The independent student newspaper of Goucher College

Author

David Kahana

David Kahana has 2 articles published.

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David Kahana is the Opinion Editor for the Quindecim. He is a History major with an Arabic Studies minor. Besides working for the Q he is also the Secretary-General of Model UN, the Hillel programming co chair and he plays on the frisbee team. He has a lot of opinions and encourages those who have an enlightening idea to contact the Q.

The Importance of Public Discourse

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Picture Source: Public Photo Credit: Discourse: Importance & Strategies | Study.com

 

I am writing today because the atmosphere at Goucher has, for the duration of my studies here, been lacking healthy public discourse. That is not to say people are not sharing their opinions with their friends, nor is it to say that people have been censored. Public discourse is more than just talking about international maritime trade law over lunch. The Goucher Bubble has alienated many students on campus, not because they feel they are a minority politically, but because there are no safe spaces for dissenting opinions to be voiced. Conversations must be held on all aspects of our modern world. This includes the direction Goucher College has taken. Majors being phased out is only part of the story; the very identity of liberal arts is being redefined and we, students, must be a part of that conversation. Us students must create mechanisms for voicing ourselves to each other and to the larger Goucher institution.

To achieve these goals, I first must ask club leaders to invite speakers who are relevant and even radical. There is a valid argument as how to discriminate and chose which speakers we can and cannot invite. I am not going to provide a simple answer as to who should be provided the platform and who should not. That decision rests with club leaders, but I would say that if one has an unpopular belief, they are no less worthy of sharing their opinion for it. Learning about differing understandings creates bridges between people who have different narratives. A Republican pro-coal politician in West Virginia has a legitimate narrative just like young Democratic Socialist from Queens. We need to seek out these narratives and have them told to the Goucher student body so we all gain a more comprehensive understanding of the world we live in.

My second proposition is intended for the greater campus population. I encourage all of you to seek out groups to have these conversations. Do not be afraid to challenge yourself, and do not succumb to the mistake of judging someone’s character based on how they understand the world. If someone carries a moral stance that you reject, let them elaborate it, and if they are wrong, their explanation and a discussion should correct it. I am a firm believer in the ability of freedom of discussion and a society, no matter how small, that makes discord topics taboo further creates a detachment from the larger community it inhabits.

I also encourage all students to voice their opinions by attending faculty meetings and by engaging with professors and administrators when appropriate. Bring up Goucher’s identity in class, if permitting. What does a liberal arts education mean, and has Goucher betrayed it or merely modernized it? I have witnessed many incidents where opinions were screaming to be heard but there was no one willing to speak them. Breathe life into these opinions – there are avenues, including the one you are currently reading, for a minority dissension to be heard. Take a stance and I, along with the community, will respect you for it. If you are compelling enough, we may even join in with you.

 

Liberal Arts Are Changing — And That Isn’t A Bad Thing

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What is Goucher College? Are we still a liberal arts school even without majors in math, theater, Jewish studies, and Russian? Even if the recently announced phasing out of certain majors does not directly affect many students on campus today, unintended consequences of these decisions may have a broader impact. What does this mean for our identity and future and, perhaps more importantly, was this the right decision?

Clearly, there will be some short-term and potentially damaging consequences. Professors in cut majors may lose their motivation for teaching in areas now deemed unessential. Through this process, many of us students who are future alumni and future donors felt disenfranchised. We were not meaningfully invited to critical meetings where decisions were made, and the most important meetings were strictly closed to students. This neglect may impact students’ current and future commitment to the school.

That being said, with every decision, there are winners and losers. Even at a non-profit institution, hard decisions have to be made. Higher education in the United States ultimately must face economic reality, and we risk losing everything if we fail to make hard financial decisions. If, as argued, many of the discontinued majors were unsustainable from an economic standpoint, their continued funding posed a real problem for Goucher’s big picture. If student enrollment did not support these programs, why and how can we justify maintaining them? Do these curriculum changes have an existential impact, calling into question our status as a liberal arts college?

Photo Credit: ingridperri.com

Technical skills education versus general study have been pitted against each other since the institutionalization of education. Roman Patrician families bought Greek slaves as tutors for their teenage boys to ensure proper education in areas of mathematics, grammar, rhetoric, history, and logic. These skills were essential for a liberalis, a free man, to participate in civic life. Specializing in a technical skill was exclusive to slaves. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, all education was further limited only to the clergy; even noble families were largely illiterate for hundreds of years. The first universities, such as Oxford, were established in 1096. As time progressed, Late Medieval education primarily required choosing between training to be doctor, lawyer, or clergy, or, for the wealthy, the study of the artes liberales.

Higher education in the United States took liberal arts to the next level during the 19th century. Harvard and Yale, once religious institutions, became centers of liberal arts. Higher education was no longer reserved for elite white men. Women’s colleges, like Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, and the Women’s College of Baltimore, later renamed Goucher College, were founded. Historically black colleges were established: Spelman College, Howard University, and many more. Educating these once marginalized populations was critical to women’s suffrage and desegregation, along with a huge liberalizing impact on society in the United States.

The 20th century challenged this wave of liberal arts enthusiasm with the creation of research universities and large state schools. These larger institutions promised specialized skills much more affordably than private institutions and threatened small liberal arts colleges. As such, public universities expanded higher education across class lines to more people than private institutions could ever hope to reach. By simply increasing the number of students in a lecture hall, costs per student for professor salaries, heating, and administration could be reduced.

In the 21st century, the major financial challenges to Goucher and other small, private liberal arts schools nationally have only increased. Higher costs due to health care, pensions, and the demand for high quality updated physical structures on campus have only put more demands on small private colleges. Specifically, over the past several years, Goucher has been suffering from serious financial deficit. Phasing out of unpopular majors is only one correction to address this. Investing in new First-Year dorms and a new dining hall, while increasing short term costs, will hopefully attract more students to Goucher and make us more competitive. Keeping unsuccessful majors is not an investment in the future.

On the bright side, despite the loss of some student majors, perhaps the unspent funds could be redirected to better supporting successful departments. For example, psychology is one of the most popular majors at Goucher, yet the department’s funds were essentially redirected to support the book studies minor. Fundamentally, that is unfair to the psychology department, who could use their own funds to invest in themselves, helping attract the best and brightest students to Goucher.

But how does this impact our status and does that matter? Liberal arts in the 21st century cannot be the liberal arts of the ancient Greeks or the Middle Ages, or even the 19th century. The world has changed and the unfortunate truth is that the phased-out majors are unpopular nationwide. Peace studies is one of our most popular majors, but it is only is sixty years old; a baby when compared to most departments!

We must adapt and endure in spite of the fact that we may feel forgotten or ignored. We as a student body must pull together. I am not advocating passivity; I am advocating for clear heads and a willingness to evolve. I hope with time we can begin working together—all Goucher students, administration, faculty, and alumni—for a better community on campus.

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