During late October, morale is low on campus, especially among first year students. Many are sick. During the beautiful fall weekends in early October, many first year students chose to go home and exchange viruses with their home communities, bringing back colds and stomach bugs. And they've gotten midterm tests back this week, with low grades for many of them. This is the point in the semester when some of the students realize that they are not going to make it in college, that academic dismissal is a sure thing.
I don't much like this time of year on campus. I know too much about what is going on in the lives of my students. I know that some of them have given up on the idea of college and are drinking every night instead. They are fighting with each other, roommates bickering and friendships dissolving. The couples that got together in the excitement of September are breaking up, amidst anger and tears.
Out of my sixty students, it is likely that one or two will disappear, choosing to withdraw and leave college now. Likely one will end up in the hospital for alcohol poisoning -- that is, if we are lucky and a responsible person calls 911. Many will end the semester on academic probation.
It's late October. Students are feeling tired and overwhelmed. Faculty are feeling tired and overworked. The warm weather is gone, and the trees are bare. It feels good on days like this to leave campus and return to my home community, where kids are decorating houses for Halloween. Carved pumpkins are appearing on porches, cutouts of black cats decorate the windows of the elementary school, and one lawn feature tombstones with funny sayings. Inside my own home, a fire makes the living area cosy while we begin brainstorming for With-a-Why's Halloween costume.