You’re told your first class is in the red brick building, you can’t miss it. You go up to the first red brick building, but it is the wrong one. You try again, and it’s also wrong. You keep looking. Your feet start to hurt. All the buildings are red brick. You stop looking for your class, and just start to look for a way out. You walk for days. You are surrounded by red brick buildings, and they are all the wrong one.
You hear a distant boom. Only the Big Bass Drum, you are assured. You can’t remember the Big Bass Drum being accompanied by the smell of gunpowder before, but say nothing.
The Big Bass Drum is filled with the names of previous crew members. The sound is so deep and loud, and seems to get louder every year. No one ever hears from the drum crew after graduation.
You hear screaming and grip your bag a little tighter. It grows closer, and suddenly you see two men running past yelling “FOUNTAIN RUN!” It isn’t the traditional time of year for a fountain run. In fact, none of the fountains have water, and the men ran straight past the Bell Tower fountain.
Still, all is well, and the explanation is completely satisfying.
The pilots are training, and a small plane flies low overhead. There’s nothing to worry about. It flies lower, only a hundred feet off the ground. No one thinks it’s odd. The plane is zigzagging between buildings on North campus now. No one glances up. It flies between pedestrians, and still no one comments.
Don’t walk under the Bell Tower if you value your future. The clock faces have four I’s watching you instead of IV. The bells on the Bell Tower must never ring, or it will collapse. You here it chime, and realize you are late for class.
There is construction. The campus must be in continuous construction, by order of John Purdue. No one questions why they follow the orders of a dead man. Buildings are torn down to be replaced by new buildings that look almost the same. The construction must not stop. One day you see the apartments outside your window are demolished; new housing will take their place. The construction must not stop.
John Purdue’s grave has a fountain over it and a statue of him next to it. No one knows if the grave is empty. They say the body was removed by IU students to desecrate it, or maybe by Purdue students to prevent desecration, or maybe it is still there under your feet as you cheerfully play Frisbee. Once you swore you saw a second statue, but it walked away.
The top of Beering is in a different zip code than the rest. They say its just an administrative trick, but
you looked out the window and saw waves crashing on a rocky shore. The ocean stretched off into the distance.
Over the last seven months, Purdue University students–led by former U.S. Ambassador Carolyn Curiel–polled 1,100 American adults in the areas of civic knowledge, civic participation, and civic confidence.
Paula Dwyer, an editor at Bloomberg View, will moderate a discussion with some of these students and present the findings.
Presented in partnership with C-SPAN and the Purdue Institute for Civic Communication.
Image: 1951, Propaganda posters distributed in Asia, from Record Group 306, National Archives Identifier 5729913 .