By PAUL TINDALL
Let’s be clear: I’m no star student. I won’t be the valedictorian of my class, and my main priority here at college is not necessarily always focused on education. I wouldn’t be caught dead doing homework Friday night, and Sunday is for football.
That said, I do my best to succeed in my classes, which as a political science major, involve a significant amount of research papers for which I require numerous sources. In other words, I need a lot of books and on a wide variety of topics, ranging from the World Trade Organization to Jean-Jacques Rousseau to defense spending in the United States.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on the latest paper I’ve been working on: one on the political effects of the massive defense budget in the U.S. There is a huge body of literature concerning this topic.
For instance, a simple Amazon.com search for “defense spending” returns exactly 9,234 results at the time of writing. So why is it that an identical search through the records of Simpson Library returns a mere eight results?
You heard that correct — Amazon.com returns over nine thousand, and Simpson gives me a grand total of eight, most of which are Congressional records of no use to me when I’m searching for a scholarly opinion, of which there are many concerning this topic.
I understand that we are the University of Mary Washington. We’re no U.Va. or William & Mary when it comes to budgetary concerns, and we naturally don’t get as much money as they do since our profile is smaller. However, we are still a university, a bastion of learning, a bulwark in the fight against ignorance.
If budgetary concerns get in the way of providing the students of this institution a proper education, then perhaps we should shut our doors, close up shop and direct prospective students to the better-funded libraries at the better-funded colleges in Virginia. Tell them sorry, but somewhere, our priorities became not those of a university. Somewhere we lost sight of the ultimate aim of this venture. We are here not to serve the students of this commonwealth but to save the state the cost of a book.
I can’t imagine anyone at this school saying such things, but even so, it seems to be implicit in their actions. I’m sure there are many people on whom blame can be placed, many levels of bureaucracy which go into determining whether or not a particular scholarly work is stocked on the shelves of Simpson. These reasons are nothing more than excuses — efforts by some to rationalize their responsibility, to pass off the deprivation of our education onto another.
While it may be difficult to the extreme to budget more money for an increased selection of books at Simpson Library, that’s not the point.
The point is, it shouldn’t be difficult, and the victims aren’t the bureaucrats making the decisions, they are the students living with them.
Perhaps I’m overreacting. So I couldn’t find a book about defense spending in the library. The point is, this example is endemic of a larger system of prioritization which doesn’t favor education first.
College is about more than education for sure, but when I need college to be about education, it needs to be there for me. And as I see it, UMW has failed on at least one count.