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Penury and June: Preparing for the Post-College Wasteland

Welfare lines loom for liberal arts majors.

By Daniel E. Mufson

THE career fair at Memorial Hall has put me in a foul mood. The Peace Crops recruiter smirked at the mention of candidates with no knowledge of carpentry or mechanics. When I confessed a lack of expertise in math and science, the Teach for America representative rolled her eyes and said, "Well, maybe you could teach in the elementary school program."

I might have talked to more corporate recruiters, if my roommate hadn't laughed at the idea of a Group II History and Literature major competing against an Economics God with a 3.9 GPA and three summers of prestigious internships.

Why didn't someone tell me earlier that I was supposed to have learned a skill in college?

YES, welfare lines loom over my horizon as I realize the brutal truth: I am a humanities major, and I am, a dime a dozen.

The practical question for me is not when job applications are due. A more pertinent question is: If I adopt a PBH little brother, will I be eligible for more money under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program?

Or, if I really friendly with a junior rooming group, will they let me live in their common room next year? And would they smuggle me food from the dining hall?

There are some consoling thoughts. For example, if Robert Kuttner's article is a recent New Republic is correct, then the economic cataclysm that is about to occur will put millions of college graduates out of work.

True, that sounds like a bad thing for American society. But at least being unemployed won't be as embarassing for me. On the contrary, people will have sympathy for me as a representative victim of Reaganomics. I might even get paid to appear on talk shows: "This week on Donahue--Harvard Graduates with No Future."

Perhaps in the coming depression there will be rioting and looting. I think I could do that. Maybe I could even organize a few Molotov cocktail parties.

BUT what if there is no depression? What if Kuttner's economic abyss turns out to be a mere pothole? It is a possibility--an unpleasant one, but one that must be confronted.

The alternative to rioting, I suppose would be living at home. With my parents. In New Jersey. Doing temp work. I could even go bowling once a week...

What am I thinking? I can't bowl. No, there must be refuge beyond New Jersey. (All roads do not lead to Newark.)

The army had seemed like a good way of getting a free lunch, but now that there's actually a chance that I might get shot at, it is considerably less appealing.

Without any employment prospects I'll have to apply my liberal arts background to the essential question of survival. The trick to basic sustenance is going to the basement of Pizzeria Uno's and pretending to wait for a table while you indulge in an infinite supply on complementary chips and dip.

When you are sated, just act like your name was called from the waiting list, and leave. Some would call this "theft," and even "unethical."

In response, I would say, um, maybe it is. But what you are eating is offered for free--and desperate times demand desperate rationalizations.

But for now, I have a recommendation for any seniors who empathize all too well with my worries. Three words: Recruiting Information Meetings.

Find them. They have food, lots of it. At the Boston Consulting Group's meeting, for example, I had three slices of pizza, around 10 chicken fingers, three cokes bagel chips and other assorted hors d'oeurvres.

I also had a stomach ache, but it was an emotionally satisfying pain. Think of it as advance compensation for the emotional trauma of being turned down for a job. And if that rationale doesn't suit you, I refer you to the age old maxim of desperate college students from all eras...

Eat, drink, for tomorrows, we die.

Daniel Mufson '91 has been barred from the Office of Career Services.

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