In June I received a call from a classmate, soliciting a donation for Princeton’s Annual Giving campaign. My husband and I always have contributed to our alma maters (we have four degrees between us), but we no longer will donate to universities, at least not until we see changes.
Since graduate school, I have been allowed to see behind the curtain of academia, especially of the humanities, and I am not proud. The fact is that students are generally an afterthought, and departments don’t value teaching, let alone quality instruction. They do value the right ideological pedagogy. They don’t teach nearly enough of the basics of humanities that my parents learned at Princeton in the 1960s and 1970s. Neither do they teach what students want to learn and need to learn to prepare for life, to become educated citizens, and to assist in their future careers. Instead they typically teach on issues of divisiveness, blame, and social minutia. In my field, history, students often leave ignorant of the essential facts.
The notion of academic freedom is also false, as faculty stifle and ostracize those who produce scholarship that challenges the current orthodoxy. Universities also focus overwhelmingly on increasing administration and infrastructure, at the expense of the undergraduates’ education.
I hope and expect Princeton to be better than other institutions in these respects, but the American university system as a whole is failing its students.