Just weeks after rebranding the college, “the new school of thought,” the administration has decided to eliminate the Community Education Farm. Those two ideas – the rebranding and the farm – seem separate, but when examined together reveal something troubling about the school we attend.
The loss of the farm is a bummer in its own right- the fact that we had a place where students went and grew things, learned about sustainability on a personal level and gave something back to the community, is beautiful. There is a lot of focus on streamlined education here. Getting through your program, while staying focused on the classes you need, seems to be the ultimate goal, but here is value to being well rounded. To working with your hands to create something for someone else’s benefit. To understanding the connection we have with our planet, and by extension our planetary roommates – each other. The farm taught people all those things, in a dirty, substantive way.
The “new school of thought,” it’s clear, isn’t about substance. As countless students and faculty observed at the rollout, the whole thing is just marketing, which isn’t a bad thing in it’s own right. The issue is that the decisions the administration is making are not consistent with the branding they have chosen for themselves. It is, in effect, false advertising.
The changes made so far are not progressive. They don’t teach us how to creatively think about the world in new ways. Maybe we can learn a lesson in how to make education profitable. Or how to make a campus look pretty. Or how to fit as many students into a given area as possible; these seem to be the priorities in the “new school”. But the things that really matter don’t look good on a spreadsheet. They might not bring in a thousand more students, justify a $5 per credit hour tuition bump, or lend themselves nicely to advertising photos. They simply enrich our lives in a much deeper way than traditional education methods.
Joe Moore, spokesperson for the college, compared the farm to a planetarium; saying that while it enhances certain programs, it isn’t essential, so the administration is free to decide whether or not to keep it. Of course it’s optional. Presidential office suites are also optional. Fountains are optional. Underground shooting ranges are optional. The question isn’t whether or not the school has the option to get rid of the farm. The problem is that, for a place so willing to make itself out to be a mecca of progressive learning, the decisions that are made are a bit less “future of education” and a bit more “marketable McCollege.”