I think that the role of the university changes depending on what stage of higher education you are currently in. At the bachelors level, I think the university has an obligation to produce well rounded students that have spent only slightly more time specializing in a single subject or trade. Focusing on a well rounded education is key to producing graduates who can function well in the real world both within and outside of their selected specialties. Treating college as a fancy trade school for white collar jobs will eventually turn it into just that. Plus, in many careers and jobs much of the information that needs to be known on the job will be taught through on the job training, and mentorships.
Serious specialization should be left to graduate degrees. Once a student has a well rounded basis and an introduction to their selected specialization they can choose to return to school to further specialize in a specific subject or skill.
As for the role of the university in society, the production of well rounded citizens will ultimately benefit society as a whole. Students with well rounded educations and honed critical thinking skills will be better able to assess and analyze the world around them and change it for the better. This can pertain to social issues, economic issues, political issues, etc.
Research institutions, I believe, are going to have a hard time balancing the amount of attention it devotes to teaching and mentoring it’s undergraduate body when there is so much emphasis placed on research. This balancing act that, while tricky, must be addressed to ensure that the students are receiving a sound education, while still fulfilling its obligations to research.
My name is Jonathan Harding. I’m a second year masters student in the English department. I received my BA in English-Literature from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. My current research involves gauging student’s perceptions of multi-modal feedback in hopes of being able to provide students with a more engaging and easily understood form of feedback in the composition classroom. My professional goal is to teach college English.
I think that Virginia Tech’s principles of community are admirable. It’s important to foster a community of respect and ensure that each person has the right to free speech and the right voice their opinion from their own perspective- especially in today’s politically divisive climate. As admirable as the principles of community are, they are meaningless if they are not practiced. Since they are designated as principles they are more of a standard that the students are expected to set for themselves rather than a set of enforceable laws. This means it’s on to the community (students, faculty, staff, administration) to give meaning to these words; because once an individual has been unjustly silenced, or excluded based on their beliefs or who they are, these principles lose their meaning.
The fact they VT acknowledges its past includes “a legacy that reflected bias and exclusion” and is using that past to shape a better future is a model that many institutions and persons could adopt. It gives VT a level of credibility that it may not have if it tried to hide or ignore the exclusionary practices it held in the past.
I find the “we affirm the right of each person to express thoughts and opinions freely. We encourage open expression within a climate of civility, sensitivity, and mutual respect” principle most intriguing. I think that this may be one of the hardest principles to uphold. It’s not always easy to face opinions that differ from your own with a sense of “civility, sensitivity, and mutual respect” especially when talking about inflammatory subjects.