While in Chicago earlier this month, I had the pleasure of visiting my good friend from Gonzaga, Mr. Lucas Sharma, who is now pursuing graduate studies at Loyola University Chicago. In his second year of grad school, he has come to learn some of the differences between hard working grad students, such as himself, and those people who attempt to make university life more complicated and bureaucratic. For instance, he told me of his trials as sociology club advisor when the club requested $150 for a group event. They had to submit an application to the student affairs committee and attend an interview only to be denied the small sum due to a missed detail of a rule that (he believes) existed for no reason. After re-submitting and re-interviewing, they were awarded their money. But, as Lucas said, busy grad students certainly don’t have a lot of time to waste with these efforts, and he found the whole process rather absurd.
So while I was just visiting Loyola Chicago for a short time, I didn’t expect to encounter any of these unnecessary hoops that Lucas claimed pervaded every part of his campus. But clearly I just didn’t know Loyola Chicago yet. Let me just say here that I do love Jesuit schools, so I’m confident this doesn’t reflect all Jesuit educational institutions.
On a campus tour my last morning in town, Lucas showed me into his office, introduced me to a few of his fellow grad students, and we walked in and out of various buildings: the chapel, the student union building, and finally, we came to the library.
Lucas warned me that we would have to check in since I wasn’t a student and didn’t have a student ID to tap on the sensor allowing the literary gates to open. I thought a simple clipboard with a sign-in sheet awaited me at the front desk. After seeing some questionable characters at Gonzaga’s Foley Center Library as an undergrad, I initially supported the idea of a check-in for non-students. When I got to the counter and Lucas informed the student worker that he just wanted to show me around for a few minutes she replied,
“OK, no problem. I’ll just need to see a state-issued photo ID.”
“Oh, no, I’m just going to be here a few minutes,” I responded attempting to clear up the misunderstanding.
“Yep, that’s fine. I just need a state-issued photo ID.”
OK, fine. I’m not one to break rules. I dug around in my bag, fished out my wallet, and handed her my driver’s license thinking she would look at it momentarily and hand it back.
But instead, she pulled out a massive three-ring binder, wrote down all my information, and then stuck my driver’s license in a scanner that sat next to her plugged into the computer.
I glanced toward Lucas with a look that said, “Seriously?”
“See, this is exactly the kind of stupid stuff I’m talking about,” he replied, feeling justified in his earlier rant about the absurd policies his school implemented.
So, we stood there and waited. And waited. Back and forth went the little scanner light dutifully over my driver’s license. The girl at the counter seemed to have moved on to more appealing information on her computer while we stood there. The scanner beeped, she lifted the lid still staring at the computer screen, flipped over the ID, closed the lid and the scanner began to copy the other side of my driver’s license.
I pondered the necessity of the scene before me.
I felt a bit like I was waiting in the customs line trying to re-enter the U.S. and wondering if I had actually claimed all the souvenirs I bought while I was abroad, or wondering if by some magic scan of a bar-code they would know that I forgot to list the pesto I bought in Italy.
Was she checking my late-return fees from my college library?
Abruptly, the library employee interrupted my train of thought and held something out toward me with the instructions, “Here you go. We just need you to wear this visibly at all times while you are here in the library.”
Thinking she was handing me back my driver’s license, I reached for it, but I let out a long, confused, “Ooookay,” when I saw my full name and photo on the adhesive badge she held.
“And you can pick up your driver’s license when you leave the building,” she concluded putting my license in the thick three-ring binder and stashing it under the counter.
I left the corner of the adhesive badge sticking to my pointer finger unconvinced that I wanted to put it anywhere on my body for everyone to see. As we left the counter, I looked around the groups of students studying silently and others meeting for group projects and concluded that no one cared even a little bit that 1) I was there and 2) that I was Elizabeth Haas Purdy, Guest of Loyola Patron.
“This is a little intense,” I said displaying the sticker to Lucas.
“Don’t even get me started,” was all he could offer with a roll of his eyes.
We strolled through the library rather quickly, Lucas pointing out the features he thought notable, and then found our way into the quieter stacks where we promptly turned around and headed back toward the front counter. About four minutes after receiving the sticker from the library student employee, I returned to the counter and interrupted her at the computer. She looked startled, I couldn’t tell if it was because of how quickly I had gone through the library or that she just didn’t recognize me at first and I didn’t make an effort to re-introduce myself.
“I’m just here to get my ID back,” I stated.
“Oh… yeah, OK,” she fumbled with the notebook under the counter, flipped open the front pages, and slid my license from the plastic card-holder.
“Thanks,” I smiled the socially acceptable awkward smile that comes with submitting to ridiculous regulations. It’s the same smile I use going through TSA security at airports.
My total time spent in the library was about ten minutes: five to sign-in, four to walk around, one to get my license and head back through the doors into the autumn sun.
Who knew it had to be so complicated?