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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #137: Keene State College, Keene

Kinda Sorta College

In Ghostbusters, Ray Stantz references Gozer's entrance into our reality as the biggest interdimensional cross-rip since the Tunguska blast of 1909. Coincidentally, that same year saw the founding of Keene Normal School as a teachers college. Later, it would become part of the University System of New Hampshire as Keene State College (abbreviated KSC, which some of the less charitable of us at UNH would claim stood for "Kinda Sorta College").

Two hours down 101 west from the Durham campus, Keene seemed to inhabit another world, in a very different way than did its sister school, Plymouth State College. (PSC, or Piddly Shit College. To be fair, we self-referenced as the University of No Hope.) While Plymouth perched in the mountains as a kind of harmless ski-bum party paradise, Keene State clung to the Vermont-NH border like a benevolent barnacle, a junior varsity in-state safety school. I know plenty of people who got good educations there, and I know it's a fine school. You just never stop making fun of your little sister.

My memories of Keene State come largely from meetings of the USSB, the University System Student Board. Student representatives from UNH, Plymouth, and Keene would gather to discuss student political issues and to work with our student trustee to fashion our collective agenda in regard to trustee business. These were fascinating summits, largely for the insight they provided on the kind of leadership our fellow student bodies elected and the issues they chose to care about. Our UNH delegation always found it of interest that tuition and fees were not at the top of the list, and that our ongoing struggle to expand student autonomy simply wasn't on the radar screens at these other campuses. Almost without fail, especially at Keene, the focus seemed to be on student life questions, ski holidays or - shudder - the pumpkin festival. I can vividly remember sitting down at Keene with my counterpart student body president as she waxed poetic about the friggin' pumpkins. We were trying to build a student coalition to address our joint financial concerns across the system, and this woman couldn't shut up about pumpkins. We couldn't get them out of their gourd obsession.

Sure, you might say, this was a singular experience. Nope. Over three years of attending these meetings in different capacities, meeting three different spates of KSC student leadership, this abject disinterest in hard issues was a constant. It honestly made me glad when the festival was canceled. I wonder what the heck their student leaders talk about now.

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