Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Letters & Comments: USM professor asks ‘What will your degree be worth?’

Posted on March 13, 2013 in Perspectives
By Andrew Henry

To the Editors of the Free Press:

Although I did not attend the forum sponsored by the Philosophy Department on the future of education, I was taken aback to see that, when asked what responsibilities the academy has “to hold the line in defense of non-economic values,” Interim President Kalikow replied what was described as a “clear and definitive” “None.”

This response reminded me of a story I heard about ex-convict and former Governor of Louisiana Edwin Edwards, when I was in graduate school at LSU. Although Edwards wanted to appoint all his political cronies to public office, many state jobs—and especially those pertaining to education—required college degrees, and college degrees (at that time) required residency requirements.

The President of Nichols State University, which advertised itself as “The Harvard of the Bayou,” was a special political friend, appointed by Edwards. So when Edwards wanted to hire someone who needed a degree, he packed that person in his chauffeured limo, rode with him across campus, then poured him a drink. “Congratulations on your degree,” Edwards is rumored to have said, “You just met the residency requirement.”

The moral of this story? It is not that President Kalikow is Edwin Edwards. She doesn’t have a limo. And I believe she genuinely wants what is best for the university, not just for the pocketbooks of her political friends. Maybe her clear and definitive “None” was actually a joke.

But capitalism is not a self-regulating system, so if the Interim President of a public university will not stand up against short-sighted politicians for academic values, who will? And if nobody does, what, exactly, will your degree be worth?

Lucinda Cole
Associate Professor, English

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