Jeff Brawer

Jeff Brawer
Brookline, Massachusetts,
February 14
I have been a television editor in the Boston area for over 25 years, working in broadcast, medical, and industrial TV. I've been dealing with weight issues for over 50 years and ranting about them for an eternity.

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MARCH 18, 2010 1:52AM

Tufts University's "Take An Undergrad For Coffee" Appeal

Rate: 37 Flag


On Tuesday, I received a letter from Lawrence Bacow, president of my alma mater, Tufts University.  He asked me to become a participant in the school's Student Ambassador Program - well, me and 93,000 other alumni, but I'm still honored and humbled by the offer.

According to the letter, "Our graduates provide valuable models for Tufts' current students and faculty, who look to them for guidance and inspiration." How do they know I can guide and inspire?  Are they tailing me?  I thought I saw some guy duck into an alley when I turned around suddenly the other day. He could have some incriminating shots of me spilling mustard on myself at the deli - there's some fine inspiration for the students.

I wish I had known about this sooner; I would have dressed better and shaved more often.

The letter goes on to say, "The Student Ambassador Program connects some of the university's most thoughtful and engaged students with graduates who can share unique perspectives on Tufts."  I do recall some unique perspectives from my college days.  There's the view of the third-floor bathroom ceiling in Carmichael Hall that I experienced while sprawled on the floor from too much cheap bourbon.  And up on the library roof, there was that spectacular scene of Boston at night as it was being stomped into rubble by a giant Richard Nixon (1969 was a bad year for lefties but a great year for acid.)

"In the next few weeks a student ambassador will contact you with an invitation to meet for an hour to hear your thoughts on Tufts...The conversations this program fosters will help us learn how we can best support our alumni on their lifelong professional and personal journeys."  Regular cash stipends would be nice, or maybe they could just cover my cable bill.

I think I'll accept the invitation when my student ambassador calls.  It might prove useful for him or her to hear about my time on the Medford Campus, and I'm all for the university being more responsive to the needs of its graduates.

I'll start off by imparting all the life lessons I learned at Tufts to my young colleague:

• Don't take girls to Paul Newman or Warren Beatty movies.

• If you mislabel the page numbers in the middle of a ten-page paper, it becomes a fifteen-page paper and professors are none the wiser.

• Dark beer is the perfect complement to a Reuben Sandwich.

• Theater majors are easy.

• A fifteen-page paper becomes a twenty-page paper if you gradually expand the margins and triple-space around quotations.

• Mutton chops are seldom a good look.

• "Adult Entertainment" has nothing to do with age or maturity.

• You can make a pipe out of anything.

• Choose some old disgruntled professor who's being forced into retirement to be your advisor.  He'll sign your degree sheet without looking too closely.

• Don't drink cheap bourbon.

For the most part, these precepts hold up well today.  It's true that Paul Newman is dead and thus not the box office draw he once was, and Warren Beatty now looks like the villains he played against in Dick Tracy, but you can swap in some new pretty boy and the rule still applies.

When we get around to discussing ways the university might better prepare its graduates for the real world, I'll make a suggestion.  No student should be granted a degree of any kind without first becoming a licensed plumber or electrician.  Drains will always clog and light fixtures will always short out, but your comprehensive knowledge of Melville won't fix either.  The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the pipe wrench clobbers them both.

As for improving alumni relations, having collected the equivalent of Latvia's GNP from us for four years, Tufts might show more personal interest in our wellbeing.  I'm not asking for much - an occasional phone call or letter, a nice card around the holidays - just a sentimental little something that says, "I'm thinking about you beyond your capacity to fuel our endowment."

And the Student Ambassador Program is a step in the right direction.  I have no doubt that it's an altruistic endeavor on the part of the school and not simply another sleazy ploy to bleed the last possible cent out of its former students and sharpen the scythe for the current crop.  In our hour together, I'm sure my ambassador and I can cover all the issues raised by the president's letter in a lively give-and-take over lattes at Starbucks...provided, of course, that Bacow picks up the tab.




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Teaching a prospective Tufts student how to make a crack pipe out of common household items is a valuable life skill that will stay with them for the rest of their life.
I really enjoyed reading this. As a former theatre major, I would have to disagree. It was the dance majors who were easy._r
All your advice is quite correct, though I think you could add "auto mechanic" or "computer geek" to your list of desirable skills. Laughed aloud at the line about Warren Beatty.
I read the title and thought how much fun it would be to "take" an undergrad. Alas, I then looked in the Mirror and felt a little like James Mason in Lolita ... Mandingo, on the other hand ...

Nice line about the pipe wrench. Having lived in a series of antique homes, I know well the reality behind that adage.
You want to teach the undergrad a life lesson? Make him or her spend an hour reading OS, then say, "This is what adults are really like." That should scare them straight.
Jeff, your humor continues to amaze and delight. Great post.
Anytime I hear from my alma mater, they would prefer that my sage advice, experience, overview, etc. be accompanied by a check. Don't give these people your phone number.
Used to get similar missives from a prep school and two universities. Finally got ticked off and told them to stop sending me the stuff because I wouldn't recommend any of them to anyone.

Oh -- what you said about the pipe wrenches? Absolutely spot-on.
They're saying that Tufts faculty looks to you for "guidance and inspiration"? Cool! And here's a new tip for the grads: good ol' Somerville is full of displaced Cantabridgians, so buy property in Medford while you still can. Then sell.
all your advice is good except for the wide margins and big font stuff. Us professors figured that one out. :)
I get a lot of emails from Tufts students asking me how to write a movie script: My reply is one word: "Don't"
littlewillie - Crack wasn't around when I was at Tufts, but we could make a hash pipe from an apple and a straw.

Joan - I used to work on plays at the Tufts Arena Theater so I have empirical evidence for drama majors. I'll take your word about dancers.

Pilgrim - Auto mechanics is absolutely on the list. Jay Leno worked his way through college as a mechanic.

Gwool - "So tell me about your courses, little girl [rubs hands together.]"

Cranky - I wouldn't want to scare them into Catatonia.

aliquot - You're too kind.

sixtycandles - It's too late for me, but everybody else should take fair warning.

Boanerges1 - Williston is even more fanatical than Tufts.

rmgosselin - I never imagined Somerville would become hip, so I think you're onto something.

fingerlakeswanderer - We had typewriters, so the font scam wouldn't work. As for the other ruses, I'm sorry to know we've been found out.

John - A wise if soul-crushing response.
Don't forget to tell the biology majors that, after three or four months, the shower stall can be used as a science project. Hard to transport to the classroom, but scrapings from the variety of fungi growing on the walls should be good for, at least, a B+.
I went to the University of Chicago (Motto: "Where fun comes to die!), usually in the top ten of Worst Party Schools. Your suggestions about margins and page number would be reversed there, as in some Bizarro anti-universe, e.g., if you put two page 13s in a paper you can exceed a 15-page limit.

My first year roommate got his margins down to the width of DNA--single helix.
"No student should be granted a degree of any kind without first becoming a licensed plumber or electrician." I have thought this for many years.
ha! However, if you mislabel a paper that I grade, I have a tendency to paginate it for you correctly and let you know. It's my evil way.

Alas, that thing about cheap bourbon, you have to learn on your own.
This was really funny, Jeff! As usual!

"I thought I saw some guy duck into an alley when I turned around suddenly the other day. He could have some incriminating shots of me spilling mustard on myself at the deli .."

Well, since Paris Hilton seems to have decreased the number of bizarre appearances at clubs and restaurant openings, maybe National Enquirer is more desperate for stories.

No student should be granted a degree of any kind without first becoming a licensed plumber or electrician.

I love that line :)
Good luck!
Donna - I became an amateur mycologist thanks to the kitchen sinks in college apartments.

Con - In my day, Tufts was where you went if you couldn't get into the Ivies - or U. of Chicago.

Maureenow, OEsheepdog - Thank you.

Owl_Says_Who - I'd extend the requirement to include auto mechanics and fine cabinetry.

odetteroulette - I'm not taking your course!

Natalie - I've been trying for years to get on TMZ without any luck. Candids of me in The Tufts Alumni Quarterly just isn’t the same.

Lainey - There seems to be a lot of support for this idea.
It doesn't matter if you have spilled mustard all over yourself when you have such sound advice to give. I'll try to remember that about theater majors:) rated.
Loved these. Thumbs up on the mutton chops.
This post would make a wonderful commencement speech. Why not?
Liked the post even though I'm a professor in rural Kentucky. The whole college thing is really quite simple. The bottom line is that all colleges prepare students to be productive citizens while living in high octane leisure environments. The students who can get "A's" and "B's" while indulging in partying/ sex/drugs/body art, etc. are the ones who go on to become doctors, business executives, and other kinds of professionals. Eventually, most of them are going to substitute lattes, vacation, home remodeling, various kinds of conneissureship, and blogging for the partying they did while in college. But they're establishing their basic life pattern while in college.
Having just fixed my bedside lamp with a $5.00 hardware store part rather than paying someone else $20.00 to do it for me, I ardently support teaching college students some practical skills. For that matter, maybe we send students to college too soon before they really know what they're good at and what they want to do. Some vocational training right out of high school seems a good place to put them first. THEN when they discover what floats their boats, send them to college.

I ask you--where are the equivalents who can hold a candle to Paul Newman and Warren Beatty NOW???
Ha! I laughed out loud at that bit about Melville and the pipe wrench. Rated for that. I'd also add food service to the list of jobs every college graduate should have under their belt. Everybody ought to spend a little time waiting tables, it'll put the world in perspective.
This is so dead on!

My alma mater is relentless in appeals for everything but my stem cells, and I fear that those are next.

Rated and appreciated.
Finally, some brilliant advice I can actually use. Instead of trimming back, oh, 5 or 100 pages of my 420 page novel, which is 100 pages too long for the attention span of any publisher/agent. All I have to do is mislabel the page numbers in the middle and presto--that new, smaller, sleeker stack of ideas/blather is green-lighted.
Great advice. Wish I had known about the page-numbering trick, so's I coulda learned to be more concise instead of filling the space with adjectives, legalese and re-worded repetition. The plumbing advice was brilliant. Pipes? The only pipes we had were the briar kind, as dope hadn't been invented yet when I was an undergrad. They'd only just phased out freshman beanies. (r)
I'm looking forward to the sequel.