Thursday, April 06, 2017


I'm a romantic about the college campus. I believe it should be located near a small town (where the faculty could live) and have green grounds with trees to sit under and even woods to walk in. There should be dorms for all the students. There should be dining facilities—not a food court but a decent cafeteria—for each dorm. There should be a library. The academic departments should have offices (one office for each faculty position). And there should, of course, be lecture halls, classrooms and colloquium rooms.

I am not against athletic facilities. But they must not increase the cost of tuition nor become a major financial interest. (There is always the danger of drawing too many donations into the "brand value" of an athletics department.) I think any institution at which young people live year-round needs places and equipment for, not just exercise, but games of various kinds. There should be sports fields and, perhaps, even a swimming pool.

I also believe that the students should contribute labor to the upkeep of the grounds. While there should be a grounds keeper who organizes this work, much of the labor should be provided by students working a few hours each week. The same goes for keeping the dorms and classrooms clean. There should not be a staff of caretakers to leave the impression that university students have servants. Even two hours a week from 2400 students is 4800 hours, or the equivalent of 120 full-time staff members. And, yes, I believe it would build character and a sense of care for the campus.

This care should of course also be care for each other as members of the community. A certain spirit should animate a college campus, one that respects the privilege of attending an institution, relatively sheltered from the pressures of social life.

Advertising and corporate branding should be entirely banned from campus. There should be no Starbucks on campus and no posters that sell anything of any kind, except tickets to events sponsored by campus organizations. No donation should be able to buy the attention of the students. No surface on campus should distract the students from the main purpose: learning. (Obviously, what the students choose to wear and what posters they hang up in the dorm rooms is their own business.)

I would expect the campus to be connected to the Internet, of course. But I think the classrooms themselves should be low tech, with chalk boards.

This was sort of a boring post, I guess. There isn't really anything revolutionary in these suggestions. The idea, however, is to keep things simple and inexpensive and to involve the students in their maintenance. That's really the main point.


Anonymous said...

Ah, Thomas! You ARE a revolutionary! I could imagine a thousand reasons that stakeholders in the current system would give for why your vision of The Campus should fail. But keep writing. I want to see where this goes.

BTW, your previous post about why a Dane might propose a vision for American campuses had many precedents -- of a sort. I have lived most of my life in the northeast and central regions of the US and there are historical sites throughout of utopian communities founded by Europeans. (You will also appreciate that there were at least two non-European designs, as well, based on Henry George's single-tax.)

I might suggest that the student caretakers should not use ladders, power tools, or lawn mowers. In a world of human variability, one might expect that several hundred of the students may lose appendages, limbs, or worse...

Thomas said...

Interesting precaution. On the other hand, I think it would be useful to them later in life to know how to handle power tools (and their own selves on a ladder). I do agree that there must be a professional staff to guide them, also in the kitchens.