Posts Tagged ‘Missouri University of Science & Technology’

My St. Patrick’s Day Rant

We live in Rolla, MO, a smallish city of roughly 19,000 people.  The place is  dominated by a state university, Missouri University of Science and Technology, to be specific.   It is a mainstay of Rolla, a large employer for the area.   The university began in 1870 as the School of Mines and Metallurgy.  Now it’s known as the school in Missouri to enroll at if you want to be an engineer, work in the field of computers, or work in any field of science or mathematics.

For some unknown reason, back in the early 1900s, a group of students decided to have a party, and they decided to  pick a saint to give their party concept an air  of “honor”.   They chose St. Patrick, claiming he was the patron saint of engineers.  Who knew engineers had a patron saint?  I sure didn’t!  Supposedly good old St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland and did do his level best to spread the gospel message to the natives of the Emerald Isle, but patron saint of engineers?

St. Patrick and his minions arrive at the Rolla St. Patrick's Day parade

St. Patrick and his minions arrive at the Rolla St. Patrick’s Day parade

Every year since that group of students began their traditional party,  the week in March leading up to St. Patrick’s Day has become  a time for the students to slack off, and for some, it’s time to just party the days away; beer, booze, and who knows what else.    Rolla gets in on the “fun”  by holding a St. Patrick’s Day parade.  It’s the typical small-town parade: high school marching bands, some honorary civic-minded citizens wearing various green outfits smiling and waving from convertibles as they are driven along the  parade route, boy and girl scout groups, people on horseback, dogs decorated in green costumes, some of the college students march in the parade, some groups build floats for the parade.   The parade lasts a little over an hour and   then the partying begins anew.

As I was listening to the local radio station on Monday morning, I heard that one of Rolla’s ministers went to the latest city council meeting to inform them as to  how the church’s property was mistreated by party-goers.  People with no intention of attending the church had filled the parking lot with their cars, and some folks decided to hold their  parties in the parking lot!  Of course, those happy folks didn’t clean up after themselves.   The church’s worshippers, on  Sunday morning, couldn’t find many parking spots due to the partiers leaving their cars in the church’s lot.  City council was then  informed about  some idiot or idiots  who went to Lion’s Club Park and drove their car(s) in the grass, in 360 degree circles, or “donuts”, tearing up areas of the park.  The other act of vandalism that irritated me when I found out about it was  that an Eagle Scout’s project had been destroyed.  There is a nice, new memorial to veterans near a nice walking trail in Rolla, on the southwest side of town.  Last year,  a boy scout wanting to earn his Eagle Scout badge,  built a proper burn pit  so that the park could host the proper ceremonies for retiring old American flags.  The burn pit was totally torn apart and destroyed.

I was told years ago, in the late 1970s and during the  1980s, the St. Patrick partiers  shenanigans were getting out of control; businesses and other personal  properties were being damaged.  The city council and mayor had a meeting with the University’s Chancellor and told him to  get the celebrations under control or St. Patrick’s wouldn’t be celebrated anymore.  The University complied and the damaging  shenanigans ceased.   I think it’s time for the Mayor and city council to visit the current Chancellor and let her know that destruction of property in Rolla isn’t going to be tolerated.

Granted, I don’t have proof that drunken college students partied in a church’s parking lot, destroyed park property, and destroyed a burn pit.  However, when parties are broadly advertised and people flock to them, it’s pretty much a guarantee that people behaving badly will be the result.

I do have to wonder why the University allows the students to start their partying days before St. Patrick’s Day even arrives.  I was at the Post Office on Tuesday, March 10th, and across the street, the fraternity house had 2 members standing on the front yard drinking beer and blasting music.  At least it was country music, but to some that musical choice would be a crime!

My question  to the University is if you want to have a parade, crown a St. Patrick and pick a Queen of Love and Beauty, then why not  do so on the morning of the parade?   Those events could happen at 10 am and then the parade could begin at 11:00.  Tell the professors that classes and assignments, tests and quizzes will still happen that week  so that the students will still have to work and not have a bunch of free time to while away with drinking.  If the beer bashes don’t begin days before the parade and only happen  Friday night and after the parade, perhaps some of the damage done by the partiers will be minimal.

To businesses and churches with parking lots within walking distance of the parade and the campus proper, my husband wondered why don’t they charge money to park in their lots?   That’s what lots in St. Louis do when people drive in for a sporting event.  Or block your lot off.  Yes, it’s a hassle as you might have to have employees or church volunteers man the lot to make sure the barriers aren ‘t moved but that would be another way to keep the idiots at bay.

My rant is over,  and this video clip about the real St. Patrick might be enlightening for the university community.

St. Louis vs. Rolla

Phelps County, Missouri Courthouse, listed on ...

Phelps County, Missouri Courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Rolla, Missouri. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A montage of St. Louis

English: A montage of St. Louis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After our family made our move in June of 2011 to Rolla, many friends from St. Louis, or “the Lou” as it is sometimes affectionately called, asked us, “How do you like Rolla?”  That became the million dollar question! If any of our kids were asked, they would probably have groaned and began their list of complaints: there’s no mall, no Fritz’s, the zoo is far away, the Muny is far away, Busch Stadium is far away, there’s no Target, no Michael’s, no Penn Station

To be fair to our kids, being born near a large city, growing up in the suburbs of a large city, there are a lot of amenities in that kind of area and that is all they knew.    It is nice to be able to hop in the car, or take a trip on Metrolink, and go  to a baseball game, hockey game,  or see a show coming in from Broadway at the Fabulous Fox Theatre downtown.  I ,too, missed some of the shopping venues the greater St. Louis area offered and have learned to research  online  where the closest Target or Toys R Us store is, and then have had that internal, and sometimes external, debate:”Is it really worth the gas to make that 2 hour drive just to shop at such and such store?  Do I really need that item?  Is there a similar item at a local store? Can I order it online?”  That is probably the biggest thing I have had to get used to.  I am very glad Rolla did get a Kohl’s store and has a very nice JC Penney’s in town.  Now if a Target could be brought in and a Michael’s store and a Penn Station…hint, hint, City Council members and Mayor!!

The question resonated a bit differently for my husband and I, comparing life in a big city area to life in a town of 19,559.   My husband saw the immediate value of  lower property taxes, less traffic snarls, but would probably admit that the slower pace of life in Rolla did take a bit to get used to.  I would agree with his assessments, and also note that the land is different.   It is  hillier here, with  curvy roads especially on rural drives, stonier soils, lots of clear water running in creeks and springs, occasional black bear sightings.   As we are at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains here, and Arkansas is only a 3 to 3 and a half hour drive away, there is a distinctive twang, a bit of a Southern drawl-like sound to my Northwest Ohio born and raised ears that I catch when some Rolla area folks are talking.   I have also noticed that there is a more of a conservative view on life here when compared to St. Louis and it’s surrounding environs.  North St. Louis County, where we moved from, almost all political offices were and are still held by Democrats, and unions have a heavy influence there.  I would say it’s the exact opposite in Phelps County and Rolla.  If the election for the President had been decided in this town, Mr. Romney would be sitting in the Oval Office, and not President Obama.

St. Louis has many colleges and universities in its midst, all vying for students.  In Rolla, one dominates all of the rest, and is a major employer of the town: Missouri University of Science and Technology, or MS&T.  In 1870 the school was begun, under the title of the University of Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy.     As the school grew in size, expanded it’s degrees, added research and more buildings, it had another name change in 1964 to University of Missouri-Rolla, or UMR.   In January of 2008, the university once again changed it’s name to MS&T, much to the ire of alumni.  My husband works with several alumni and they still refer to their college alma mater as UMR!  Irregardless of the name, it provides an interesting contrast to the rural aspects of Rolla.  Many students are here from other countries and it is fascinating to me when I observe a group of foreign students at a local grocery store or the ubiquitous Wal-Mart, shopping and chatting away in their native tongue.  I wish I could understand their languages when that happens.  What do they think of life in America so far?  The university has a nice theatre, Leach Theatre, and they do a pretty decent job at bringing in outside entertainment groups for not only the students but for the entire community.  Leach also shows free movies and documentaries during the main two semesters on Tuesday evenings, which as a fan of classic movies, that is a nice plus!

Probably the only thing our family does agree on is the library.  Rolla’s library tries very hard to serve the public, but when one compares it to the St. Louis County Library system, it pales in the comparison.  If I could have a magic wand, I would wave more monies to Rolla’s Library so they could be come a mini-STL County branch library!  That would be wonderful to behold!  To be fair, the librarians and employees at Rolla’s library work hard and are very helpful, always ready to answer a question, so in that respect, they aren’t as grumpy as some of the  STL’s County branch librarians and employees  were who we encountered off and on for 20 years.   MS&T has a library open to the public,  but I haven’t explored it yet.  I have visions of it only being full of books on engineering, physics, chemistry, quantum physics, nuclear power, mining, calculus, etc.

Other than finding a house to live in,  our family’s other priority was to find a church to worship at and to grow our faith in.  We had been very active members at First Christian Church in Florissant for 20 years, and saying goodbye to that church and all of our friends there was and has been the hardest part of leaving the St. Louis area behind.  Providentially, a very good friend in Florissant happened to be good friends with the Youth Minister at a church in Rolla, Greentree Christian Church.  Another Florissant friend was also friends with the Children’s Minister at Greentree.  Through those two new to us ministers, they helped tremendously in aiding our teens and our elementary-aged son become acclimated to the church, and in helping them to make some connections with teens and kids at the church.  This connection, we believe, was God-directed and it has been a blessing to us in making the transition from a larger community to a smaller one.

To sum up, life in St. Louis has the plus of lots to do for entertainment, shopping, eating out, all close at hand.  It also has the downsides of traffic(but honestly, have you ever driven in Chicago?  Chicago traffic makes St.  Louis’s look like child’s play!), higher taxes, and higher crime rates.  Life in Rolla is definitely at a slower pace, lower taxes, less traffic, and an interesting mix of people: people from this area of South-Central Missouri, people from other countries and from other parts of the state attending the University,  farmers, Amish(there is a growing Amish community); folks working hard to make a living, to do right for their families, raising their children, worshiping God, proud to be from this area of the United States.  And, I add, whatever you do, don’t pronounce the town’s name “Roll-uh”.  It’s Rall-uh, sort of like Raleigh, but with a Missouri twist.

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