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We've been had

By Brad Wallace
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 1, 1998
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Brad Wallace

The greed of this university simply sickens me. I hazily remember being a freshman, coming to this university filled with hope. I was going to be educated. I was going to leave a better person than when I came in, and best of all, I was going to be surrounded by others who wanted to a learn a few things, and those who enjoyed sharing what they knew.

Those beliefs are dead.

This university exists for one reason: to extract money from more and more students.

Last week, President Peter Likins wrote a guest column welcoming everyone to the UA. It was overwhelmingly dedicated to the topic of money, with Likins rattling off a list of expensive programs that are supposedly going to make UA better. It almost sounds good: a $60 million renovation of the Memorial Student Union, a Mall Enhancement Program and the much ballyhooed Integrated Learning Center.

I have no doubt that some, who still enjoy my foolish naivetˇeacute;, believe that these programs are actually being implemented to improve the quality of education here.

Sadly, I know better. The university has two priorities: get more freshmen in, and keep them longer. Whether or not you actually learn anything is simply irrelevant.

The suits in admin know that if parents are sent glossy pamphlets with phrases like "integrated learning facility" and pictures of a sparkling Student Union, they are more likely to get freshmen to bring their money here.

If there's enough cool stuff to play with here, we're more likely to stay, regardless of the actual educational quality of the experience.

Because of the completely haphazard way I planned my schedule (seeing an adviser is an exercise in futility and frustration), I'm taking all general education classes this semester - a first for me.

Seeing 400 people crowded into the recently remodeled Sociology 101 lecture hall is quite a hoot. It's obvious too, that said renovations were quite extensive and costly - there's a neat computer screen with Web access and everything.

However, imagine an alternate universe in which "State of the Art Multimedia Learning Facilities" were undiscovered, and universities applied those funds to things like hiring more professors, or paying post-docs and TA's enough money.

Of course, it looks pretty bad in a pamphlet to say, "We've hired more faculty because quite frankly, we didn't have nearly enough for a real long time now."

The increasing corporatization of campus pushes me more toward tears and less towards puking. In five years, the Union will basically be a mall, and I guarantee that all the "mom and pop" places on the outskirts of campus will be owned by PepsiCo Inc. Perhaps the UA can incorporate the McDonalds logo into its own and lower tuition by getting corporate bucks. I certainly wouldn't put it past them.

I imagine the ideal university (as imagined by the powers that be) to have 30,000 entering freshmen every year, all of whom would have their funds directly transferred to the university (let's call this system a DogCard). Classes would be downloaded in the privacy of everyone's dorm room, A's would be guaranteed, and everyone would quit after a year. On the Mall would be an enormous roller coaster and maybe a Gravitron or two.

In this perfect university, no actual degrees would have to be awarded and the administration would be freed from all those pesky teachers and all that grading hassle.

Ultimately though, the responsibility for this perversion of education lies with us, the students. When the university stole all of our social security numbers and directly violated our constitutional right to privacy, only a small minority complained. Rather than conduct demonstrations or directly demand that we get a good education rather than being treated like a test market, we loll around and think about football tickets and $1 draft specials.

I have no hope that anything will change. My only consolation is that this is happening across the nation at universities large and small, so I won't have to compete against too many really smart people in the "real world."

Those who I pity most are professors, who are forced to teach more students who are less interested in learning. If it were my job, I'd quit. I'm sure that the UA would waste no time finding something else to keep our attention.

I recall reading that the president of a university's job was "to provide sex for the undergraduates, football games for the alumni and parking for the faculty." I'd like to thank Dr. Likins and the rest of the administration for taking that cynical motto to heart and for making our campus the great place it is today.

Brad Wallace is a mollecular and cellular biology senior. He can be reached at His column, A Handful of Dust, appears every Tuesday.

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