Future of the University Blog Post

As I was researching on this week’s blog post prompt, one of the discussion themes that popped up, again and again, is that – “will the pandemic change American universities the way we know them?” In this post, I would like to share a very interesting article by Prof. Ian Bogost – a distinguished chair in media studies and a professor of interactive computing at Georgia Tech, that I found.

In this article, the author first provides a brief history of American universities. He then discusses how the pandemic threatened what it means with an underlying argument that they are not built for education: they are built for the “coming of age” and college experience. Eventually, the article starts questioning whom to blame for rising COVID-19 cases in university towns and communities and then reveals a more complicated dynamic between universities, ordinary people, and policymakers. Some of the points that hit the spot for me are below

  • American colleges and universities have always sought isolation rather than integration. 
  • How the entire structure of American family life became oriented towards college and how universities evolved from a rite of passage into the prestige of the upper-middle class to an aspiration for the middle-class.
  • How the college experience soon became a prison experience for students returning to campuses during the fall semester.
  • How people objected to the “do not party” stand of few universities as a threat to the college experience and how policymakers tried to introduce a college-student bill of rights to protect students from those “Draconian” measures.
  • A fantastic point – “Students acted recklessly toward the virus not because they are necessarily careless or juvenile, but because college promises them a place apart, where ordinary rules don’t apply.”
  • Finally, this satisfying concluding paragraph where the author disagrees with others in the field that speculate that the pandemic will kill American universities the way we know it.
    The pandemic has made college frail, but it has strengthened Americans’ awareness of their attachment to the college experience. It has shown the whole nation, all at once, how invested they are in going away to school or dreaming about doing so. Facing that revelation might be the most important outcome of the pandemic for higher ed: An education may take place at college, but that’s not what colleges principally provide. Higher education survived a civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, and the 1918 Spanish flu, the worst pandemic the U.S. has ever faced. American colleges will outlast this crisis, too, whether or not they are safe, whether or not they are affordable, and whether or not you or your children actually attend them. The pandemic offered an invitation to construe college as an education alone, because it was too dangerous to embrace it as an experience. Nobody was interested. They probably never will be.

I agree with all the points that the author has raised in this post. What do you think?

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/10/college-was-never-about-education/616777/?fbclid=IwAR09M8bVoN_STlOmWXDz1quG2bf04IGw2tEkUL0ZekSZW4I5XBaHpSs2Fm4

4 Replies to “Future of the University Blog Post”

  1. Hi immesala, thank you for your perspective! Those are some interesting points. I have had some discussions in the past about how college is an “experience” when discussing to others about the rise of certifications rather than going to college. The “experience” of college and the growth is what makes colleges unique. The response when students were allowed to return to campus but not conduct any social activities is a great example of how obvious it is that college is not just an education. I think it is time for other educational paths to be deemed more acceptable for the same employment than those with bachelor degrees such as online certificates, experience, hands-on certification etc. This will force colleges to improve and lower costs.

  2. Thank you for your response, Alexis. I agree that for people who cannot afford college, it is beneficial for them if the certifications of specific skills become more mainstream.

  3. Thank you for the blog immeesala,
    It is interesting to know how educational institutes in USA are something beyond just education. They are a place to experience the coming of age period of your life.
    And yes I agree that in recent time universities are not able to provide that experience and have to solely focus on providing education. No late-night parties, no downtown mid-night walks just classes, assignment, and zoom lectures.
    I see on VT Instagram page a lot of hate comment whenever the university tries to make regulations to prevent the spread of the virus and after your blog, I understand why students hate these rules and mandates. Because they are not getting the full university experience they are paying money for.
    But beyond all the hate and mean comments I am not able to understand is the university experience so important to students that they are going to risk the health of the community they are living in?

    1. Thank you for your interesting comment, Ashit. I do think that the safety of the community comes first. However, it is pretty frustrating to incur the same debt without the “college experience,” which is branded so much. For instance, VT takes a lot of pride in saying that the campus is beautiful and the dining services are the best in the country. While they are true, not many students are making use of them right now. So should they be paying the same tuition fee?

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