. Carolina is a friendly place, and students will see that they are welcome here on move-in day.

On Sunday, each school and college holds an open house for new students and their parents.  I have the honor of addressing the thousands of parents who have entrusted us with their children.  It is one of the highlights of my year, eclipsed only by the moment when I shake the hands of these students when, four years later, they cross the platform to graduate.

Early Monday morning, for the 20th year in a row, the University of South Carolina first-year class will come together for the Annual First-Year Reading Experience (FYRE).  This year, the student-faculty committee chose The Postmortal by Drew Magary.

 

To me, Drew Magary is on a continuum between Margaret Atwood and Kurt Vonnegut.  The story is set in a future where a gene therapy cure for aging has been discovered and made available to people worldwide. Immortality, however, comes with a host of problems. If you do not age, you cannot retire, so you can forget about social security. The world’s resources are strained by overpopulation, and an extended life expectancy makes one question what means to make a promise of “until death do us part.”  This book is an unforgettable thriller that envisions a terrifying world, and through the writings of a blogger, we witness the escalating disaster for in a world where we live forever.

Some have called this a “comic dystopian” novel—a genre I had never previously encountered.  Indeed, I say there is far more dystopia than comedy in this story. Our students, however, have told us all summer that they have loved this novel, and our small group discussions on Monday promise to be vibrant as students and faculty confront the future presented in this book and consider its implications.

But as one character in the book complicating immortality says:

“You become a parent, and your whole life becomes about worrying. You just worry constantly whether they'll be okay. And the idea that I'll be worried forever about them and what they do...I almost have a panic attack when I think about it. I'm worried, and I'm worried about having to worry so much.”

 Some parents may be feeling a similar worry this weekend as they say goodbye to their children who are just beginning their college journeys, but at least for these parents (and the university staff who will soon become their mentors), there is an end to that worry.

Read Previous Posts By Dean Fitzpatrick.