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Defining a Modern University

BY LEONA Y. JOHNSON
OCT. 14, 2010

President Ronald M. Berkman delivered the State of the University address, on Oct. 5, to the faculty, students and staff of Cleveland State University. Many students might have missed what he had to say about universities in general and CSU in particular.

Berkman redefined what a modern university is and its role in contemporary society. The part of his speech that will resonate with most students here and at similar universities across the country is where he made a compelling argument on why state universities are better suited to serve the students and the country.

Berkman built his argument drawing heavily from an article entitled “Disadvantages of an Elite Education.” The article is by William Deresiewicz, a Yale professor, and was published in The American Scholar. In the article Deresiewicz compares his Ivy League education to that of an institution like Cleveland State.

Berkman, agreeing with Deresiewicz, brings home the point that today’s corporate employers are interested in hiring a graduate of a school like CSU and not an Ivy League. This is primarily because these students are not only well-trained, but are also motivated to achieve higher goals.

This is a refreshingly honest viewpoint. I think most people know this, but never truly acknowledge it. Students at Cleveland State -- no matter the age -- not only attend classes, but we work, take care of children and even ailing parents while completing assignments. We have a true sense of pride in our accomplishments because our educations were not given to us.

This is the correct representation of universities like Cleveland State. The misnomer that students who attend state universities receive a substandard education is just a platitude by the elite to maintain their importance and discredit everyone else.

As much as I despise group projects for the unfair workload sometimes put on one or two members of a group, they do have a place in creating leadership skills as well as a network of people to generate ideas and support for the team to obtain a goal. Even in incidents where two people have to finish the project, it creates character and a level of satisfaction that no one can take away.

“The liberal arts university is becoming the corporate university, its center of gravity shifting to technical fields where scholarly expertise can be parlayed into lucrative business opportunities,” wrote Deresiewicz. Berkman seems to concur with this evolving definition of the modern university.

It was disappointing to know the encouragement the message should have brought never reached its main audience-CSU students. Nonetheless, I encourage my fellow students to read the speech or watch the video recording at http://www.csuohio.edu/offices/president/convocation/101005.html.