Category Archives: liberal arts colleges

February 8, 2014, 6:13 pm

Tackling Hunger On Campus

food stampsI was glad to see this article by Peg Tyre about Franklin and Marshall College’s efforts to recruit and retain low income students. “Poor students who are accepted into selective four-year universities often find themselves adrift,” Tyre writes, ”overwhelmed by the financial, academic and cultural challenges created by an environment shaped to serve the habits and needs of the wealthy” (The New York Times, February 5, 2014).

Full disclosure: I happen to like this little liberal arts college in Lancaster, PA, a 45-minute Amtrak ride from Philadelphia. Years ago, I was part of a visiting committee at F&M, and I returned to consult on a second project. Each time, I found it a thoughtful place. I was impressed by the care that faculty took with their students (want to work at F&M? Guess what? When I visited, faculty were expected to be at the office five days a week, like other people…

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July 14, 2012, 2:19 pm

Bringing Up Les Etudiants: Food and the College Experience

Annenberg Dining Hall at Harvard University

I have just begun reading Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting (Penguin: 2012), and I must confess that I am hooked on French social engineering.

The best child rearing manuals and adolescent psychology books offer serious reflections on the young that a college teacher is unlikely to encounter in graduate training or in the workplace. Bringing Up Bebe is an entertaining, intelligent and well-written version of something you might call “Developmental Psychology for Dummies.” Aimed at the parents of young children, it offers surprising insights on the teaching challenges many of us face with young adults. Students can lack of patience for simple tasks. They often need to be entertained or…

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June 22, 2012, 6:32 pm

Should College Admissions Be Done By Lottery?

If you haven’t opened your July/August issue of The Atlantic, please do so and flip to page 65. In a section devoted exclusively to ideas, Swarthmore philosophy professor Barry  Schwartz suggests that a way to lower the pressure for seats at selective colleges would be to draw the class by lottery.

Everyone who teaches at a selective school can tell sad stories about the wonderfully qualified children of friends who were not admitted or left to languish on the wait list.  There are so many kids who, as Schwartz notes, “worked hard and played by the rules” but are left feeling that they have failed. All of them would surely have capitalized on the opportunity to go to the school of their dreams.

What many students and their parents understand as a purely competitive process is, of course, artfully rigged in so many ways. An admissions staff crafts a class out of the many…

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September 24, 2011, 11:29 am

Forget the SATs. How Many Days Did Your Students Drink Last Week?

The beginning of the semester is always a time for reassessment, isn’t it?  SAT scores, we hear, despite endless amounts of testing mandated by No Child Left Behind, have declined.  Unsurprisingly, Daniel Luzer of the HuffPo thinks this is not a problem; William J. Bennett, former Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan, thinks this is a “wake-up call” about the failure of liberal education policy; and no one, as far as I can tell, has asked a college professor whether it matters. Why we think that test scores should get better and better, and when they don’t, an apocalypse of some kind looms, is such a quintessentially American scenario.   While SAT’s do, to some extent, predict college performance; high school grades predict it better; and success in a demanding and creative school is even higher on the Radical list, my best criteria for student success is: drinking.

I don’t…

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April 14, 2011, 1:49 pm

Should They Stay Or Should They Go? A Few Thoughts On Who Is “Supposed” To Be In College

I have been reading a variety of books and articles in the past year that question the utility of going to college at all, much less whether it matters in the course of a life whether a young person decides to go to a selective,  private college. If you are a famous actress, for example, it might not.  Yesterday, “Kaiser,” who blogs at CeleBitchy, mused about Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) and her decision to drop out of Brown, at least temporarily, because she holds herself to such high standards. According to the AP story Kaiser quotes:

Watson has always been studious. She enrolled to study liberal arts at Rhode Island’s Brown University in 2009. But being a movie star and an Ivy League student took its toll, and she says commuting back and forth to the U.S. left her stressed out. Ever the perfectionist, Watson couldn’t stand delivering a below-average performance, so she took…

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March 19, 2011, 11:48 am

Why Do The Kids Have Beans In Their Ears? It’s Hazing Season Again

I’m sorry – what position do you play?

Years ago, one of my students told me about a team hazing gone wrong.  First year athletes were forced to drink massive amounts of alcohol.  Then strippers, hired by the older students, were brought onto the scene.  The strippers disrobed down to their G-strings and initiated a lap dancing thingie with the team initiates.  But then one of the students being hazed freaked out, started yelling and tried to escape (the doors were locked, of course.) Two other students passing by heard the commotion, called Public Safety, and then broke a window because they thought the person inside was in danger.

Want to know the best part?  The team doing the hazing was a women’s team and the strippers were male. The young woman who freaked out, who was also drunk out of her mind, thought she was going to be raped as part of the “initiation.”  The student rescuers were…

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