Welcome to Case in Pointe
Michigan State University, my alma mater, allowed certain freshmen to choose where they lived from a series of dormitory floors. I had the privilege to live on such a floor, the fourth floor of North Case Hall. I quickly befriended my neighbors, and over time, a sizable bunch of us became inseparable. We were the “Four Northers.” We studied together in the lounge and played board games into the wee hours of the morning. We were the earliest arrivals to each others’ parties. And now we’re writing a blog. How did the hell did that happen?
In May of our senior year, we came together one night and began telling stories. One recalled being saved from a regrettable sexual experience by a fellow Four Norther. Another told of drunkenly nursing a ghastly hand wound in the dead of night. We created a lot of problems together — some of us more frequently than others — but we always had each other’s back, we Four Northers.
I took a precious hour-long recording of that tapestry we impulsively wove together that night. When I listened back before writing this, one tiny detail looped its way through many of our stories. We found our drunk, injured friend in the study lounge. So many stories included the line “I was in the lounge when…” Our forum was our study lounge. We’d study, we’d argue, we’d play board games until the dining hall opened for breakfast. We took pictures in our graduation robes in the freakin study lounge.
But we couldn’t spend all of our time in the lounge. So we started a group chat. Group chats are a fixture of our contemporary social sphere — it seems like every collection of young friends today has a group chat. Some friends keep multiple group chats with each other (we still do), each with a special, unique purpose and unique assortment of friends. Hell, my own extended family has a group chat.
We’d gab for hours in the lounge together and talk on the group chat at the same time. We’d debate our favorite Friends episode in real life and the merits of some Economist article in the group chat. We’d give Bradley a minute to brag about how he had memorized every type of cloud for his Meteorology class. This points to an important thread of our friendship that transcended place and media. These forums were never echo chambers. We taught each other. A lot. About nearly everything.
We were indeed college students concerned with excelling in school, but the Four Northers also challenged me to grow and outdo myself in ways no professor could. The Four Northers got me personally through some very trying moments, and the group chat kept us connected and sane when our studies took us to Western Europe, the Gold Coast, and the Caspian Sea. Online communication stokes my anxiety and dread like few other facets of modern life, but something was different about our group chat. My trust in our collective dynamic, cultivated in part through our study lounge Cards Against Humanity sessions, encouraged me to not hang my head whenever I got ethered in one of our ‘conversations’, which has happened more often than I would like to admit. Our personal relationships blossomed in the greenhouse of the study lounge and alongside our group chat, whose debates became longer, heartier, and frankly, more entertaining as the years went on. We grew together, academically, politically, and personally, all with the help of a grotesquely yellow lounge and a freakin group chat.
The saying goes to never talk politics with friends. We laugh in the face of that maxim. Although our interests and exchanges stretch into all sorts of miscellanea, we Four Northers tend to be serious policy nerds. Marking the last 24 hours of our chat preceding my writing this are threads on the Libertarian Party’s future, all manner of 2016 election topics, and the attempted coup over Turkish PM Erdogan. And that was a slow day. It’s a miracle that we didn’t drive each other away that first year in school, during the presidential election of 2012. We did not all vote for the same candidate. But, over the years, and in the face of conventional wisdom, we found that the political divide is not insurmountable. We learned to celebrate our differences, to dig deep into our own ideas, and to come to grips with the fact that we are each limited as people and have much to learn. We have become much better for it. The study lounge was our forum, and the group chat is a living record of our gestalt.
We editors (Brendan Johnson, Sam Mather, Nicholas Keywork, Bradley Disbrow, and myself) started this blog out of personal necessity — it’s going to be hard to see each other and talk now that we aren’t all living within one square mile of each other, let alone on the same floor. (By the way, in case this goes to shit, this all was Brendan’s idea). We probably all have different ideas about what this blog is and about what this blog could or should become. We’re also starting this project because one of the things we know how to do best is push each other. Over many years and many essay editing sessions, we’ve come to learn how each other thinks, so what better way to stay in touch than to start a blog where we write together and edit each other’s work! I told you we were nerds.
But we are also taking a dynamic that has been so personal for so long and making it public. Just as our physical relationship has moved beyond East Lansing, we are putting our own growth as friends, people, and thinkers on display for the world (well, technically Medium Corporation) to see. Although my name occupies the byline, it’s impossible for me to introduce this alone. Those recorded stories, the half-drunk, too-loud voices of the Four Northers, roared in the background as I barfed out this piece’s first draft at an ungodly hour of the night. Welcome to our community, Case in Pointe. We only post periodically, just like a magazine. We don’t claim to be thought leaders. We don’t want to teach you (except for Andrew, he’s a teacher, bless his heart). We don’t even want to talk policy all the time (Trust me!). But we do hope you stay awhile and get to know us.
Just like every other study lounge, in ours not everyone agrees with everything said; people change their minds, and there is no institutional position. The views and opinions expressed herein are the individual author’s personal views and are not necessarily reflective of the views of Case in Pointe or of its constituent writers/editors.