Mariecar Mendoza

The diploma, the tassel, the Hefty Bag gown – give it to a more eager soul. As far as I’m concerned, I graduated May 19, the day Cal Poly tripped on its own incompetence and cancelled my music festival.

The KCPR Garden Party, scheduled May 20 at Downtown Brew, was intended to be a full-day fiesta of eclectic music and independent culture, as well as a fund-raiser for our school’s underground radio station. (As the club’s General Manager, I had also parlayed the event into my senior project.) But after a year of planning, and the false security of Associated Students Inc. and the Cal Poly Journalism Department’s approval, the festival was terminated less than 24 hours before its advertised start.

The reasons were sketchy – they involved previously unnecessary insurance, a stunningly anal fear of rock ‘n’ roll, and an orgiastic melee of miscommunication between the journalism department, ASI and the Risk Management department. (Pick up this week’s New Times for more info.) To save the festival, KCPR was forced to remove its name and presence entirely from the event, terminate the headlining bands, and lose over $2,000. I personally lost $1,000 and was blamed for the debacle, contrary to documented evidence, by my own journalism authority figures.

So how’s that for education? Cal Poly, honey, we really could’ve parted on better terms; now the divorce will outshine the honeymoon. These are my last weeks in college – I’m supposed to be tearfully hugging strangers and pushing the outer limits of insobriety, not raging against the machine. But now there’s betrayal, confusion, resentment – and somewhere inside that, also a good-bye.

I’m ready.

But irate as I am, and will likely remain, it’s hard to stay completely resentful of Cal Poly; this environment is invigorating and does establish independence, if sometimes in defiance (the Garden Party only triumphed through the tenacity of many radio rebels).

College is ending far from the blissful summation I once imagined, but this recent experience actually lends stronger perspective to my education. After four years of startling change and development, I still expected the storybook ending – but isn’t college supposed to bring the “real world” into focus (and down onto our shoulders)? What do we expect from this time, anyway – a Stepfordized lack of adversity, the instant dissolution of all our problems? Hardly; that wouldn’t prepare us for whatever awaits after the cap is thrown. For better or for worse, college becomes our immersion into that not-so-distant future and if we’re lucky, we make the decisions that define it.

But you know what? Looking back, the most important experiences of my college days were far removed from my formal education, and came after following the personal instincts that defied it. In these halls, but not from these teachers, I found pride in the individualism they sometimes scorned. Ultimately, I found the confidence to meet my heroes, forge real relationships and accept more of myself. This could never have come from the utopian undergrad experience I originally envisioned; for every affirming moment of clarity and adventure, there was an accompanying one of frustration and insecurity. I’ve never felt as lonely as I did here, and so accepted still. But there was something honest in that.

So, four years and exactly 50 “Art Beats” later, what remains? Realized dreams, definitely. The transformative thrill of art and music, and the fortune to contribute. Optimism (except in bureaucracy). And a renewing supply of gratitude.

Thank you to my friends for inspiring love. Thank you to KCPR for showing me passion. Thank you to those who took a chance on me, in all that implies, and to those who read this column and enriched my truest writing experiences.

And thank you to Cal Poly for teaching me that, above all, education can only come from within.

Stacey Anderson is a departing journalism and music senior and KCPR DJ. Catch her last few radio sets Sunday from 7 to 8 p.m. and Wednesday from 3 to 4 p.m. E-mail her at

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