Invasion: Charleston

Originally run on 8/21/06

“Cross your fingers and pray, we’re going across the street,” said Eastern President Lou Hencken as he drove his six-person golf cart across ninth street Thursday afternoon.

Golf carts crossed ninth street shuttling students from Carman Hall to Textbook rental and back again. For some students, it was the highlight of move in day.

“The golf carts are awesome,” said Amber Bilina, a freshman political science major, “It’s a great idea to pick us up in the rain, so we aren’t wet and don’t have to walk all the way back with our heavy books.”

Nyesha Sevier, a graduate student, who previously attended the University of Illinois, was surprised that Eastern offered golf cart taxis on move in day.

“They don’t do this at the U of I,” Sevier said.

Rashaud Taylor, a freshman undecided major, compared the golf carts taxis to service on a resort and said he didn’t know of any other school that used golf carts on move in day.

“I don’t know another school that does the whole golf cart tactic,” said Taylor.

Bilina, Sevier and Taylor were chauffeured around campus by Hencken.

After he drove them to the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union to get their panther cards, Booth Library to use the Internet and Carman Hall to drop off their books he turned to each of them and said, “By the way my name is Lou Hencken, I’m the president of the University and I mean this, if you have any problems, I want you to come and see me.”

Students reactions to finding out President Hencken was driving them across campus varied from, “Oh my god, you’re Lou!” to quietly shaking his hand while introducing themselves again, to being shocked that the president of the university was driving students around campus in the rain.

Hencken said he drove the golf cart because move in day is one of his favorite times of the year.

“When you ride on the golf carts and talk to the students they say this is what we’re looking forward to and this is what we like and that is why I love the beginning of the school year,” said Hencken. “The feel of the university right now, the personality and the vitality is totally different now than it was this time last week. “

When Hencken drives the golf cart, he does not introduce himself to students and wears a t-shirt so students and parents will find him approachable.

“They approach me differently if they know I am the president, I want to hear what they really think,” said Hencken.

The students who rode with President Hencken told him that move in day went smoothly.

Kristy Baumgartner, an early childhood special education major, said her check in went smoothly and that she appreciated the panther pals and faculty fellows that helped with the move in process.

Freshman Alix Bernnardy said the move in day helped save her and her family two hours of work and the panther pals were helpful and nice.

Bill Wolf, a freshman math and physics major, drove three and a half hours to get to Eastern with his dad Mike. Both said that move in day went smoothly.

“I don’t think it could have gone any better,” said Mike Wolf.

Hencken observed that the students he drove across campus were quiet.

“They’re one day away from home and their not talking as much, they’re in shock, ” said Hencken. “On Wednesday night they were children, their parents told them what to do and then Thursday morning they’re adults, we ask them to grow up in one day.”

Hencken said move in day was traumatic for students and parents.

“The most traumatic part of my day was crossing Ninth Street in a golf cart but the traumatic part for the students comes tonight (Thursday) when their parents go home.”