Western isn’t perfect, as you know, and we should not idealize it in a sentimental way. The hard fact is that it is better than much you will experience elsewhere. […] The essence of Western College is hard to catch. It cannot be bought. It cannot be sold. It cannot be captured. It cannot be mimicked. It is too spirited, too lively, too full of zest for that. Think of it carried comfortably by each of you wherever you may be around the world, next September or fifty years from now.—Dean Hoyt of the original Western College, 1974
I got my undergrad degree at the School of Interdisciplinary Studies (aka The Western College Program, known to its friends simply as “Western”) at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Long-time readers of this blog will know that Miami has decided to dismantle the program for a variety of reasons—mainly, stupidity, greed, and politics. (Read my previous posts on the subject.)
In the past four years, it’s become so crystal clear to me what a tremendous impact that place had on my life. It was a living/learning paradise—beautiful dorms, classrooms, and campus, small class sizes, and most importantly, terrific people. I met some of my best friends there, met my wife there, and got married there. I wouldn’t be who I am without it, and it tears me up to think that it won’t be around for future students.
My friend and teacher, retiring Dean Bill Gracie, had some final words for the program in his speech to the Western College for Women Reunion, June 16, 2008:
The decision in 2006 to remove the School of Interdisciplinary Studies from Miami was a decision of surpassing irrationality and foolishness. It has effectively destroyed Western as we have known it and loved it and it has damaged Miami itself. In my nearly 40 years of work in the English department, in the Office of Liberal Education, and in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies I cannot cite a more pathological act or crueler experience than the one all of us witnessed and endured two years ago: our students were betrayed; our faculty and staff were displaced; our alumnae and alumni were bewildered, and—in some cases—alienated forever from Miami. I was ashamed to be a member of an academic administration that behaved so dishonorably.
If it is true that many of the charges pressed against us two years ago were false (and demonstrably false), it is also true (demonstrably true) that the young men and women of the Western College Program continue to impress us with their intelligence, imagination, and unpredictability. As they have for so many years, Western College Program students win University recognition in numbers that are entirely disproportionate; in other words, Miami’s smallest division wins more than its fair share of awards. We like that. In the past three years, the percentage of seniors graduating from Western with Latin honors cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude was higher than the percentage of such students in the School of Engineering, the Farmer School of Business, and the College of Arts and Science itself. In the past six years, Western seniors have been named recipients of the Goldman Award, arguably the University’s most prestigious
post-baccalaureate award, three times; John Obricyki, who attended this afternoon’s luncheon, is the most recent Goldman winner. In fact, twenty-five percent of the Goldman winners in the past 16 years have been Western students.
The decision to close the School of Interdisciplinary Studies seems odder now than it did even in the summer of 2006. But tonight is not the time nor the occasion to analyze that decision at length. Some future study of the tragedy will surely be written, and, perhaps at that point, we will learn what motivated the University to destroy a small and cherished part of its own history.
Not only has Miami destroyed a terrific program and a beautiful history, they’re destroying the physical environment as well. Here’s a flickr set of photos showing where they’ve graveled over the beautiful lawn/commons area where we used to check in for orientation, fly kites, hang, play kickball…
(Kumler Chapel, in the background, is where Meg and I got married.)
I hate to resort to cliche, but:
Don’t it always seem to go
that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone
they paved paradise
put up a parking lot.