My center at work hosted a somewhat large conference a few weeks ago for many of presidents, chief academic, and chief diversity officers of liberal arts schools in the northeast (hello mouthful!). A lot of it was sort of mundane, from my running around perspective anyway, but there were a few sessions that I sat in on that were somewhat inspiring.
I was surprised, while taking notes during one of the sessions, when the president of one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the country mentioned that it really is the students that motivate faculty and forge change in a college/university setting. I guess that makes sense if you think about it, but sometimes I think I forgot that while educators are there to challenge us and help us learn, they are also being challenged themselves and learning from students. It’s the push back they receive from students that drives change, particularly in an academic session. That same president mentioned that it was students like him in the early 60s that pushed for an open curriculum, dismissing the notion of a core curriculum everyone must follow. This practice was then adopted by many liberal arts colleges, and “distribution requirements” are much more the norm these days.
I like the idea that as students we have more possibilities than perhaps we know to foster change. I often wonder if I’ve made an impression on certain professors, and if they’ll be able to remember their experiences with me or my classmates versus any other years. There are so many hurdles in the way of negotiating more equal resources for everyone, but it’s refreshing to hear that we are not powerless, particularly when we are merely students and not in positions of power.
It also made me laugh when one of the presidents insisted I go next door to open an unlocked door for him, because “the door is definitely locked and I am leaving shortly.” I guess some people are just used to doors being opened for them ;)
photo via bluegreycat