A Different Colgate

In speaking with alumni, I have discovered that Colgate was once a place that didn’t revolve around the jug scene. A place in which fraternities competed over which chapter had the highest concentration of leaders. It was a place in which Konosioni wasn’t a vague organization both known little and thought little of. Our almuni love our school. Some studied hard while at Colgate. Others played hard. Most did a lot of both. I am told, the one constant in our alumni is that they are smart people. I am told that many people are aware of this, even those who did not attend Colgate. In short, Colgate was once the place that I aspired to attend: an intellectual community that knew how to have fun.In the course of my stay at Colgate, I have had several great courses that relied solely on the intelligence, pedagogical facility, and demeanor of the professor: Introduction to Economics with professor Tomljanovich, Ideas of Great Economists and Monetary Economics with professor Michl, Microeconomics with professor Haines, Developmental Economics with professor Mandle; Ethics with professor McCabe, and Theater Theory with Professor Bay-Cheng. Unfortunately, even these courses (where applicable) largely failed in promoting intellectual discourse among those attending the class. I firmly believe that Western Traditions and Challenge of Modernity cover interesting and worthwhile material, but just reading the books and sitting through 13 weeks of painfully topical class discussions made me want my $35,000 back. I would be willing to wager that the average Colgate student, one year after taking these two courses, couldn’t tell you what books they read, much less what the books were about. I guarantee that most Colgate students sell every book from Western Traditions and Challenge of Modernity back to the school. I think the courses could use some restructuring, but from my experience in all the courses I have taken over the last fours years, I think most of the blame falls on the students and perhaps the admissions office. Many didn’t read the books and few, if any, of those who did were capable of anything more than regurgitation. While higher average SAT scores may help boost our rankings, the reliance on such systems both in the admissions office and in the classroom is only reinforcing the capacity for memorization and test taking skills as the mark of excellence. I would submit that the mark of true excellence, the kind our alumni are known for, the kind I came to Colgate to develop, and the kind many of our students seem to lack is two fold: cognitive reasoning skills and an unquenchable desire to use them.Public discourse at Colgate seems to be in a state of rigor mortis. Unfortunately, intellectual discussion on any level seems to be taking place only in small hard to find cloisters. As I try to strike up interesting conversations with people, I am met with myriad barriers. The first is that people find the merits of intellectual pursuit outweighed by the required expenditure of energy. How is it that people are too lazy to think? How is it that interesting discussion is worth so little? The second barrier is an aversion to controversy and the lack of capacity for arguments that don’t include emotion; people are especially uncomfortable with the concept of playing devils advocate. Why are people so afraid to talk about things? How is it that the students of a top liberal arts college are unable to intellectualize a topic for the duration of a discussion? The final and most disturbing barrier is apathy. Many Colgate students don’t care to discuss Kant or Social Security. People would simply rather be playing video games or drinking and drugging themselves into a state that makes it possible for them to think even less.Last I checked Colgate was not a trade school but a Liberal Arts College. This leaves me with two questions: Why does the school put so little emphasis on the Liberal Arts and why do the students care so little about them? It seems that Colgate has become a weigh station on the path to investment banking and other occupational pursuits; to most Colgate students, the Core curriculum is simply a nuisance on the road to a degree and classes are a nuisance on the road to the Jug. I hear story after story of freshman tortured by the Colgate environment, feeling out of place because they don’t want to spend their Friday nights drunk and Saturday mornings hung over. Perhaps, Colgate has shifted gears; is it the goal of the University that Colgate simply be a resume builder?