After the break, I'll print what Poshard said when asked what his message was for new students. If you remember, I hammered him last time for treating a college education solely as a meal ticket. He said a bit more this time, but I'm not sure he helped his/our case any.
Relax, study hard, have a little fun, okay, but remember, this is the meal ticket, these four or five years of your life are going to determine whether doors are going to open to you in the future or they are going to close to you in the future. In purely economical terms, getting a bachelors here is going to increase your income lifetime by, probably, half a million to one million dollars, okay, so that should make a difference. More than that, getting a degree here, in our system, SIU, is going to expose you to other points of view, to other religions, other ethnic groups, you know, learn from this. America is becoming a more diverse country every day, and when you come out of here you need to understand this diversity, appreciate that diversity, the rest of your life. You're going to live next to it, you're going to work next to it the rest of your life. Make it a strength; don't become an impediment to those around you. Use your time around here to build and to grow: don't cause somebody else to not grow. And so I think if you keep that in mind you'll have a great experience at SIU.This comes at the very end of the podcast, so you can check my transcript for accuracy if you'd like.
We begin again with the meal ticket, He then goes on to face a problem I didn't realize was particularly acute around here. He appears to be addressing students unfamiliar and uncomfortable with diversity, who are frightened enough by the diversity on campus that they may make it harder for others to learn. Does he think that racial tension on campus is that bad? Perhaps I'm naive, but I hadn't sensed that to be one of our most pressing problems. At any rate, he encourages such uncomfortable folks (and no doubt there are a good number of them on campus) to try to make diversity a strength rather than a weakness.
I suppose this argument is fine as far as it goes, but calling upon one set of students to be tolerant of others on campus, because they will need to tolerate unfamiliar folk in the new America, isn't a terribly ambitious goal. He does call upon students to understand and appreciate that diversity, and to grow, but doesn't really articulate what that would mean. His sketch of the future suggests that students will live and work "next to it" for the rest of their lives--that they will need to continue tolerating different people throughout their lives. But toleration seems to be the extent of his vision--at least as far as he managed to articulate it here. I am not against toleration, of course--but I would hope that we could aim for more.
What's missing, centrally, is any sense of an academic or intellectual mission, where that mission as something beyond gaining a meal ticket and acquiring enough tolerance to punch the meal ticket after standing in line with people of different religions and ethnicities. He does not attempt to suggest that one's own "point of view" could be broadened by a college experience, that one could gain the analytical skills and the experience of other cultures, peoples, philosophies, or what have you, that would allow one to articulate, question, and deepen one's own point of view. That one could "understand" other people in such a way is to do more than tolerate them--perhaps, even, to view them as not only others, some "it" one must live and work next to, but part of a "we". I don't want to go down the "melting pot" cul de sac here, but to my mind the liberal arts are liberal in large part because they liberate us from our more parochial concerns, helping us to transcend the differences in religion, ethnicity, and race that we began with.
You may well articulate this academic mission differently and better than I have (my way is decidedly old-fashioned). And while one can't expect someone on the radio to say everything one would like him to say in a closing statement (experto crede), I suspect most faculty readers would have to agree that President Poshard, after years on the job, has still not learned how to hit this slow pitch, thrown right down the middle of the plate, out of the infield.