When vying for a potential student’s enrollment, universities will commonly list qualities such as affordability, passionate professors, and a vibrant social scene as alluring features. In this highly competitive day and age, these are all valid points, but hardly ones that might set YSU apart from the rest of the crowd. In this situation, a true insider’s perspective is needed in order to highlight Youngstown State’s unique qualities. Having owned several oversized YSU t-shirts that were put to good use as either paint smocks or extra spill rags, I am that very insider. My dear reader, this is the beginning of what I am certain will be an informative and eye-opening series, in which I explore the true reasons why YSU deserves your enrollment, beginning with a reason to which I have a rather personal connection.
Reason To Attend Youngstown State: YSU Accommodates Pets
Since YSU’s student population has a large number of non-traditional, older enrollees, it is not uncommon for children to also be present from time to time. Professors generally have no issue with a parent bringing their spawn to class if they are unable to find childcare that day, provided their brood is well-behaved and does not disrupt the lesson. What many outsiders may not realize, though, is that this unspoken policy also extends to pets. Since I view all children as not only mental threats, but also as physical rivals, I have no plans to become a biological father. However, to my pet rat, Garrett, I can confidently claim to be a stern, yet loving, parental figure. Though Garrett may be a rodent, I view him as my one true successor and the fruit of my loins… or rather, I did, until the incident. Allow me to explain.
Garrett: Moon of my life, Fruit of my loins
Frequently, and especially on test days, Garrett will accompany me to my classes. Since I have yet to master a proper pencil grip, I instead trained Garrett to hide in my right sleeve, clutching a pencil between his teeth and marking the exam paper for me. He is literally my right hand, and to a casual onlooker, it would simply appear as if I were violently jerking a pencil back and forth across a bubble sheet. This system worked wonderfully for some time. On the day of my last Italian exam, however, Garrett decided that the time had come to declare his independence.
There had to be another way.
Though I had viewed the arrangement as symbiotic, it became clear that Garrett considered his position little more than that of a rodential sleeve servant. Breaking from his bonds of sleeve slavery (sleevery?), Garrett burst forth from the flannel prison, scampering across the classroom floor and plunging headfirst into an open air duct. “Garrett! No!” I screamed, diving after him. I clawed at the air vent, but was unable to force my human-sized body through the grates in pursuit. If I hoped to ever pass another test again, I had to act quickly.
Using the usually persuasive combination of various snack foods and positive verbal reinforcement, I attempted to lure Garrett from the ventilation system of YSU’s Debartolo Hall, but to no avail. Even wearing the ghillie suit made of mouse hair and stale droppings, which I had worn for the first three years of Garrett’s life in order to gain his trust, proved completely ineffective. I then had a sudden realization. What if Garrett found a new owner? What if he used his pencil-wielding powers to help another student on their exams? Though his scribbling was completely random, since he has no understanding of the English language (he is a rat), Garrett’s methods would net an almost certain statistical 25% on any four-bubbled multiple-choice test. I could not let that sort of academic power fall into the hands (or sleeves) of another student. I had no other option but to locate and destroy Garrett entirely, and I knew just how to do it.
I wasn't about to just give up this golden goose.
For thousands of years, mankind has used Mother Nature’s food chain to its advantage, calling upon the specific aid of another animal (a natural predator) to keep rat populations under control. I am, of course, referring to meaner, tougher rats. Sloshing to the foulest depths of the university’s sewage tunnels, I found just the rats I needed: the most ill-mannered and sociopathic in the entire septic network. These were rats among rats, dear reader, and I knew that they would make short work of the traitorous Garrett.
Some places are omitted from the brochures.
At precisely 9:15 a.m. the following Tuesday, I emerged from YSU’s sewer system, slopping my way out of the campus’s central manhole and into the morning sunlight, as awestruck passersby watched in horror. Playing an offensively repetitive tune on my magic flute (I am self-taught), I shepherded an army of 2,000 furiously damp rats out of what seemed like Hell, itself, across campus, and into the ventilation system of Debartolo Hall (just as I had once done with the children of Hamelin). At last, all of my problems would be solved! The nightmare would soon be over! Yet, as the last of the enraged vermin entered the propped-open air vent, and as the last note escaped my flute, I felt a sort of… emptiness. Dear reader, I felt an emptiness that I could attribute to only one thing: parenthood. As I mentioned earlier, my bond with Garrett was more than that of an owner and his pet, but that of a father and son. Yes, dear reader, I began to feel remorse for trapping my only child within the air ducts of Youngstown State University to fend for himself against an honestly appalling number of ravenous and disease-ridden rodents, as most parents surely would.
You have only yourselves to blame, parents of Hamelin.
I was about to exit the building when I heard it: a faint, but familiar squeaking. I stopped, cupped an ear, and began to follow the sound through the hallway. The squeaking grew and grew, until I finally turned the corner to find none other than Garrett, pawing at the door to my Italian classroom, pen in mouth, nervously looking around as the walls pulsated due to the sheer quantity of ferocious mammals within. “You do care!” I blubbered, tears streaming down my face. All of my anger and hunger for vengeance melted away. I scooped Garrett up, gave him a friendly pat, and let him retreat into my right sleeve. “Let’s call it a day, buddy,” I sighed, as we strolled out the front door of Debartolo Hall, a reunited father and son, as the walls of the building churned and creaked.
Is there anything more beautiful?
What more is there to say, dear reader? Though our kids might sometimes drive us up the wall (or cause us to drive a legion of rats into the walls), we can’t help but forgive them, even if it takes us a while to realize just how much we do care. Of course, none of this would have been possible at a school less pet-welcoming than Youngstown State University. The action of accidently chasing a single rat into the ventilation system and then intentionally leading several thousand other rats into the same ventilation system would surely be frowned upon by a university that might not place the same values in the bond between parent and child (as well as pet and owner) that YSU does. Even several days later, when I released a backpack full of snakes in an attempt to fix the rat problem, and subsequently introduced several hawks to combat the aforementioned snakes, no one ever questioned my actions. Teachers, students, and custodial staff members simply stepped around and over the cacophony of animal violence, and continued to go about their business, having most likely seen worse over the course of their semester.
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