Thinking Less — An alumna weighs in on Albion’s direction

I think Albion is whacked out of its mind. I understand that while PTM was a charismatic and loving president, he hired far more professors than was possibly sustainable beyond a five year projection. I also understand that The Don is having to clean up his banana-suited mess. However, Albion’s Board of Trustees is acting hastily and furtively, leaving many current students and recent alumni with a bitter taste in our mouths. Then the college comes out with this newfangled program, the Albion Advantage, in the wake of an announcement wherein they fire at least 15 tenure-track professors. Bullshit.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that this Albion Advantage (conveniently abbreviated A.A. to go along with its “Always [Dr]inking” slogan), is worth its weight. The program’s essence is already at play in any good student’s life: you go to Albion; you decide on an end-goal of graduation with the potential for employment; you ask for help from fabulously qualified and caring professors and professional staff when you need it; you graduate; you go to grad school, a job, or your parents’ basement. This path is already in place for any future-oriented student who matriculates at Albion College. I do not believe for one minute that adding glossy brochures and slogans to a pre-existing core commitment will do any good for this up and coming generation of students. Current high school students/college students are part of a generation that moves too fast, expects the world to be at their fingertips, and is generally coddled by the force-fed belief that the world owes them something. In this way, I believe that Albion might as well install bidets in Wesley so that new students don’t even have to wipe their own asses.

I have spent a lot of time considering what exactly my alma mater stands for, and I’m worried. Our merit as an institute of higher learning should not be measured only in average annual salaries of recent graduates; it should be proven in successful displays of intelligence abounding in the great wide world. I fear that Albion’s narrowed focus on employability simultaneously devalues the liberal arts tradition and asks its matriculates to do less, to think less.

I demand more from Albion, whether or not they can make the front page of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

6 Comments

  1. Dear Ms. Van de Putte,

    You make a lot of excellent points. Sadly, Albion has spent the equivilant of several tenured professors salaries on marketing initiates that aren’t doing a thing to appropriately market our Albion dear Albion.

    That being said, I’m not convinced that the BOT (or anyone, for that matter) would respond well to your potty mouth, which has put a bitter taste in mine!

    Respectfully,

    Ms. Vogel ’04

  2. Katy~

    One of the first rules of (effective) counseling I learned is making sure a person learns to engage “Level 1” language–that is the language that expresses what one feels at one’s core, the language that captures not only the content of what one wants to communicate but also the emotional weight attached to it. Sometimes a “language bomb” is the only way to accomplish that task, so I applaud you for putting yourself (not just your position) out there!

    When I was an Albion student there was an expectation to work hard, attend to studies, seek help when it was needed…because these were the things for which Albion stood. We didn’t go to class, do research, write papers, or seek professors’ input outside of class because some expensive marketing campaign told us to do it. We did it because that was the expectation, that was the standard, and we believed in the educational philosophy of the institution.

    I wonder, Katy, if this campaign is designed to reach the “not so future-oriented” population? I work with a number of high school/college students in my counseling practice, and I can attest that many of them are paralyzed when it comes to making decisions about things that matter. That said, I don’t think a marketing campaign is the right approach to help these students. While they are filled to the internal brim with entitlement, many of them lack any sense of empowerment. A marketing campaign isn’t going to do nearly as much good as a personal investment in another human being would. Of course, with the recent faculty cuts there are less people available to invest in students.

    I have loved Albion since I first stepped foot on campus 14 years ago, and I will continue to love Albion…even when it’s a tall order to like it sometimes. My hope is that Albion will return to its emphasis on stimulating students’ intellectual curiosity, academic creativity, social acuity, and social/community engagement. To do less than that would be to reduce Albion to just another school.

    Regards,
    Berkley J. Browne ’00

  3. Hey Katy — Glad to read your words again!
    I agree. The fact that Albion is willing to spend this much money designing an “advantage” that takes the focus away from academic success and onto career-goals, disturbs me. Especially considering the First Year Experience program, which was created to give First Year students the advantage of personal assistance and guidance, was eliminated last year.

    Not to sound out of touch, but I find this generation of Albion College students rife with entitlement and laziness. I went to class, did my reading, participated in discussion, wrote my papers well — not only because I was paying an obscene amount of money to be there, but also because learning was the whole purpose of being there and not to waste my professor’s precious time. Unfortunately for the college, most students at Albion find that they would rather sleep in or go to a fraternity party than read about Shakespeare, or anatomy, or the first amendment. They would rather listen passively in class than assert their opinion — or God forbid, form one.

    But, who needs to study and THINK, when you can get through four years of college without doing so, and still have someone find you a job that will get you a cool car and house and family. I was in the top 10% of my class every semester, I participated in organizations, I worked three jobs to pay for school — and now I am a waitress. The real world doesn’t always mean a corner office and your own desk. Graduating from college doesn’t mean you’ll get your dream job — and it shouldn’t! The purpose of attending college should be to learn how to think on your own, not to find a job.

    I may be a waitress, but I can think. I know how to apply for jobs (and I do, often), and I will go to grad school when I can afford it. The “Albion Advantage” that I have, is a working brain. I hope future generations of Albion students will be able to say the same.

    Keep on thinkin’ Katy,
    Amber, Class of ’09

  4. I came to Albion because I noticed it was such a lovely place that engaged and encouraged its students a passion for learning and thinking and discovery but I wonder how things changed so quickly! Where is the tradition of excellence of libral arts education that attracted me? I don’t believe attaching any labels such as “advantage” will attract a bigger group of promissing students and leaders of the future to Albion The world is changing all the time, but to make a difference in the changing world is not to lose something profound. In order to serve our world better we have to become better people ourselves and that is the reason libral arts education contributes and stands.

    Best wishes for our dear Albion.

    Regards,
    Jennifer

  5. I totally agree with you, Katy. I came to Albion because I noticed it was such a lovely place that engaged and encouraged its students a passion for learning and thinking and discovery but I wonder how things changed so quickly! Where is the tradition of excellence of libral arts education that attracted me? I don’t believe attaching any labels such as “advantage” will attract a bigger group of promissing students and leaders of the future to Albion The world is changing all the time, but to make a difference in the changing world is not to lose something profound. In order to serve our world better we have to become better people ourselves and that is the reason libral arts education contributes and stands.

    Best wishes for our dear Albion.

    Regards,
    Jennifer

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