Pullups: Outgrowing the dorm diapers and doing the real world workout

Peter Wood

                Today’s Wall Street Journal has a half-page ad from the University of Phoenix headline, “You’re a grown-up now. You need a grown-up university.” It pictures a young man in coat and tie boarding a train, satchel over his shoulder, earbuds dangling, and his eyes on the future. He’s African-American, and he isn’t wasting time. 

                What arrested me, however, was the text, which begins, “Since when did college life have to mean dorm life?” So the University of Phoenix explicitly links being “grown up” with avoiding “dorm life.” I can’t help but wonder whether the canny folks at Phoenix have done market research that shows that students who value maturity are turned off by the baby-steps-for-baby-feet approach to residence life that has become so characteristic of American colleges and universities. 

                Two weeks ago, when the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on NAS’s policy statement, "Rebuilding Campus Community: The Wrong Imperative," numerous res-lifers and their “student affairs” (SA) colleagues rushed to the defense of their “profession.” One of these self-anointed professionals opined that, were it not for the SA, “most social issues we help students deal with would go unnoticed.” That would leave students on their own to “struggle with issues like sexual orientation and race.” Another cited the “powerful, positive impact” of integrating “Learning Communities within residence halls, academic advising with new student orientation and career services.”   These steps, the SA official asserts, lie at the center of “my current institution’s ability to attract, retain and educate students.” Still another explains that SA programs are indispensable if college is going “to teach the children about being diverse and about accepting all life has to offer.” 

                There is much more of this pablum, wherein the folks that run the dorms assure themselves that, absent their wise counsel, college students would sink into a slough of conflict and confusion. In other words, the “campus community” sought by the SA staffers consists of fostering in students a spirit of helplessness and dependency. Some students may indeed enjoy this extension of the romper room ethos into their adulthood, but I suspect that the University of Phoenix is on to something: many adults want to be treated as adults.   They recognize that college dorms run by SA staffers intent on promoting “diversity” and “accepting all life has to offer” are simply wasting their precious time. 

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