The death days of my three family members who died while working or studying at WIU fall on the same day of the week–this year on a Thursday. The death days occur within a 28-day span. Each death day lays two weeks apart. Today is the Thursday between Charles’s and Chad’s.
8 is the number I never confuse or forget. Each winter, 8 haunts me like a ghost. Charles died in 1985, Chad died on the 8th in 1998. Laura died 18 years after Chad. There are 28 days between the death days of father and daughter (Charles and Laura).
I like the perfect figure 8 symmetry: Charles’s day is the bottom of the bottom loop, Chad’s is the middle, and Laura’s is the top of the top loop. If you fold the eight in half at its narrowed equator, the death days of Charles and his daughter meet.
The number eight is now associated with another anniversary of great loss. December 8th is the day that WIU President Jack Thomas and his provost announced their plan to lay off 50 faculty.
The word university is derived from the Latin concept of a “community of scholars and teachers.” Now that the administration has laid off tenured faculty, now that morale has been dropping for more than two years, now that the adminsitraiton is doing everything in its power to eliminate fair and equal pay among faculty, it’s a stretch to describe WIU as a community of scholars. Especially if we compare our current “community” to what we had once been, to what we might have become, to what we might recover if the the current administration were to leave.
Sometimes I think of December 8 as the death day of the “University” in Western Illinois University.