Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Back to College

UW-Madison students are happy students, as we recently learned from the Huffington Post. This high ranking of our institution is a coup when it comes to attracting more applications, and since we rise in rankings by rejecting more applicants (and rightly care about happiness), this will likely be seen as a good thing.

Of course I'm delighted that our students are happy. Pleased as punch that they rate our sports culture and political activity highly (a 9 and an 8 out of 10 respectively), and the opportunities for things to do "endless."  It's wonderful-- they are spirited, free-thinking, and enthusiastic, and as all of my students well know, I love to teach them.

But with love (yes, really) I need to offer a little constructive critique. We have some things to work on and they directly pertain to the educational mission (and indirectly the affordability mission) of our school.   In that same set of rankings we scored just a 6 on "professors accessible" and a 7 on "intellectual life."  Maybe I'm hopelessly old-fashioned, but those are the things that students and families are purportedly paying tuition for-- courses and learning.

Or not.  I suppose, really not.  If you take a look at the latest video produced by the UW-Madison Administration, apparently my framing is not theirs, and a high-quality education offered by professors is not the message Madison seeks to attract and retain students with.

Here is WELCOME BACK to UW-MADISON.  It's definitely maximizing the sports culture rating. But I'll buy you a scoop of Babcock ice cream if you can glean any sense of an academic message about school from it.