Lord of the Urinals

PHOTO COURTESY | JASON LORD
Jason Lord, former student of NDSU, most likely having to pee in picture.

The man behind a dedicated urinal must have a rather interesting story to tell. In the case of Jason Lord, that would be precisely true.

If you find yourself wandering to the third floor of Minard Hall near the English department, go into the men’s bathroom. On the second urinal in, you will find the dedication.

The golden-colored plaque is glued onto the urinal. A dedication so small it may be easy to miss. One must put their face right next to the white toilet fixture to read its inscription.

“In Dedication to Jason Lord.”

Former NDSU student Jason Lord was born and raised in North Dakota. Lord attended North Dakota State from 1998-2003. Since 2004, Lord has been a resident of Chicago, Illinois. There Lord has been involved with acting, comedy writing and directing.

Lord’s relationship with NDSU would best be described in his own words. Lord calls it a poking the bear saga, with NDSU playing the role of the bear. Lord, the student, would find himself in many sitcom-worthy situations while here in Fargo.

Ross Collins, a faculty member in the department of communication and professor to Lord, set up a scholarship fund in honor of his mother called The Dorothy Collins Memorial Endowment. Lord offered $1,000 with one stipulation, the plaque in Minard Hall. After this was shot down, Lord still donated the money. Collins remembers Lord as such:

“He was one of these crazy guys who does crazy things,” Collins says. Collins remembers Lord’s skits and contribution to Bison Brevities including his overall humor and demeanor, noting he was sort of an “iconoclastic” rebellious soul.

This would be backed up by Lord’s own assessment of his time here.

“So, I kind of always had an iconoclastic streak, when I was at NDSU,” Lord said. “I did a satirical run for student body president, where my motto was, ‘Whatever you believe in, I agree with.'” Lord would go on to catch the eyes of local media for his presidential run. Lord also won a seat on the student council, a chair for student publications without knowing he was even running.

The way I first heard of Lord’s story was when I was called over by our chief-editor to read an email titled, “The news you should be covering.” Lord’s urinal story is captivating to the truly sarcastic, slight assholes among us who love this type of cheeky comedy.

I could think of no better dedication than to have a fixture in a bathroom dedicated to you and neither could Lord. When discussing why he wants the dedication to be a urinal, Lord told me something a bit shocking to the decent among us.

“That would most closely match my association with NDSU,” Lord explained. But that is exactly how Lord was as a student and individual here.

“Like you, I have had ambitions about it for a while,” Lord said. Lord was a janitor when he first moved to Chicago, noting that he was very poor. After finding career success within media, Lord set his eyes back on his previous goals.

“So, I contacted the alumni center.” Lord promised to give an undisclosed amount of money if they would dedicate a urinal in his honor. This went on for a while, escalating to the point where Lord said it was a significant amount of money being offered for this dedication.

“I did this once a year, and every year I would up the amount … Every time the answer was no, or, more likely, no returned phone call,” Lord explained.

Lord’s time at NDSU would include protest. According to Lord, the most important issue he tackled was in the early 2000s when NDSU was striving to meet tier one research status. To do so, then president, Joseph A. Chapman, looked to increase the enrollment. He did this, according to Lord, without regard for students and faculty. Lord said that the higher enrollment doomed students to struggle with housing and left faculty overworked and underpaid.

“You can’t do that at the expense of the students and faculty, that has to be your highest priority,” Lord explained.

Lord worked with students and faculty to protest, culminating in a night where he and fellow protesters slept in tents on the lawn of the president’s house. This would gain national news attention and spark a dialogue about the rights of students and faculty.

In conjunction with his protests, Lord also published an underground newspaper, The Pith, which featured stories that didn’t run in The Spectrum.

“Both the student body and, to some extent, The Spectrum were complicit in trying to cover it up that element,” Lord explained. The environment of the university was being underreported, and Lord took this as his job.

Lord recognized this as an opportunity to bring voices into the conversation that he saw as unrecognized. Lord brought faculty into the conversation and offered a platform for unpopular opinions and, of course, sheer nonsense. During 9/11, Lord brought up conversations about diversity on campus while NDSU was still, and still is to some extent, a predominantly white campus.

“A lot of it was about what was happening on campus at the time and making sure that students and faculty were being treated with paramount priority,” Lord said.

This opened doors to air ideas that may not have been heard otherwise. This offered students and faculty a place to say things they may not have felt comfortable to say to other news organizations.

It wasn’t until recently those close to Lord heard his name on “North Dakota Today” and passed it along to him. The dedication was up.

“I want to make it clear — although this is something I have been wanting to do for awhile, this isn’t something that needs to be treated with seriousness in any sense,” Lord clarified. “It is not a hill I am going to die on … I’m thrilled it happened; I’m okay if it doesn’t. It is an honorable thing to learn to take yourself less seriously because when you do so it opens your mind and eyes to things that are actually important.”

When Lord was trying to get his dedication up originally, he brought the proposal to then Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Thomas Riley. Riley, according to Lord, was for the dedication. Riley wanted to place the dedication in Minard Hall, where Lord spent much of his time. Riley told Lord to get the appropriate approval.

“You (Lord) just have to get the facilities people to say yes. And the facilities people said no.” Lord added that they didn’t find it too humorous. After the failed attempt, Lord notes that the goal kind of died.

Momentarily, the dedication is up and evolved in this sort of cycle of humor and decency.

“I couldn’t tell you … my guess is that people don’t find it funny,” Lord explained. His dedication may be something to laugh at, perhaps something to wonder about. Or maybe it’s bigger than that. Perhaps his dedication is an ode to a student who enacted dialogue at NDSU during a pivotal time.

Perhaps Lord’s dedication reminds us to laugh at ourselves. In the words of Ross Collins, we all can take a lesson from this little golden plaque.

“I kind of like a rebel. I think the university should indulge this … When you do things a little bit differently the world will notice and sometimes that’s a good thing, but most universities and administrations don’t understand that … they can’t understand something that is a little cheeky,” Collins explained. As for if the plaque is warranted for Lord’s personality, “Well, yes; it does reflect his humorous, rebellious attitude toward life,” Collins said.

As for why the plaque is in a limbo of up and down, Lord theorizes that it isn’t funny to someone. I know to me it is one of the funniest, most appropriate dedications here at NDSU.

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