In case you haven’t gotten enough Roth News, here’s some more! Last Friday, June 8th, President Roth wrote a book review for the New York Times on College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, a book by Columbia University professor and 2011 National Humanities Medal recipient Andrew Delbanco. It discusses the history of American colleges and warns readers that higher education is increasingly becoming a privilege for the wealthy.
In his book, Delbanco claims that the “traditional four-year college experience—an exploratory time for students to discover their passions and test ideas and values with the help of teachers and peers—is in danger of becoming a thing of the past.” In Roth’s own words:
At a time when many are trying to reduce the college years to a training period for economic competition, Delbanco reminds readers of the ideal of democratic education.
Roth explains some aspects of this “ideal” by highlighting colleges’ original role in character formation and offering a communal learning experience to its students. In reiterating Delbanco’s points, Roth further claims that “the so-called meritocracy in admissions is increasingly an excuse for reproducing economic inequality” in today’s elite institutions.
Such claims come at a critical time in Wesleyan’s history, given the university’s recent policy changes to need-blind admission and other efforts to, in theory, “preserve access to Wesleyan for capable, creative students.” Perhaps most poignant to the debate over these changes and efforts is the following statement from Roth’s review:
To deliver on the promise of our ideals, we must maintain robust financial aid programs and end the steep rise of tuition. If we’re to become more affordable and more responsible, we must replace spending for cachet with investments in student learning.
Given recent discussions about university’s financial future and changes to policies like need blind admissions, members of the Wesleyan community should question and debate whether or not the ideals Roth lauds in this review are reflected in the administration’s decisions, and the potential consequences of those actions.
Please read Roth’s book review in full before commenting below.
- “Light, Truth and Whatever,” Michael Roth’s NYTimes book review
- Wesleying coverage of need-blind changes