My son was recently abducted by aliens. These strange creatures from a far off land lured him to their institution, garbed him in their apparel, and claimed him as their own.
To make matters worse, our son went with them willingly.
Even worse than that, my husband and I have agreed, through a complex combination of loans, financial aid, the GI Bill and possibly human sacrifice, to pay these aliens $64,000 a year to keep him.
No, we have not fallen prey to a Vulcan mind warp. The Galactic Empire has not injected us with the RNA brainwashing virus. We have not been hypnotized by Sleestaks. We merely took our son to his college orientation.
When we arrived, they separated us from our son immediately, whisking him off with the other starry-eyed newcomers to “start a memorable and important time in their academic and professional journeys.” We knew that they were really intending to erase our son’s memory. Eighteen years of our hard work, down the drain.
In order to placate the parents, they pumped us full of coffee, plied us with shiny new pens, and herded us around to “informative sessions” such as “Letting Go” and “Money Matters” in a suspiciously space ship-shaped building they referred to as “EMPAC” — The Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center.
While the parents were locked in the EMPAC mothership with the institution’s leaders, our children were off playing “ice breaker” games with legions of bubbly upperclassmen dressed in matching college t-shirts and well-worn sneakers. The incoming freshmen were encouraged to become “independent,” i.e., to make all decisions without involving their parents other than to send them the bills.
The institution’s leaders tried to allay our fears, characterizing the terrifying experience of handing over our flesh and blood to complete strangers as a “normal rite of passage.” They told us not to be concerned, because our children would have all sorts of “advisors” to guide them. There would be Student Orientation Advisors, Resident Advisors, Academic Advisors, Graduate Assistants, Learning Assistants and Peer Tutors. But all we were thinking was, “Yea, but who’s going to tell him to wear his retainer?”
They said our kids would be well-nourished with a variety of meal plans ranging from the “unlimited access” plan, otherwise known as the “Fast-track-to-morbid-obesity” plan, to the “custom plan”, commonly referred to as the “Go-broke-on-take-out-after-you-expend-your-dining-hall-allotment” plan. Rest assured, they told us, the students would never go hungry thanks to an impossibly confusing supplemental system of “flex dollars” and “student advantage dollars” which could be used to buy an endless array of well-balanced meals (READ: pizza, chocolate milk, and potato chips) all over campus, 24/7.
They paraded a series of experts from the health clinic and campus security before us, telling us that, without our adult children’s express consents, we were not permitted to know if they got arrested or pregnant. And lastly, we were informed that we had no right to access our children’s grades, despite the fact that we had to take second mortgages on our homes to pay their tuition.
Finally, we were released into the blinding sunlight to find our newly-indoctrinated children milling about the quad. In order to squeeze every last dollar from our increasingly shallow pockets, we were funneled through the campus bookstore, where we bought our son a lanyard with a hook large enough to hold his student ID, his military ID, his room key, his bike lock key, his asthma inhaler, a bottle of hand sanitizer, a stick of lip balm, a thumb drive, and — most importantly — a framed eight-by-ten photograph of me, his mother.
In six short weeks, we will surrender our son to this alien academic institution for good, and hope that he will heed the words of one well-known extra-terrestrial and always remember to “phone home.”