Two years in a row
That bit of “poetry” is from the WL BOG repesentative who begins his official letters as an official representative quoting from a variety of sources–the last one was from the “eloquent” Rolling Stone “You can’t always get what you want.” How profound.
The latest outrage is that the CFO who replaced to most excellent CFO in WL history–Jack Wright–was a no show at the last BOG meeting. The reason is that the CFO who replaced Wright, has decided to leave WL to go to law school. At least that’s the official line. One might consider that if the atmosphere at WL was desirable, there would be no reason to leave in the first place, and look to change careers. We continue to receive the most anti-intellectual threats, and ad hominems (we’ll give you time to look up that Latin phrase) that never address the arguments we make. Instead, they are laden with name calling.
We figure in light of that we are on the right track.
But we appreciate everyone who has done that for leaving us their IP addresses.
The BOG Rep welcomes feedback, so here’s ours. But first, let’s quote in full:
I quoted the Rolling Stones last time, so let me show a little more depth and quote King Solomon.
“Where there is no vision the people perish.”
Last spring we took our fifth child on a tour of colleges. XXXX was accepted to Middlebury College in Vermont, so we made the 12-hour trek to visit the school. It is in the middle of nowhere, has a 17% acceptance rate, a $64,000/year price tag, and during the two days we were there we saw hundreds of visiting students from all over the United States, of which 83% would be rejected. “What does Middlebury have that West Liberty doesn’t have?” I wondered. We sat in several classes, and I thought, “These professors don’t seem any more intelligent, engaging, or caring than my colleagues at West Liberty.” Yes, they have a big endowment, beautiful buildings, and tons of activities, but academically I would put my colleagues up against their best and brightest.
So, why are we struggling to maintain enrollment, when we are tens of thousands of dollars cheaper? Why aren’t we turning away students in droves?
It is the job of the board to work with the president to set a vision for the university. I believe with the proper vision executed in a proactive fashion we have the ability to attract students from far and wide. In many ways we have what Middlebury has – a small, rural, peaceful campus, with great, loyal, and caring professors. We even have a football team, which Middlebury doesn’t. (This can be read in a number of ways). We have award winning professors and a growing list of outstanding graduates. We offer the value of a private education at a fraction of the cost. We need to tell that story better.
The solution, my friends, does not lie in trimming, hampering, and demoralizing our faculty. It lies in making academics the top priority, supporting our faculty in every conceivable way, and protecting learning environments that create amazing graduates. That is the story I intend to continue to tell to the board. A colleague suggested that we bring back the slogan “West Liberty – Make the Most of Yourself.” She might be on to something.
As always, I welcome your feedback. Thank you for the many kind notes, ideas, and handshakes I have received over the past year. This summer I will be digging into year two on the board, and your moral support helps keep me focused on the prize – a healthy, progressive, and vibrant campus community.
Vision: The idea of vision comes from the progressive side of politics. It was meant to be something the president should have to lead the people to a place where the masses had no idea they should go, but with which they needed to go. The one with vision is the one who has the ability to “lead” the people because they cannot “see” where to go. The capability of the one who has vision is related to the the Hegelian idea of “history.” The one with vision can see the future, or really, where history is tending for us to go.
The problem the BOG representative has is, what if history is leading one to destruction? Or in this case, the closing of a college. It not like that is not occurring anywhere else. Howard anyone? As one of our stringers said, “does this sound familiar?” Yep. It sure does.
Another problem with the vision thing is that it is devoid of any notion of the good. As the BOG representative states, WL has no Vision. Aside from the obvious criticism of the present administration and its representatives, of which he is one, (not sure that he understood that can be a self criticism), there are lots of people who had vision. Pol Pot had vision. Benito Mussolini had vision. Hitler had vision! The Great Leap Forward? Now that’s a vision! So, unlike the faculty BOG representative out of context Bible reference, even under certain visions, the people perish.
The reason the BOG rep believes that WL is suffering, though, is because it has no vision. He states that the “college” is just as good as other colleges, has great ability to educate students, and all at a cheap cost for the students themselves. What gives? Note that the BOG rep wants others to come to WL while considering his own children to private colleges far away. In this case, the college is Middlebury, a private college of some historical significance. If WL is just as good, if not better than Middlebury, then why send your kids there? Limousine Liberals always think others should sacrifice for things they don’t want to sacrifice.
Liberal Education: The contradiction ought not go unremarked. Middlebury is a college that has a hefty price tag, but also is a more serious college. it is also a college that has beautiful historical buildings, and, it should be noted, real majors, with real departments. It makes a serious attempt at Liberal Education. Wonder why students might choose Middleury based on academics? Easy. They have a math major, WL doesn’t. They have a government major, WL doesn’t. Latin? Yes. Art and Architecture? You got it. Economics? Of course. Classics? Why yes, please sign up. WL has really none of the classes or majors most Liberal institutions do.
Want to know why a student might choose Middlebury? Because it has most of the core of the liberal arts, and WL does not. WL does have zoo science though, and not one that is competitive. WL claims to be a liberal arts college, but only Middlebury lives up to the claim. That’s what we call “vision” of the Good. WL is more like a technical school; Middlebury purports to educate for life.
Beauty and History: There’s another reason students don’t choose WL: it’s in the middle of nowhere, and it requires a patient commute just to reach the school on winding roads. Middlebury is a beautiful campus, while comparatively, WL is not. Capehart tried to beautify the campus. He even had plans to bring the central building up to its original design, which would have been spectacular. We wish we had the artists rendering that was prominently displayed on his office wall. We also tried to honor the historical connection of the college to General Curtis, a Civil War general decorated by Abraham Lincoln. One of the buildings is named after Curtis. We had the idea to build a monument to him, on a horse, brandishing his sword in the defense of the freedom of the slaves. It was shot down by the faculty as being “too violent.” Indeed, they did not want anything resembling the military on campus.
No history, no beauty, no connectivity, no hook, no interest, and hence, fewer students. The BOG rep has no idea how important those things are, and his department is in Arts and Com–the most money draining entity on campus. But several students have noted that the campus is falling into disrepair. Mold, buildings falling apart, paint peeling, ceilings sagging or falling down, combined with an old politburo look to many of the buildings, do not give it a timeless sense of place. The most beautiful building on campus is being shuttered. Yet, essentially, none of the buildings on campus reflect the eternal principles of architecture that Vitruvius encouraged. Middlebury does. Also, unlike the claim made about an equal professoriate, not all colleges have talented professors. Many colleges attract talent, others don’t. But we have catalogued those realities in other posts.
Capehart wanted to turn the college, slowly, into an elite institution. He had a vision but with a Telos in mind. The faculty balked. The atmosphere has always been a Bermuda Triangle of contention. No one can escape it. It is palpable. Students have noted it for years. Before complaining about the reason why people do not choose WL for another college, the best place to start would be the mirror. Want people to take you seriously about how great WL is? Start at home and send your children there. It sure would not be that difficult since Capehart was the first president to institute the policy that children of faculty and staff could attend for free tuition. Yes, that’s right FREE! The faculty sensate and Capehart’s detractors conveniently forget that tidbit of fact. And still the BOG rep sends his own to another school for $65,000/yr. Telling.
When the faculty and its senate went public complaining about WL and how bad it was there, enrollment dropped. We cannot blame the hundreds of parents and students who chose another place to receive their education based on what faculty and staff did to destroy the college. The BOG rep calls that “progress.”