My View from South Hill
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
In the kind of football played outside of United States, “stoppage time” refers to playing time added to the competition after the regulation 90 minutes. Since the game is theoretically continuous but in practice stops due to injuries, substitutions, and celebrations after goals, the referee usually adds two to four minutes of play once the 90 minute clock has expired.
A few additional minutes may sound like an afterthought, but sometimes stoppage time provides the most enduring memories of the game. Just last weekend in England, where I happen to be right now, Manchester United dealt a crushing 1-0 defeat to its cross-city rival Manchester City with a goal scored after 92 minutes and 40 seconds, with just 20 seconds left in stoppage time. Given what the game meant to both teams, that little appendage of extra time will be remembered for decades.
I am now in stoppage time myself, along with over one million other people stranded away from home under a cloud of Icelandic ash. My visit to London was meant to stretch from Wednesday, April 14, to Monday, April 19. I was travelling with a few friends of Ithaca College to get an inside look at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library and a back-stage look at the West End revival of the musical Hair. (It helps in both cases to have friends in key places). I also wanted to get a first-person understanding of our London Center, as well as meet some of our alumni who live in the region.
I haven’t put together a Bucket List, but if I do I will include “See an original copy of the Magna Carta,” and then check it off. I have never experienced anything quite like the feeling that comes from seeing the words “Nullus liber homo capiatur, vel imprisonetur” (No free man shall be seized or imprisoned) written on a parchment dating from 1217 A.D.. Eight hundred years later our idea of freedom is a direct descendant of the document we viewed last week, even if we are still seeking to fully realize the relationship between people and government that it describes.
Seeing the London revival of the 1960s musical Hair, and then talking with cast members afterwards, was a memorable experience of a different kind. We had special access to the cast thanks to the musical’s producer in New York and London, who is an IC alumnus. Apart from containing irresistibly infectious songs, the musical evoked in our group varying degrees of memory of our youth, as well as a reminder of a generational mindset that now seems remote even to us. We couldn’t help but be impressed with the amount of research the young cast did in order to understand the era they were portraying, and we couldn’t help but feel that in talking with us they were continuing their research.
Those activities, carried out in the planned portion of my visit, were pretty amazing. But it was only in stoppage time, after Mount Eyjafjallajökull (I promised myself I would try to spell it!) led to the cancellation of my flight home, that the trip became a rounded whole that I will always remember. Stepping to the fore: Ithaca’s London Center and its remarkable occupants.
Acquiring our London Center – a large house with classrooms, practice rooms, computer labs, common areas and study rooms, administrative offices, and a small apartment for a visiting faculty member – was a brilliant move by my predecessor James Whalen. The house is in Kensington, centrally located in one of London’s most vibrant neighborhoods and just two doors down from the home William S. Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan) built for himself in the late 19th century.
Locating myself in a temporary office in the London Center this week has enabled me to watch the daily rhythms of students in residence this semester as they attend class and compare notes on their internships. I listen to the faculty, accomplished professionals in their fields who make room in their schedules to teach our students because they find the students to be so talented and so actively engaged with their own learning. I hear the students’ stories of the highs and lows of independent living in London flats; of weekend travels to Scotland, Ireland, and the continent; and of the travails last weekend of getting home by train, bus and boat after flights were cancelled and all other forms of transportation were jammed. I eavesdrop as music theater students listen to each other’s vocal performances with a critical but sympathetic ear, and as they fret over the fact that department chair Lee Byron will be in the audience for their major concert of the semester. (They don’t seem to be at all worried about me.) I then listen to the concert itself, and am overwhelmed both by the quality of their voices and by the expressiveness of their dramatic presentation. The students demonstrate their affection for our long-serving Center director, Bill Sheasgreen, with improvised song lyrics that incorporate sly references to his quirks.
I am witness to a level of worldliness and self-confidence on the part of our students that I would never have been able to observe had I not been forced to remain in London longer than expected. It is hard to believe these students have been here for less than four months! IC alumni often tell me their London semester was a life-changing experience; I have now had the privilege of seeing that transformative power at work.
I don't know how much longer I will be in London; it could be awhile since the great Vulcan Referee has not yet decreed how long stoppage time will last. But I do know that my memory of this trip will be shaped as much by the students and faculty I am getting to know this week, as by the purposes that originally brought me here last week.
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