Semi-famous faces

A celebrity culture exists entirely on Grounds

Walking to class the other day, I noticed a familiar looking man headed in my direction. I searched my mind for a few brief seconds until I realized he was one of my professors from last semester.

I flashed him a grin, waved and watched in embarrassment as he returned my salutations with a bewildered expression, as if I were some alien he had never before seen. A single face in his lectures of 400 pupils, I had never met him. He had likely never seen me before, save for maybe a quick glance once or twice over the course of a semester.

I didn’t make sense of the encounter until a few days later when talking to one of my friends who attends a different school. When he asked me what courses I was taking, I told him about Prof. Sabato’s introductory politics course. When he made no out-of-the-ordinary response, I informed him of Sabato’s status as an on-Grounds legend, which my friend received with mild disinterest.

This exchange brought to my attention the microcosm of celebrity culture that exists on Grounds. By this, I mean there are certain individuals, by they students or faculty, who tend to draw more attention and notoriety than others. In all honesty, I may not have enrolled in the introductory politics course had I not recognized Sabato’s name from network news stations. But even for professors who don’t grace local news stations, their appearance in front of large lecture halls implicitly blurs the line between educator and performer. My viewing of him as a celebrity of sorts elicited an unexpected and entirely out-of-character greeting.

But the celebrity culture at the University is not limited to professors. Who hasn’t switched to a different swipe line in Newcomb so Ms. Kathy can remind them how good-looking they are? As for students, I’ve witnessed multiple people attempt to grab a sneaky Snapchat of the young man playing the “Good Ol’ Song” on his flute along McCormick in the morning.

To me, the celebrity culture at the University exists because it solidifies the feeling of community at an institution with more than 20,000 people. It creates a bond across the student body when a single member of our community can be recognized and acknowledged. Let’s face it, University students are constantly seeking ways to elevate above their school above their friends’ rivaling universities. If the manner in which we do this involves deifying Double Swipe Dean, then let it be so.

Aidan’s column runs biweekly Fridays. He can be reached at

Published April 10, 2014 in Life

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