In 2003, Utah Valley State College’s athletic teams will begin playing NCAA Division I competition, putting it in the same league as BYU and other real, live schools. If you’re like me, you consider this big news, because you didn’t know UVSC even had athletic teams.

But this is ignorant of you and me. Of course UVSC has athletic teams. What, you think people go there for academic reasons?

But again, we must stop making cracks like that. Though I have long been at the forefront in making fun of UVSC, I fear the time may have come that we shall have to start taking the school seriously.

First it became a state college instead of a community college. Then they began hiring professors instead of hobos. Then they started giving graduates diplomas instead of Chili’s gift certificates. Now, apparently, they will play at the top level of NCAA athletics, competing against other colleges rather than high schools and scout troops.

Yes, my friends, maybe the days of blithely mocking UVSC are over. In the past, we have considered a UVSC athletic event to be on the same level of legitimacy as a same-sex wedding, or a little girl’s tea party to which her dollies are invited — you know, you’d attend if there was nothing else going on, but it’s not like you’ll take it seriously or anything. All that could change now. If UVSC successfully makes the leap from NJCAA Region 18 to NCAA Division I-A, it will be the first school ever to do so without most of its students knowing what those letters stand for.

But enough jokes about UVSC! Come on, people, this is serious business. To be eligible for NCAA Division I play, UVSC must choose another sport to add to the 13 it already has, three of which, technically, are board games. It has come down to men’s volleyball or wrestling, the dilemma being that volleyball would attract mostly out-of-state students, while wrestling is boring.

The other dilemma is how to come up with the additional budget necessary to compete in Division I. UVSC’s sports budget is $1.4 million now, but must be at $2 million by the end of the six-year provisional period. That additional $600,000 will go toward “upgrading” the teams to NCAA status. For example, members of the basketball team will ultimately need to wear traditional shirt-and-shorts uniforms, rather than the overalls and straw hats they wear now. Also, the unripe cantaloupes swiped from Farmer Johnson’s melon patch will be replaced with regulation basketballs.

You can see why I’m worried. Though I grudgingly admit in my more unguarded moments that UVSC has been a legitimate institution of higher learning for a couple years now, I have refused to acknowledge it publicly. With this advance in athletics, though, I may be forced to.

But first, I need to unload this last pile of jokes, which is a list of courses offered at UVSC:

– Parking
– Sheepdip from Shinola: How to Tell the Difference
– The Science of Bongs
– Washing Machines: Unlocking the Mystery
– Underpants Studies
– Long Division
– Noises a Doggie Makes
– The Bazooka Joe Comic as Literature
– Figuring out the Long, Difficult Words in Your BYU Rejection Letter

Go Wolverines!

I like this column, because the degree to which I make fun of UVSC is so unjustified and so unprovoked. As Luscious Malone puts it, it's not that I push people's buttons (bzz, bzz, bzz). It's that I find one button I like and just keep my finger on it (bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).

For those not of this land, UVSC is in south Orem and BYU is in Provo; they're about two miles from each other. UVSC started as a technical college, then became Utah Valley Community College, then finally a state college. (When I was a missionary, I had a companion who had gone there, and he referred to it as "Utah Valley" rather than admit he'd been at Utah Valley COMMUNITY College.) Stereotypically, the classes are not as hard, and the school has open enrollment for anyone who cares to go. Also stereotypically, people go there when they can't get into BYU. There are many exceptions to those stereotypes, obviously, but not enough to make the stereotypes invalid.

People wrote angry letters about this column, but I don't understand why. Seems to me you only write in if you think the writer wasn't aware his column would be offensive, and you're pointing out to him that it was. If it's obvious he knew it would bother people, then what's the point of writing in? To let him know it worked, that he won?

Anyway, people wrote in. First, I got this voice mail from someone named Doris Garner. She called our opinions page editor, who forwarded the voice mail to me:

I just read one of Eric Snider's articles this morning on UVSC -- [she reads the headline] -- this article goes on to say what a horrible school that is out there, that the courses are "Parking," "Sheepdip from Shinola," he goes on and on about how they are just a bunch of stupid idiots that have ever gone out there. I cannot believe that the Daily Herald would allow things like that in there, a college that has 24,000 students. [Remember: If it's popular, it must be good.] I taught there for 23 years. It is a wonderful school. I'll write my letter, but Eric seems to think that all he has to do is make fun of people, the elderly, anything, and that people are going to find it humorous. That is one of the most offensive articles I have ever read, and I think it's a sad day when that kind of thing is published in the Daily Herald.

She also called the main switchboard number, which early in the morning (when she called) forwards to someone on the copy desk. That person also sent me the voice mail:
I just read this article of Eric Snider's talking about how horrible UVSC is, how they're finally hiring professors instead of hobos. That is the most horrible article I have ever read and if you think people are not going to be upset, I would like to talk to someone, and see if anyone ever reviews the stuff he puts in the paper before it gets in there. I'm just appalled that an article like that -- a college where 24,000 students attend -- it just blows my mind.

She kind of melted down at the end, there. But she had the presence of mind to write me an e-mail, which she did not sign, but which I realized was hers due to her name appearing in the e-mail address:

After reading your article regarding UVSC, I just had to write. I just want you to know how bad I feel that you are going through such a difficult time. I'm sure this latest rejection you suffered must have been from a young woman who attends UVSC. I'm sure your therapist is working diligently to help you understand that your deep-rooted feelings of insecurity and inferiority are really not your fault, and are likely because of your sad childhood and if anyone is to blame it is likely your mother!! [That's where the humorless old bat loses any sympathy I had for her point of view, when Mom gets dragged into it.]

Nevertheless, this is something you have to deal with. I suspect that having a job where you are forced to write nothing but negative, slandering, untruthful, spiteful remarks about every facet of life in Utah County is extremely difficult and depressing for you. [My writing does not depress me nearly as much as it apparently depresses you.] How hard it must be for you to live in such a place where all of the people are so stupid and dim-witted. [Yeah, tell me about it. A lot of them can't take a joke, either!]

I am so sorry you were unable to find employment in California where you undoubtedly would have been much much happier. [Again, though she's being sarcastic, true!] On second thought, that might have been very difficult for your family to have you that close!

By the way my son-in-law who gradulated from that so-called college [I admitted it was an actual college; the "so-called" is apparently how she feels] about 10 years ago and got his diploma in Electronics (or was it a Chili's gift certificate?) [He got a diploma in Chili's gift certificates? I didn't even know that was a major.] is now making a six-figure salary -- lucky he didn't read your article before attending that shoddy institution! [Because that would have required time travel, and that would have been weird.] I remember now! He got an A in his "Sheepdip from Shinola" course -- guess he was one of the few who learned how to tell the difference!

And dim-witted me -- after teaching in the School of Business at said college for 23 years and seeing it grow to over 24,000 students, I had been brain-washed into thinking it was a great institution, imagine that! [Not hard to imagine: I said IN THE COLUMN that it's a "legitimate institution of higher learning" and that I only make jokes because of, I don't know, tradition or something.] I'll have to admit my biggest challenge when I walked into class was getting those students to remove their straw hats -- hard for them to work on their computer with that straw hat dropping down over their eyes!

If this sounds like a sarcastic letter, I had a good teacher -- guess who? [I don't know. Someone not very funny, apparently.] Truthfully, I hope some day you will find something positive to say about something anything! After all, you are a human being also and deserve some happiness in life! [Apoplectic letters from gnarled old tarts are all I need to stay happy.]

Then I also got this e-mail, from someone else. This one takes UVSC and college in general really, really seriously:
Mr. Eric,

Your recent composition in the Herald was truly the work of a professional. It is this literary quality that will earn you great awards in journalism. [Already has, actually, but thanks.] I sincerely hope you believe me so that you can continue in your nonsense and underdeveloped writing skills; one day maybe losing your job and not sitting any better than someone not educated at all. Wouldn't that be ironic?

I am also a Brigham Young graduate, however I attended UVSC for a year before I transfered. UVSC is a terrific school for those seeking secondary education. It is true that is seems to appeal to the aspiring student who maybe did not perform well in high school or simply did not care then. However, it offers them an opportunity to "try again"; a second chance to strengthen their credentials and further qualify themselves for greater educational opportunities. This idea champions the individual in his/her goals for self-actualization.

I know the intention and objective of your article was to officially recognize UVSC as a progressing NCAA school in sports, but it will also rise in its educational merits. However, your writing was all too critical of the institution itself and the students who are studying there. Let us not be insecure with the development and attempts for educational progression with others. [I feel bad now for calling that old woman "humorless" when that title clearly should have been reserved for this guy.]

The general student body at Brigham Young can be stereotyped and classified much easier. [I know; I write about it all the time.] However, this is not my purpose. My objective here is to remind you of who your audience is. It is an economic benefit and victory for Utah County, even Orem and Provo, when just one individual decides to enroll in college and obtains a degree.

Jimmy Eaton

A month or so later, there was this e-mail from one Erica G.:
Just wanted to let you know how I feel about your column you wrote about UVSC.

I currently attend there. I am a transfer student from BYU Hawaii (attending there to dance at the Polynesian cultural center) I was accepted to BYU, Cornell and Berkley [Or Berkeley, as the people there like to spell it]. I chose not to go to BYU. I could've easily gotten in. [Um, a second ago, you said you HAD gotten in.] The comment I would like to make is that some people who are attending BYU shouldn't even be there...they shouldn't even be at UVSC. The only reason why they are there is because their daddy is a mission president or their mommy works there. Or perhaps they can play basketball...who cares if they are not mormon or if their GPA is 2.0, if they can play they are in. [The two groups who should not be allowed at BYU: non-Mormons and dumb people.]

I am sure that there are a lot of students who attend UVSC who are a lot more intelligent than you or anyone else who holds themselves higher in esteem because they attend BYU. [In other words, people who hold themselves in high esteem because they attend BYU are, by definition, not smart.] While at BYU Hawaii we could tell who the new visiting students from BYU Provo were. They were the ones who were too good to say hello in the halls or participate in anything but the hula or surfing classes. [Geez, or maybe they were the new students who didn't know anyone and were therefore a little shy!] No one wanted to be around them, and everyone couldn't wait for them to go home. People I talk to wether attending UVSC or BYU, who are not from Utah, always say the same thing. People at BYU are snobby and self righteous.

So if you're going to make stero types and throw jabs to the students who are working hard at UVSC, think again. Perhaps you should look at your own school and the students and morals there and then write a column about the hypocrasy and haughtiness that occurs in your school on a daily basis. [Yeah, when I was at BYU, I really should have written some columns making fun of it. Oh, wait, I did, almost every single week.] Do you make snide remarks because you are insecure about yourself? [I could ask the same question of her in regards to her lengthy anti-BYU tirade.] You have to write and pull fun of people or schools who are trying to better themselves everday because you look in a mirror and don't like what you see? [Again, let us ask the questions of the asker, too.] A little irony and fun is great, but didn't your mother ever teach you not to do it at another's expense? Or did you mommy go to BYU too? [How does my mother keep getting into this?]