Tuesday, May 3, 2011

UNH Students too Passive

A few weeks ago I wrote about the lack of student activism and participation around campus. UNH students, and many other college campuses, are pretty passive nowadays when it comes to holding rallies and protests. Obviously this was not always the case, such as the protests that were held in the mid 1960s and into the 1970s over the United States actions in Vietnam.

It is a little surprising that campuses remain so quiet now, even with the very similar wars going on in the Middle East. Most professors would agree that students do not seem to care about class material or real-world issues, and even President Huddleston has taken notice.

As we all know by now, President Huddleston gave a speech to the New Hampshire State Finance Committee that raised some eyebrows around campus, particularly with the AAUP, who held a "no-confidence" vote on Huddleston's actions. However, I am not here to critique President Huddleston or the AAUP for either of their actions.

I want to draw light on the particular quote by Huddleston that caught the AAUP's attention. Huddleston said:

"We still too frequently convey information in 50-minute lectures delivered by a ‘sage on the stage' to largely passive recipients in the audience three times a week for 15 weeks a term — as if that schedule were Biblically decreed and as if that were the way that ‘digital natives' actually learn today. Worse, we remain wedded to a credentialing regimen of courses and majors and degrees that mainly reflect ‘seat time,' rather than what students actually learn or need to learn."

The part that first grabbed my attention was the "largely passive recipients in the audience" line. You can say that again.

UNH is full of students who really do not care about many classes and real-world issues. Both of these problems have really simple solutions, but the changes need to be made from the top of the university system.

The entire General Education and Discovery program needs to be changed. I understand that it is important for students to have a well-rounded education, but students are too often stuck in meaningless Gen Eds that are simply GPA boosters. What good does that do? Other than boost your GPA of course. Germs? Making Babies? Intro to Music? I'm glad I know that washing my hands is healthy, condoms prevent STDs and babies, and that I can name which one of Beethoven's symphonies is being played in just 15 seconds.

Watch out Donald Trump, here comes The New Hampshirite, future entrepreneur of the century. I'm going to be as healthy as an ox and musically sophisticated, that is a one-two punch to make millions off of. If UNH loses funding there are going to be even more 250 seat brainless lectures, because classes like those are cheaper to run.

The second problem I mentioned above, UNH students not seeming to take an interest in world news and events, can also be improved. This became blatantly apparent Sunday night following the news of Osama bin Laden's death. Universities across the country including Penn State, West Virginia and even UMass had students pouring into the streets in celebration. I made my way downtown and UNH was dead quiet – a virtual ghost town.

One of the reasons that students of the 60s and 70s were so active was because the schools allowed them to and even encouraged it in a way. Many universities would hold what were called "teach-in" discussions and debates for up to three days every semester.

During these teach-ins, classes would be replaced by debates and workshops dedicated to discussing the Vietnam War and other national events in a respectful and civil manner. What is really more important, learning about something you can probably look up in about three minutes online or examining and discussing real world events that are currently impacting your life in more ways than you know?

Vietnam protesters were called "bad Americans" for not supporting the government despite the fact that it is our responsibility and right to critique the government. I do not think protesters are "bad Americans" at all, but I do think that you can be a "bad American" if you do not take the time to learn and discuss what is really happening in the world.

Then the question arises, should we as a people be morally responsible for letting it happen? If you're not being taught or discussing world events in class, then educate yourself.

Stay classy, not UMassy


  1. I think using the bin Laden death as a measure of how 'active' the student body is might not be the best example. Every single student that I've talked to, on both ends of the political spectrum, know and have a personal and well-educated opinion on the situation.

    The outward celebrations aren't necessary to show an understanding of what is happening. In all honesty, from what I've seen on the news of college campuses 'celebrating' his death, its been kids who wanted an excuse to get drunk and/or procrastinate studying. I'm sure there were some who were truly passionate and excited, but many wanted the excuse to let off some steam. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, I'm not going to judge folks for why they celebrated. But... do those folks who celebrated show a well-educated reason for their excitement? Probably not.

    I followed the whole thing in the library while trying to finish my thesis. I have a hard time celebrating death, and while I'm glad he is no longer going to be an influence on extremist terrorists, I will not be part of public celebrations. (And I consider myself a Republican, btw.)

    Let's thank the Seals who did an amazing job of getting him, let's remember those who have sacrificed their lives. But we also need to move on. I hope bin Laden's death is not something we as a nation mull over for too long.

  2. Great post.

    I'm living down in Louisiana now for grad school and coming from a liberal minded NH university to conservative nation has been crazy. Not only have a ton of people been blaming Obama and discrediting him as having absolutely no part in finding Bin Laden and saying that it was all George W, but they are turning it into a total race issue down here. :-/

    I agree that celebrating a death is not what we should be doing, but this is great for America as a whole. Hopefully conservative and liberal can look past party names and just enjoy the unifying moment, but based on the posts I've been seeing from the southern end compared to the FB posts from my northern friends, I think we have a long way to go, but hopefully we can get there soon!

    (It's been a while, and even though I graduated UNH, I still check your blog to find out how things are going up there!)

  3. your stuff is getting better, keep up the good work TNHrite

  4. I love that this is what your blog has evolved into and I dread the day that you have to hand it off.

  5. I have to disagree with a lot of what you're saying.

    1. You complain that students don't care about modern issues, but then you denounce gen eds. That's pretty hypocritical. Gen eds provide a GENERAL EDUCATION about the world. I'm sure you learn a whole lot more in making babies than "use a condom". Knowledge of the structure of music could give you an insight into current trends in the music industry. Germs taught me that the recent anti-bacterial product craze is actually making us sicker. Just because you are not personally interested in the topic does not make the topic "brainless". That's so insulting.

    2. About bin Laden: did you ever consider that people aren't as ecstatic as you over his death? Yeah, he was an evil person and the world is better off without him. Celebrating though? Killing bin Laden will not bring back the countless lives lost in 9/11, Afghanistan, and the Iraq War (which I argue was made possible because of the fear surrounding the 9/11 attack). We can breathe a sigh of relief that he is gone, but killing him has accomplished nothing, and to celebrate death makes us no better than him or his followers.

    To agree with you on one thing though, students are too apathetic. I think the reason is the opposite of what you are saying. I think it's because so many students at UNH are business and engineering majors. These kids are taught "the only thing that matters is money/engineering/your profession". It isn't until you have a GENERAL education that you can try and see the world from different perspectives, and really think critically about what our world is like and why.

  6. ...No comment, then?

  7. 1- I wasn't saying that general eds are unnecessary, I even said that is important to have a well-rounded education. I was arguing that many gen-eds are too mindless. It's important for classes to make you think. I took Intro to Media studies with Meyrowitz, and I first I hated the class, but it became one of my favorites. Professors and classes that challenge students to think critically and in ways they previously didn't or look at issues from various sides can be very important for your education. I know that class will help me as a student even in ways that isn't connected to that material.

    2- I wrote that piece on bin Laden too quickly. I was still caught up in it all and I didn't remove myself enough. I did write about that in another post.

    Sorry about not replying back quicker, I was heading out when you first commented and I forgot about it when I got back.