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Letter: The Failure of Liberal Arts and Anti-Intellectualism


Jayme Inman


  If you had the misfortune of attending the most recent Fowler Lecture Series installment: The Future of American Exceptionalism, then like me, you probably found yourself entirely underwhelmed and perhaps even aggravated by the dismal performance of the speakers – Jon Meachem and Joseph Bottum.  Bottum’s utterly incoherent speech and ridiculous poetic alliterations combined with Meachem’s obviously unprepared remarks had students and faculty alike shaking their heads in disapproval. My point here is not to point out the ineptitudes of our feckless speakers; I want to suggest to you that this is in fact just another in a string of failures of Roanoke College to live up to its mission to provide a liberal arts education.

 The Fowler series has become a contest where the school attempts to bring in the biggest celebrity name they can find, spend an inordinate amount of money, and then claim that they are indeed one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country because of what they provide to the students. To anyone reading this article I want you to know that I and much of the student body have not been fooled. We are not so easily duped into accepting that the approximately $35,000 the college spent to get Meachem to speak here was worth it or in any way valuable to our life-long education.

Is it really any surprise to anyone that students hardly even show up to these events anymore? Perhaps it is time to remind the college and those who organize the Fowler Lectures series that these speakers are supposed to be intellectually engaging for the student body and not for impressing donors and authors of college reviews.

  For too long the student body here has remained content with the status quo; happy to accept the fact that the entire structure of the Fowler Lecture series has become a mockery of intellectualism and an exercise in academic name brand consumption. That the service provided by our professors on the “panel of experts” is equivalent to the dressing up of fancy dolls.

That more time is spent addressing what kind of filet mignon they will serve to our “honored guests” on the college’s tab than on whether students were able to glean some small glimpse of the world which they will enter after graduation. It is finally time that we as students, faculty, and administration finally own up to the responsibility that comes with the title of “liberal arts” college and critically evaluate the quality of these programs and whether the money ought to be used for something useful.