I grew up on the campus of Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois.
My father founded the Electrical Engineering Department, was the founding Dean of the College of Communications and Fine Arts and retired as the Dean of one of the most well respected Colleges of Engineering in the nation.
Even today, at age 85, most days you can find him on the campus supporting the University’s mission.
I know something about higher education.
When I went off to college in 1970, against my father’s wishes since I could have gone to Bradley for free, I chose Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.
My chosen major? Journalism.
A big and ironic mistake in my father’s and later my own view.
Big because it took me a year to figure it out and ironic because my father would later found a school which had a journalism department.
But I learned in that year an immutable lesson.
I learned the difference between a trade and a college curriculum.
Having been involved in the media since I was 13, I merely assumed that a degree in Journalism would get me where I wanted to go. What I didn’t realize at the time was that most of what counts in journalism isn’t what they teach in journalism schools. It is taught in newsrooms, on network film (ok, today we call it video) crews, in bars and restaurants, in the press gallery at every state legislature, in short, in the field.
Because you just can’t teach the real world in a classroom.
What you CAN do is teach economics, history, literature, comparative religion and the rest of what we call liberal arts. You can teach math and physics and science. You can teach management science. You can teach engineering and law. (For the record, I finished college as a pre-law major.)
Those are college curriculums.
Fast forward to 2011.
The President of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas is telling us that we can’t cut his university which can best be described by the taxpayers as a high school with ash trays.
Let us look at his catalog of degrees offered:
Let’s start with the Department of Women’s Studies. That’s right. The President of UNLV says we can’t cut that taxpayer funded academic version of NPR. Wanna Bet?
And, while we’re on the subject of betting, how about the school of hotel management? Do you really need a four year degree to set room rates and housekeeping policy? There’s also a major in Food and Beverage Management. Now, I learned about beverage management in college, but certainly not in the classroom.
Sorry folks, but running a bar or a night club does not require a degree from a taxpayer funded institution. (It does require a liquor license from the county, but that’s another column.)
I could go on.
But, I think you get the point.
The UNLV philosophy can be summed up in many cases as making college a four year buffer zone between high school and real life. At the taxpayers’ expense.
Because in real life, that degree in Woman’s Studies is going to qualify you to, well, go back to school and get a useful skill.
UNLV needs to become smaller and more focused.
And it should have a President who has actually read his catalog before he tells the taxpayers how much more money we need to urinate away on his fantasy.