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Monday, January 4, 2010

"Are They Students? Or, 'Customers'?"

This NYTimes expert panel discussion, together with reader comments from around the world, is essential reading for our A&S students, faculty and staff as we gear up for final A&S Roundtable debates:

Here is just one among many provocative and intelligent comments readers have offered regarding this significant issue:

"We are all customers of banks, dry cleaners, and grocery stores, yet we rarely walk around wearing sweatshirts with the names of these firms written across the chest in large letters. We don't brag to friends and family about whether a dry cleaner accepted our laundry and we don't place framed deposit slips from our banks on our walls. We don't attend reunions with fellow customers of our grocery stores nor are we asked by the management of our dry cleaners for financial support. The relationship of a student with his or her university is far richer, far more complex, and far more rewarding than the word "customer" can ever capture. I do not believe that our students are customers: they should expect and receive far more than a simple customer."

I agree. Our A&S students deserve academic excellence in return for their substantial investments in our institution. They trust us and the 100-year venerable Tradition of our College. We A&S faculty members must persist to deserve and earn their trust. The most-recent Roundtable Report recommendations in the main neglect to address the concerns, needs and expectations -- and the trust -- of our most diligent and highly motivated students. If A&S College admissions are to be "open to anyone" let's consider adopting the logic of Ronald J. Daniels, President of Johns Hopkins, who argues that quality higher education should be "interdisciplinary, fully engaged with its many communities, and open to anyone of merit."

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