An open letter to Youngstown State University

You know you’ve been somewhere too long when you start to see all the good things that happened slowly winding backward.

I’ve seen a writing center, a teaching center, a nontraditional students center and a women’s center dry up and disappear for lack of support. I’ve seen a strong arts and sciences college divided so that the sciences part could get more money and the arts part could become less relevant.

We are about to implement a general education plan almost exactly like the plan we abandoned several years ago, because our accrediting agency found it hopelessly inadequate. The new (old) plan will enable our students to avoid a well-rounded education and a global perspective even more than they already do. That’s not the fault of the hardworking folks who are struggling to develop a general education program that will suit the current climate.

That’s the fault of a university that values a four-year graduation over a meaningful education.

And, to ensure that this is the case, we are now removing the foreign language requirement for many of our Bachelor of Science degrees. The message is clear. There is no reason for our science- and engineering-oriented students to have a global perspective. We are not training them to be citizens of the world. We are training them to graduate, get jobs and (hopefully) make gobs of money.

My hopes for them are greater. At risk of coming across as hopelessly old-fashioned, what is the purpose of a university? The STEM college is not an affiliated technical school. It is a part of a grand vision. And we should be training students to be more than well-trained employees.

We should be giving them the world. We should be educating them to give back to the world. Because THAT is what a university is.

 

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