Dear President Hurley,
You probably don’t remember this, but I was at the BOV meeting more than two years ago when you were officially appointed president of the University of Mary Washington. The room burst into applause, and, though we tried to maintain our neutrality, my co-editor and I were thrilled to finally have some semblance of stability at our shaky, revolving door university.
But recent news of your and the University’s “plan for the future” leads me to believe that, by appointing you, the BOV was appointing the lesser of two evils.
I understand the need for a “student center” at UMW. I understand getting our name out there and trying to recruit the best students possible. I understand marketing campaigns. But bringing in a consulting firm with a history of revamping universities to “reallocate resources” to more important programs, which one would think is subjective anyway, defies the entire concept of a liberal arts school.
Like many others in my graduating class, I know from experience how hard the job market is right now. However, purging the fundamentals of our education at a school “where faculty, students, and staff share in the creation and exploration of knowledge through freedom of inquiry, personal responsibility, and service,” according to its mission statement, seems counterintuitive. Invest in academics and professors if you want to get higher quality applicants. Invest in currently enrolled students, instead of keeping the university an indefinite construction site. If you invest in the tremendous talent and integrity already in existence at UMW, there shouldn’t be a need to change so dramatically.
The mission statement also requires “high-quality instruction as its most important function,” broad educational experiences and practicing habits necessary for life-long learning. The students UMW needs are not those who complain through every course and do the bare minimum to graduate. UMW needs the students with a thirst for knowledge beyond graduation, who, when they graduate, will carry the strong UMW name with them throughout their careers. They will be the ones to help give UMW a “true distinctiveness in the academic marketplace.”
I urge you to leave institutional learning at the institutions. We don’t win prospective students over with our sub-par, “trendy” course offerings or shiny new buildings; we attract students yearning for community, culture and academia. Purging the school of the courses and the professors who provide these assets to the university would be a tragedy for higher education and UMW.
If you value your alumni, don’t devalue our degrees. The job market is hard enough already, and the whole concept behind this master plan is to produce well-paid alumni for higher donations, right?
For fellow alumni and professors who have invested so much of their time and money in UMW as a liberal arts school, a dramatic change based on the bottom line would do a disservice to their hard work and careers, and the university we have all worked so hard to build.
In choosing UMW, we chose a community. Many of us chose to study the humanities, to study languages and to study abroad. If language programs are eliminated, much of UMW’s language-driven international presence would be driven into the ground.
We chose you. It’s your turn to make the right decision for us and our legacy.
Anne Elder is a 2012 alumna.