Dear Drs. Garland and Herbst,
I think it’s reasonable to assume that your inboxes have recently been flooded with e-mail from concerned students, professors, alumni, and friends of the Western College Program. Let me add my e-mail to the batch, not only as a recent Western graduate, but as a former Harrison Scholar and recipient of the Provost’s Academic Achievement Award.
It would be a waste of time for me to further sing to you the praises of Western’s academic program: the university as a whole has already adopted Western’s long-practiced liberal education policy, interest in interdisciplinary inquiry, and emphasis on living-learning communities. The big question seems to be: why should Miami pay 3 times more per student so that Western majors can experience this wonderful education?
You wouldn’t have caught me dead in a business or marketing class at Miami, but I believe the answer lies in branding. This became clear to me after watching a DVD endorsed by U.S. News and Reports and put out by the WB network, called THE U: EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT COLLEGE BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK. (I’m not making this up, if you haven’t already, you can get your copy at www.theu.com.) Miami is featured on the Midwest Colleges DVD, and here’s the summary:
Miami University likes to think of itself as the Harvard of Ohio, but, it’s better to think of this school as what Harvard would be if you moved it west, dropped it in a cornfield, kicked out all the nerds*, and added a lot of hotties rocking the popped collar. Yeah.
*I’m guessing by nerds, they mean academics.
This too was my nightmare vision of Miami as a high school senior (although I don’t think people were popping their collars at that time). Sure, it’s a stereotype, but stereotype is everything in this culture. I had three full-ride offers to outstanding universities, and I chose Miami only because I found my way to the Western College Program. As my mother likes to say, “I wouldn’t have let you go there, otherwise.”
The year I received the Provost’s Academic Achievement Award, three out of the dozen recipients were Western majors: a higher percentage than any other academic division. Western provides an “alternative” brand to the stereotypical beer-guzzling-red-brick-and-pink-polo-shirts Miami brand. This alternative brand attracts top students like myself, who contribute to greater improvement of the intellectual environment, which boosts Miami’s reputation, which then attracts even more top students.
There is your payoff.
Eliminating Western will eliminate students like me. Please, for the greater good of Miami University, do not take any drastic actions. Give Western a chance to improve within the recommendations of the Winkler committee. The greatest minds of my generation are not going to attend a college universally dubbed J. CREW U. without it.
Class of 2005