Thursday, July 22, 2010
Ole Miss excelling
I was on the Ole Miss campus Thursday afternoon for a multi-media workshop and little did I know I was going to see ESPN there, too.
TV crews from the cable sports network were near The Grove filming a spot for a campaign called – “It’s Not Crazy - It’s Sports.” The hot topic at Ole Miss is the mascot controversy. Some students were on hand to get their few seconds of fame in recreating the push last spring for Admiral Ackbar, a fish-like commander from “Star Wars.”
As an assignment for our class, we interviewed one of the students concerning the mascot situation and its effect on the college – good or bad.
He believed the mascot change (ditching the Rebel) is a good thing. And he also talked about how the college’s purpose is education, not athletics, and Ole Miss is excelling academically.
He’s right. Last week I received an e-mail from a friend who loves Ole Miss.
It included an article – “Are Colleges Worth the Price of Admission?” It was written by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus and adapted from their new book “Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids – and What We Can Do About It.”
In their travels around the country researching their book, professors Hacker and Dreifus found some colleges they believed were doing their jobs well.
Atop the list of “doing well” is Ole Miss.
They write – “It is a university where reconciliation and civility are at the heart of the educational mission. Much of the transformation has been the work of Robert Khayat, who retired from the chancellorship in 2009. In his 14 years there, he raised academic standards, tripled African-American enrollment, and banned Confederate flags from athletic events. Under his leadership the university reached into its past for different pieces of the state’s history. Think Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, and Tennessee Williams. Ole Miss has a Center for the Study of Southern Culture that focuses on the art, literature, music, and food of the region, black and white. Indeed, of all the flagship colleges we have visited, we have found Ole Miss the most appealing. The campus has the feel of a liberal-arts college. Its Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College offers as fine an education as one might find at Carleton or Kenyon Colleges.”
Following Ole Miss on the prestigious list were – Raritan Valley Community College, University of Notre Dame, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, Berea College, Arizona State University, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, University of Colorado at Boulder, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Western Oregon University and Evergreen State College.
The authors conclude – “the institutions that we’ve cited are exceptions to our premise that higher education has lost track of its original and enduring purpose. They reinforce our view that college should be a cultural journey, an intellectual expedition, a voyage confronting new ideas and information. Many colleges with national names and universities with imperial plans could learn a lot from them.”
The mascot search has been narrowed to five – a horse, a land shark, Hotty and Toddy, a lion and a bear. But that’s not nearly as important as this positive report.
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