Next Year at Hillsdale

This link to an article on Bari Weiss’s Substack channel showed up on my “Arts and Letters Daily” feed from the Chronicle of Higher Education this morning, and on the off chance that it isn’t already on the breakfast table of everyone at Bryn Mawr, I offer it here:

The article seems to say that Bryn Mawr’s COVID mitigation policies led its author to withdraw from the College and transfer to Hillsdale College in Michigan. (My impression is that those policies may have contributed to her decision but were not the only reason for it.)  For my part, I have no quarrel with those policies or their implementation, but my position at Bryn Mawr is hardly representative—I come to campus once or twice a week and spend most of my time in the libraries or my office.  I do, though, want to call attention to three points in the article that, in my experience, tend to be underemphasized in Bryn Mawr’s internal conversations.

One is the importance of social class in shaping the author’s experience at Bryn Mawr.  I don’t know whether the author is correct in her impression that most of her classmates had second homes or frequented fitness classes in the Hamptons with Michelle Obama, but the impression itself is telling.

The second is a throw-away sentence at the end of the paragraph describing her first year at Bryn Mawr: “I had been nervous about not being able to keep up academically, but the calculus class I took that first year was easier than the one at ASU.”  That’s Arizona State University, where she went immediately after high school.  Again, this is one data point, and we all know not to pay much attention to that one negative review on Yelp or Amazon; even so, it feeds into my impression that paying more in tuition these days doesn’t mean that you actually learn more.

The third is this sentence: “I didn’t sit around with my friends all night arguing about big questions like I thought I would. It was assumed that we all agreed on the answers.”  If true, this is the most damning particular of all.  I hope that everyone at Bryn Mawr doesn’t agree on answers to big questions, or even to little ones—but if they do, I’m glad that Jane Kitchen has found a real college at last.

~Lee T. Pearcy
February 12, 2022