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 Due process and transparency

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imsmith Posted - 2006 February 03 : 02:58:49
The governing dynamic of the posts on this site seems (as of the 3 February 2006) to be the absence (or the perception of the absence) of a suitable and appropriate degree of due process within the College Community, and either a causal or subsequent lack of transparency on the part of the Administrative Staff and Faculty of both campuses, and the College governance with respect to currently enrolled students and the Alumni of the College, specifically younger or recently graduated alumni.
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ebb Posted - 2006 June 08 : 02:58:12
J Winfree Smith's book that Imsmith mentioned is called The Search for the Liberal College, and I found it to be a balanced account of the formation of the New Program, though I can't vouch for its accuracy. I once told Annapolis President Christopher Nelson that I read it when I was a prospy, and he told me that he doesn't think it's completely necessary for prospectives to know all the details in the book before making their decision. I don't think it's necessary either, but considering how many prospectives do no more research than reading the materials from the Admissions office, books like that one and forums like this one are not bad places to start.
imsmith Posted - 2006 February 03 : 04:48:35
One of the difficulties in confronting this issue is the difficulty in knowing the 'lay of the land' and the elements of the system. Just like you cannot study Euclid's propositions without first understanding his definitions, postulates, and common notions, you cannot hope to gain more than the dissmissive brush-off that Mr. Jablon received from Ms. Bishop without understanding the principles of the business of higher education.

An excellent introduction to the dialectic between the Enterprise (the business) and the Academy (the academic) within not-for-profit higher education is and article that first appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education in the Summer of 2004 by James B. Twitchell entitled Higher Ed, Inc. An on-line copy can be found here:

(Don't confuse this the the recent book of the same title by Richard Ruch, dealing with for-profit higher educational institutions.)

Then I would recommend securing a current copy of the Polity from the Alumni Office or the one of the Offices of the Dean, as it is the only real binding policy within the College. Don't be surprised at it's brevity.

While you are gathering materials from College offices, the Accreditation Self-Studies done by each Campus, and the published annual financial information handed out by the Advancement Office to prospective donors are also interesting reading. In my opinion you will need to be convincing and persistent to obtain these, particularly the Santa Fe Self-Study.

Other useful texts are out there; Mr. Grenke's translation of Nitzsche's lectures 'On the Future of our Educational Institutions' is probably in the Bookstore; President Weigle wrote a book called 'Colonizing a College' (or something close to it) about the creation of the Santa Fe campus that shows the sources of many of the disfunctions between the two Campuses faculties and administrations and between the College and its Alumni and benefactors that can be found in the Santa Fe library; an Annapolis tutor named (I think) Winfree Smith wrote a very good history of the Barr-Buchanan years, the history of and the reason for the New Program that can be found in the Annapolis library, though unfortunately I do not remember the title.

The azimuth that I am suggesting is one that leads to the conclusion that because St. John's is not like 'conventional' institutions of higher education, it must not be allowed to fall under the misconception that it ought to conduct itself in the Enterprise the same way that it does in the Academy and likewise that the Enterprise ought not emulate too closely the behavior of seemingly corresponding functions within the conventional institution. We, as a College, have the unique challenge of securing our survival as a community of pure education in landscape that has been overrun by vocational and industrial accreditation, publicly and privately funded research, and athletics by competing for the very same dollars and the very same students that the conventional institutions seek. On that landscape and within those boundaries we must be true to the ideals of the New Program, and some measure of due process and transparency are inarguably critical to the mission of transforming children into freemen using books and a balance. Based on the troubling accounts discussed here and among Alumni I have contact with, a breach of this faith is the real sin of those who have been entrusted with the stewardship and day-to-day operations of our College; claims of complexity or difficulty or largeness are simply confessions of inability, not justifications for capricious or penumbral use of coercive power.

Finally, if you are truly interested in seeing change within the College Community, then clench your jaw, surrender your $35 and join the Alumni Association. There are actually very few active members of this group and they control nine seat on the Board of the College, a full third. If younger or more recent alumni were to make their presence felt within the Alumni Association by taking an active and continuing role within it, then the control of those nine seats would no longer be in the hands of alumni who attended class more than 20 years ago and whose attentions perhaps are not as strongly focused on the behavior of the administration or the treatment of the students as yours seem to be.

Above all, it seems to me, the tone of any dialogue you attempt to open with the College must shy away from a tone of injury and injustice and towards one of reproach for the lack of quality in the stewardship of the institution, a stewardship that carries with it as one of its many responsibilities the burden of being communicative and accountable to each of the members of the Polity, be they student, faculty, administrator, or alumni. That particulars will always be hearsay or confidential, the governors always distant from the ireful actions, and the appearances will always be attributed to dishonorable motives is, in fact, the real complaint not, as Ms. Bishop has offered, the rationale for its dismissal.

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