Ivy League

Higher education does not exclusively define humanity

William Deresiewicz ruffled feathers in the higher education world when he criticized the priorities of contemporary universities, specifically calling out Ivy League institutions, in his article in the New Republic. Fueling further fires with his book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite, Deresiewicz has been criticized for denouncing the meritocracy without providing an alternative, overstating the actions of a select few and fundamentally misunderstanding the plight of the middle class trying to get the most for their money.

But in an interview on NPR’s On Point, Deresiewicz slips in a comment overlooked by many. Hidden in a conversation of whether college should be job training or experiential, Deresiewicz says, “Colleges did used to talk about, before they started treating their students like customers, ‘hey, you’re here for another reason too, you’re here to grow up, you’re here to become an adult, to become a self’ and that means a lot more.”

This idealistic statement is in itself elitist. Though it aimed to critique the job-seeking drones of top institutions, it revealed a deeper assumption of Deresiewicz’s about society at large. Embedded in the criticism of the value of a contemporary college education, this statement entails that one must attend college to become a self, to define oneself as a person. That an individual cannot become a full person, a complete human without this journey that, with rising tuition compounded by rising costs of living, is fundamentally unattainable by a significant portion of the population.

On this note, I question Deresiewicz’s premise for critique. He criticizes higher education institutions for failing to do their job of creating real people. But to say that this is purely the job of the institution and not the responsibility of the individual is a selective view of society that ignores the population excluded from these institutions.  It is the duty of each individual to define themselves as humans, to define their self, not the job of the institution. To shift that responsibility wholly to an institution is a failure as a society in respecting the entire community. It is a failure in recognizing everyone as a self and individual that has agency and is capable of thoughtful decision-making and meaningful interactions.

While not an Ivy League institution, the University of Texas at Austin is a Tier 1 research institution deeply entrenched in the practical career based versus humanist education with the always looming seven breakthrough solutions, pushed by more conservative officials, which looks to give students more power but, according to critics, would undermine the research that they say makes the university great. In his State of the University Address last week, President Powers emphasized the need to balance these two agendas, preparing students for the real world while also allowing “ them to work on esoteric problems that may have no short-term practical payoff … because we think those students will be more creative and innovative in the future.”

The age one usually spends in college are transformative years, regardless of whether one pursues higher education. A university can help in fostering self discovery by exposure to new experiences, but Deresiewicz overemphasizes the connection between individual development and the university as an exclusive relationship. As a liberal arts student, I appreciate the critical thinking I have been taught, and I believe my education will continue to influence both my life and career decisions. I would not be the same person without my education, but I wholly reject the idea that I would be any less of a self without it, or that individuals without the perfect self-defining education would be merely sheep in our money-driven world.

Haight is an associate editor.


Sophomore center Imani McGee-Stafford attemps to throw up a shot against TCU in February. The Longhorns are set to take on Maryland in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament in College Park, Md., on Tuesday. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Texas’ perfect 18-for-18 foul-shooting performance, en route to a 79-61 win over 12th-seeded Penn (22-7, 12-2 Ivy League), proved that free throws can make the difference between winning and losing.

“Anytime you go 100 percent from the free-throw line is great,” sophomore center Imani McGee-Stafford said at a press conference following Sunday’s game. “Every time they fouled us, we capitalized.”

Motivated by a drive to prolong its season, Texas rebounded from a first-half deficit to blow out the Quakers. McGee-Stafford led Texas with 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting and 12 rebounds. She scored 15 of her points after the half.

“I don’t want to say I freaked about the score, but it was in my mind,” McGee-Stafford said. “I just wanted to come out and give my team what they deserved from me.”

The entire Texas team adopted this mentality, as each player stepped up and showed accountability in the comeback. The effort helped Texas grab its first NCAA Tournament win since 2008 and advance to the Round of 32. Against No. 11 Maryland (25-6, 12-4 ACC), the Longhorns (22-11, 11-7 Big 12) are the underdogs, as they have been throughout the two teams’ history. Maryland leads the all-time series 3-1 and beat Texas in the teams’ only other NCAA Tournament matchup.

But that 79-71 Terp victory was in 1989. No current player on either team was even born yet, so Texas must take advantage of its newfound drive and a fresh start if it wants to advance to the regionals for the first time in a decade.

“Our team is really fortunate to have won the game [against Penn],” head coach Karen Aston said at a press conference following Sunday’s game. “It’s huge. Everything that we set forth to do this year, we have checked off. One of those was obviously to make it to the tournament, and we accomplished that. The next one was to win a game. That was a step I feel like this program needed to take.”

With all initial goals checked off, Texas has nothing to lose — and no reason to slow down. It must capitalize on its strengths, as it did from the free-throw line Sunday, but also realize it’s not playing a pushover. While the Longhorns boast a .365 3-point shooting average for the season, the Terps just barely trump them at .366. Texas’ 14.8 assists per game are its most this millennium, but Maryland posted a superior 19.6 average on the season. Even the Longhorns’ +11.7 rebounding margin, which puts them fifth in the nation, trails Maryland’s +12.2 margin.

Texas will have its hands full Tuesday night at 6 p.m. CST, as it plays in College Park, Md., which is home court for the Terps.

“I think we learned that we just have to stick together through everything,” senior guard Chassidy Fussell said at a press conference Monday. “We are going against the team and the fans that are yelling at us; we just have to communicate and stick together.”

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Yale sophomore Andrew Hendricks has gotten used to receiving strange looks when he crosses the Ivy League campus in his Air Force uniform.

Hendricks, the only Air Force cadet at Yale, wears the uniform on days he drives to the University of Connecticut to train with the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a program that had been barred from his university until faculty agreed to welcome it back beginning next fall.

Four decades after Vietnam War protesters cheered the departure of ROTC programs from some Ivy League universities, their return is bringing little more than a symbolic change to campuses where students are neither protesting or enlisting.

Yale, Harvard and Columbia all signed agreements this year to bring back ROTC. The antagonism with elite universities faded with the end of the draft, and much of the lingering opposition to the military dissolved with last year’s repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the policy that banned gays from serving openly in the armed services. The universities said the policy violated non-discrimination rules for campus organizations.

A tiny number of students at these schools pursue ROTC — a total of three at Yale and five at Columbia do so through off-campus arrangements — and those numbers are not expected to rise dramatically. But the agreements to revive ROTC are important to the schools, which once produced many of America’s most decorated military officers, and the armed services, which are regaining a presence at some of the country’s best-known universities.

Officials are excited about ROTC because it offers students another path to national leadership, the dean of Yale College, Mary Miller, said in an interview.

The change is likely to be minimal at Yale, as well as at Harvard and Columbia, where Naval ROTC gained formal recognition but students are expected to continue training at nearby campuses. At Harvard, which has nine midshipmen training at other Boston area schools, the Naval ROTC director said it would not make sense to create a new detachment.

Regardless of the numbers, advocates said it is important to the military to be represented on elite campuses.

“Symbols matter, and the symbolism of America’s leading universities declaring or even implying that there is something illegitimate about serving your nation in uniform was shameful,” said Graham Allison, director of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a former U.S. assistant secretary of defense.

But there is still some resistance in the Ivy League. Brown University’s president, Ruth Simmons, said this week that she continues to back the school’s policy of denying ROTC recognition as an academic program.

A music professor at Brown, Jeff Todd Titon, said many faculty feel there is no place for the military at a liberal arts college.
“The military is a chain of command organization where obedience is required, and that’s just antithetical to our ideals and goals,” he said.

Hendricks is looking forward to dropping the three-hour weekly commute to Storrs when ROTC comes to New Haven, and he also thinks it will make him feel more at home on his own campus.

“Knowing that I’ll be doing this for Yale, I’ll feel more school pride,” he said.