Innocence is the dominating spirit on Mount Oread this week, Chancellor Robert Hemenway told Kansas University students at convocation Wednesday night.
Not only has a new freshman class KU's 137th arrived on the hill with big hopes and dreams, they have yet to realize some of the more unpleasant aspects to college life.
"No one has discovered yet that when you leave the room, your roommates use your toothbrush," Hemenway said. "No one has received a letter yet from his girlfriend back home that begins, 'I met this cool new guy who moved here from Colorado. He gave me a ride home in his new convertible. We are going to study calculus together. I sort of miss you.'"
Hemenway mixed advice and humor during his speech to about 1,700 students at the Lied Center. Convocation marks the official opening of the academic year.
He told students they represented the future of the university.
"KU, like all universities, is built upon a paradoxical process of renewal and change on the one hand, and tradition and permanence on the other," he said. "You represent the change. The university maintains the tradition."
Hemenway also recalled his summer trip to Peru, where he met with Liliana Mayo, a KU graduate who started a school for special education students there.
"KU is not bounded by our campus or the streets of Lawrence," he said. "The boundary of our university is wherever our faculty, our students and our graduates are at work seeking, learning, sharing and serving."
Jonathan Ng, student body president, used his speech as a call for KU students to vote in the November election in support of education funding.
"Now, more than ever, voting in our state election is essential for us as KU students," he said.
Larry Draper, professor of molecular biosciences and chairman of the University Senate Executive Committee, urged students to think outside the box while choosing classes and activities.
"You'll never know unless you try, as the old saying goes," Draper told the assembled students. "Explore every nook and cranny of knowledge you can."
Tiana Kell, a Chicago freshman, said she was impressed with Hemenway's sense of humor.
"He's a cute little old man," she said.
Jenna Rademacher, a Dallas freshman, said she was more impressed by the crowd singing the alma mater and performing the Rock Chalk chant.
"It was neat to all stand up as freshmen and have that sense of community for the first time," she said.