October 27, 2008

Vanderbilt University: The Goal Is To Keep Them In Puberty, Part 2

Time Magazine's A Frosh New Start describes Vanderbilt University's $150M public works project to create an all/every freshman 10 dorm "Commons" where-- if I read this right-- they "will help first-years get acclimated to college life."

I suppose it occurred to no one that the "college life" these first-years are getting acclimated to is exactly the kind of artificial world of the Commons?

But it's not just for freshmen, it will also house 10 professors and a "Dean" who will live there.  Yes, some of the professors have families.

Someone will say, "but what's wrong with that?  Why not segregate them a little, hell, even coddle them a little, in a highly intellectual environment where they can focus on their studies without the outside distractions?"

And what would those outside distractions be?  One year later, those freshman will have theoretically benefited mightily from this experience, and move on to be sophomores.  Why would the next generation of freshman need to be walled off from them?  Why are sophomores a distraction to freshman?  Put another way: what possible distraction could sophomores-- older, theoretically wiser-- be that other freshman are not already, but worse?

What does anyone expect freshman to learn from other freshmen-- and ten professors?  If you want them to develop, shouldn't they be living, ideally, with people who can elevate them, or at least away from other freshmen?

The goal is a living-and-learning environment that promotes both school spirit and responsibility to community among an increasingly diverse student body.
Really.  I'm not really a soldier in the culture wars, but could every one of those words be any  less the purpose of a college education?

One might legitimately ask what possible role in-dorm professors could have.  It's pretty hard for me to believe that 1500 freshmen are going to skip American Idol to go hang out with their (ten) professors-- unless their professors are watching American Idol.

"A very small percentage of students see me as a father figure, but I try to discourage that," says sociologist Tony Brown
But setting kids up in an idyllic environment where they have no responsibilities except their school work and who have ten people acting as "guides" doesn't sound much like discouraging being seen as a father figure.  Or do you have another method?

who opens his dorm apartment on Friday evenings for rap sessions, using bait like cookies, Wii Tennis and his pet rabbit.

Don't blame the kids outright.  Always blame the parents, always, not because they are "ultimately responsible" but because they are the ones that set this up on purpose, a ten dorm extension of The Village.

"At move-in, I can't tell you how many parents said to me, 'Oh, good, you're an adult. Please take care of my kid!' But this was sold to us as an academic endeavor," [says a professor.]
Maybe the Wii Tennis sent the wrong message.  Maybe the Glass Bead Game would have been better.

It doesn't stop with freshmen.

Vanderbilt has a $1.75 billion capital campaign to turn all the rest of its dorms into neighborhoods where some 5,000 upperclassmen and their professors can live and eat together... [Says] Michael McLendon, who teaches public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt. "Now we want to make sure their education is social."
Why, again?


Part 1 here.
Part 2 here. (You're reading it.)
Part 3 here.

Don't forget about Diggs, Reddits and donations.  Don't make me run a pledge drive.


Self-reliance, responsibili... (Below threshold)

October 27, 2008 11:51 PM | Posted by Zack: | Reply

Self-reliance, responsibility, discipline, and critical thinking... you will be missed. RIP

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Why don't they just lower o... (Below threshold)

October 28, 2008 12:55 AM | Posted by noobradio: | Reply

Why don't they just lower or raise the legal drinking age so that college is not split into the under and over 21 crowd?

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Sigh. It's all fun and gam... (Below threshold)

October 28, 2008 1:32 AM | Posted by Common Reader: | Reply

Sigh. It's all fun and games until the pandemics hit.

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My college (Columbia) start... (Below threshold)

October 28, 2008 1:49 AM | Posted by Aaron Davies: | Reply

My college (Columbia) started something similar with the freshman dorms my junior year--they became the "Living and Learning Community", which acronym was quickly reanalyzed by the other students as "Losers Love Company".

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Some background. I struggle... (Below threshold)

October 28, 2008 9:48 AM | Posted by AK: | Reply

Some background. I struggled with severe depression when in college, so I am NOT asking this question lightly.

Is there a chance that universities are doing these kozy programs because so very many students have been committing or attempting suicide or murder that the universities want to cover themselves, legally?

By offering these programs, the universities can prove they exercised due diligence in case some student does something tragic and the parents attempt to sue for damages.


Gad. At least I had some near miss adventures in college, such as someone trying to recruit me to attend a meeting of the local chapter of Communist Party USA, (I declined. My dad's stepdad was tortured by the Bolsheviks and killed by the Nazis, so I figured oppression is horrid, whether supported by right wing or left wing

What the hell has happened? In the old days you wanted to get away from your family. One pal told me that he and his college room mate solved one housekeeping problem by storing their dishes in the oven.

You gotta leave home to do stuff like that.

(And there's nothing like having a glass bowl explode in the oven when you forget you left it in there, then turn the oven on to heat it up for a baking project.)

Or start a fire in the dormatory's microwave oven by putting food in there thats in a paper bag lined with metal foil--and you dont know the foil is there.

Then turn microwave oven on, and suddenly see the interior in flames.

Funnnn. That's what you leave home to do.

(FYI in 1983 it cost 75 dollars to fix or replace a microwave--I went to the dorm office, told them I'd wrecked the microwave and re-imbursed them).

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Do you think student retent... (Below threshold)

October 28, 2008 12:05 PM | Posted by marcia: | Reply

Do you think student retention has anything to do with it?

I remember being lined up in rows and columns during orientation and hearing the speaker say, "Look at the person to the left of you. Now, look at the person to the right of you. By the end of the year, one of these people will be gone."

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I was a resident assistant ... (Below threshold)

October 28, 2008 2:02 PM | Posted by AS: | Reply

I was a resident assistant at a top research college five years ago, and a very similar program was initiated. I think one of the major reasons for it is that a more cohesive freshman class leads to more dedicated alumni donors. Branching across age groups, even though it almost certainly helps educate the students more effectively, means less cohesion as a class, and thus pleas to the class of '08 or whatever have a much less powerful call.

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Digressing slightly, what a... (Below threshold)

October 28, 2008 8:09 PM | Posted by Ross: | Reply

Digressing slightly, what about the faculty members and senior administrators? They choose to live at work with their "customers" 24/7. I just don't get it.

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Ross asked:"what a... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2008 9:42 AM | Posted by AK: | Reply

Ross asked:

"what about the faculty members and senior administrators? They choose to live at work with their "customers" 24/7. I just don't get it."

Do they faculty members and senior administrators choose this? Or is it forced on them, as a condition of either keeping their jobs or gaining tenure?

I see a risk of burnout for those who will not be allowed a distinction and boundary between home and work.

And...despite campus ethics codes to the contrary, there may be a risk of some very, very messy dual relationships.

How can a student feel buddy buddy with faculty members and then deal with a C grade for substandard work, if that same student's performance is not up to par in a class taught by a professor with whom the student has socialized and learned to consider a friend, rather than a model for professionalism?

And how can a professor (or more likely, junior faculty member) be pals with students and then have the guts to assign those same students Cs or Bs if the students work output merits Cs or Bs and not As?

There are also the risks of inappropriate social and sexual entanglments when boundaries are confused.

Stay tuned. This is a social experiment that may have interesting fall out.

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Undergraduates make "B"s an... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2008 11:36 AM | Posted by varangianguard: | Reply

Undergraduates make "B"s and "C"s these days? Where? I thought "grade inflation" had made grades meaningless to all but helicopter parents.

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@varangianguard : at public... (Below threshold)

August 12, 2010 3:15 PM | Posted by Termm: | Reply

@varangianguard : at public universities like the UC system. I cant speak for those in other disciplines, but my time so far as an engineer has been very tough and physics, chem, and engineering classes usually have at least 40% of the class recieving C's.

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Slate is currently running ... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2015 10:03 PM | Posted by MonstrousReprobate: | Reply

Slate is currently running a piece by some insane Chicago madman arguing that college kids should be treated like kindergartners.

Oddly Slate says the immaturity of college kids is caused by over-parenting/helicopter parenting and their proposed solution is............ more helicopter parenting?

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If you are choosing an onli... (Below threshold)

February 25, 2015 9:48 AM | Posted by Michelle E. Balcom: | Reply

If you are choosing an online institute for education, always choose an accredited universities which are legalized and offer recognized programs. This is important when you will be searching job after completing your education.

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Why?!? You must doing the v... (Below threshold)

April 23, 2015 4:26 PM | Posted by Oedipism: | Reply

Why?!? You must doing the vague thing again..

Because Chipolte? Because Old Navy? Because Target? Because PF Chang's? And? Because they get an excuse to raise tuitions later. More to the point, so that they can sell more dorms! "Of course, I live on campus! What would be the point otherwise?" Indeed.

Did I guess right?

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In case you missed it - rel... (Below threshold)

April 29, 2015 2:58 PM | Posted by MonstrousReprobate: | Reply

In case you missed it - related to this post, recently there was a PRE-K for Adults opened up in Brooklyn. Crazy borderlines in thier early 30's show up and finger paint and PAY to do so.
It's their substitute for God/Authority. These people are lost/clueless and they want someone to tell them what to do and when to do it.

Their parents taught them well. This is what the graying of kindergarten gets us.


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