When Lilacs Last in the Palm Court Bloom’d
Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: “Σίβυλλα τί ϴέλεις”; respondebat illa: “άποϴανεΐν ϴέλω.” For Mac Miller. il miglior fabbro
I. It’s axiomatic in the dead land of college failures to study Bennington. In the 1970s and 1980s, Bennington was feted with the kind of press and praise that couldn’t be bought. Famous people attended the small Vermont school. Even more famous people graduated from it. Bennington seemed to possess that pixie dust that’s prized by marketers and coveted by competitors. Then, just a decade later, Bennington was mired in self-inflicted jack-bootism and faced financial ruin. How could a college that had captured the zeitgeist, that was famous for being one of the most expensive colleges in the country, have collapsed into existential crisis? The Bennington story is simple but instructive: Bennington had evolved from an idealistic education-camp experiment to a business, and it was being managed by people who had no business operating a business.
Bennington, though, proves to be more sizzle than substance. At the end of 1980s, it was admitting almost 70% of its applicants which, realistically, means they were admitting everyone with a pulse and a completed application. The challenge with Bennington was not being admitted; the challenge was affording the then outrageous $20,000 bill sent to parents each year.
Perhaps the real conundrum isn’t Bennington but rather New College of Florida. Back in 1990, New College was highly competitive and desirable. Its 33% admission rate and 63% yield made it the most competitive and desirable college in Florida by far (U. Florida admission rate: 55%; yield: 42% and U. Miami admission rate: 57%; yield 33%).
Its 33% admission rate and 63% yield placed it right below the most competitive and desirable colleges in the country. New College was more competitive than the University of California, Berkeley (admission rate: 37%; yield: 43%), the University of Chicago (admission rate: 42%; yield: 37%), NYU (admission rate: 52%; yield: 48%), and the University of Pennsylvania (admission rate: 41%; yield: 49%). Comfortably more competitive than one Ivy, New College was fast approaching another, with Columbia’s four-point better admission rate of 29% yet lower yield of 42%.
And yet today, New College is non-competitive and undesirable. Its admission rate is about 70% and its yield is about 17%. While New College was the most competitive college in Florida in 1990, today it ranks tenth out of Florida’s twelve public colleges, behind only the University of North Florida and Florida Gulf Coast, both of which are actually younger than New College (1972 and 1997, respectively). New College is actually less competitive than Florida Polytechnic University, which is all of seven years old. New College is currently in Rollins territory (67% admit rate; 15%: yield). There was a time that the Rollins campus tour would stop by the lake to watch students ride jet skis, “In between classes. Or during classes. (Shrug).”
The conjuring of Rollins should beg the question of academically aspirational New College: what the hell happened?
II. To answer this question, I read hundreds of pages of faculty meeting minutes, hundreds more from documents from the provost’s and president’s offices, the consulting and related documents (with the ‘save New College’ plan), and dozens of other documents. Most shocking isn’t New College’s fall; it’s that New College doesn’t know why it fell.
The first step in analyzing the problem is a cogent understanding of what New College was in 1990, and then, with that baseline, determine what changed over thirty years. Typically, there isn’t a single fatal wound; unlike Bennington, which was almost an entirely self-inflicted wound, New College’s greater fall covers a lot of ground.
New College was founded in the 1960s in the haze of education reform fantasy as a radical redoubt of academia. Horrifying cementine state colleges pimping an endless array of pseudo-engineering majors were sprouting like weeds and New College harbored a fantasy of cultivating a humanities Eden in then-remote Sarasota.
It was never designed for students to work through a ‘curriculum’ over some rigid period of time. It was a collection of screwball students and screwball faculty whose college was more performance art than defined process. It was, more than anything, a manifestation of mid-century education idealism born from early Victorian Romantic fetishes. No Grecian urn takes an accounting class.
It drew students who, had they visited Princeton, would have recoiled at the idea of attending a college version of a J. Crew catalog. It was the land of misfit academics where standing on a desk and reciting an Elizabethan sonnet examining Eliot’s Wasteland from Freud’s perspective (had he read it) drew admiration the professor (who was on his third beer, so maybe it was the beer; regardless, he’d required an essay so a parodic sonnet wasn’t expected); where your Independent Study Project consisted to drafting (and mailing!) a rather robust proposal for the National Endowment for the Arts to fund the overthrow of the U.S. Federal government (rejected; probable result: an FBI file); where a student who’d been published in professional journals was told by his advisor that he needed another semester before he’d approve his graduation because his writing wasn’t good enough; where vigorous classroom debates broke out over Baudrillard’s Disney obsession or Fitzhugh’s defense of slavery (the pros won that one, mostly because the professor took the pro-slavery side).
New College was no place for facile exhaustions of oatmeal’d platitudes. It was dangerous. It wasn’t a place where students thought about their careers; they were paying a paltry $700 per semester (seriously, that was full-time tuition). New College was a beacon to the radical underclass intellectual belligerents who mocked the bureaucratic inertia and intellectual coma of college specifically and society generally. It was never a real college in any traditional sense.
That may be an invigorating academic mission, but it’s a terrible business model (surprise). By the 1970s, New College was subsumed by Tampa’s University of South Florida, which was an extended dance version of a community college. Under the benign neglect of the Tampa college, which was distracted with efforts to build an inflatable dome for their fledgling basketball team (the “Golden Brahmans”), New College flourished.
The salad days lasted through the 1990s, at which point New College was granted status as an independent public institution, and “The Honors College” was born. In the movie version of this essay, the background music slips into a minor scale. You’d get the minor 3rd and minor 6th, and you know all’s not well.
III. The first contextual catalyst of the fall of New College was covered in a previous essay on Drew University. In the 1990s, across the social spectrum, a creeping homogeneity consumed and transformed much of our culture. From music to aesthetics to education, the vast wells of variation dried up. For colleges, this increasingly meant that the education — and, more importantly, the culture — of any one college became similar to many other colleges. By the early 2000s, the previous variety of small colleges began to look awfully similar. Any small college hoping to achieve financial escape velocity must remove itself from the homogeneity of modern college education, the unthinking hiring of the same professors and offering of the same courses as everyone else. Students know they can get the same everywhere, and that’s why so many of these colleges have <20% yields.
The second contextual catalyst is that by the 1990s, colleges were increasingly pitching to experienced consumers, and the enemy of the over-hyped, over-priced, poor product is an experienced consumer (covered here). Compared to the college applicants of 1970, the applicants of 2005 were increasingly reared by college educated parents in a consumerist jungle of marketing. College sloganeering simply proved less effective to these mithridated children and their parents.
The final contextual shift that occurred during this period is that the nation’s college-bound youth became risk-adverse. Historically, the youth of a nation are its risk-takers, but as college costs rose dramatically, young graduates shifted to risk-off behaviors (covered here).
Bennington’s costs, once so outrageous that they generated national media attention, became normalized. As such, the comparative cost of college becomes irrelevant (as it is with New College); rather, the absolute cost is what matters. Given that absolute cost and the attendant debt, students flee to safer shores. They don’t attend an uncompetitive college. In 2021 dollars, New College’s in-state tuition/room/board was $9857 in 1990 and is $17,458 today, a 77% increase. That 77% creates risk-off behavior, which drives students to the more established brands (and, in the case of the University of Florida, the less expensive university). New College’s out-of-state costs have increased by 141% since 1990.
IV. The most apparent internal cause of New College’s fall is the profound lack of leadership. In itself, this isn’t shocking. Leadership researchers tend to agree that most organizations select leaders who confirm the organization’s biases and conform to the organization’s culture; thus, they aren’t change-agents (or, really, leaders at all). They’re just the highest paid cog in the wheel.
Such conformist cogs are lethal to organizations in need of change (ask Kodak or Blockbuster). Instead of understanding New College’s ecosystem, leadership did what many other (failing) small colleges did: expand, construct, and increase debt, which only serves to increase costs. At the same time, applicants were becoming more risk adverse. Leadership then homogenized the school, corporatized the culture, and hired consultants to sterilize the ethos.
In late spring of 2013, President O’Shea gave an interview after his first year at the helm of New College. Leading his list of priorities was changing “the use of CIP codes for each major as opposed to everyone graduating with a degree in ‘liberal studies.’” He then moves on to his plan to focus more nationally (out-of-state students) and internationally (‘global community’). He’s enthusiastic about the college’s new summer classes (open to the public). He states a goal of the college having 1,200 students, and his aspirations eventually devolve into edenic platitudes about diversity. Elsewhere in the publication, the college’s in-state problem is mentioned: “about 80% of students have come from in state and just 20% from out of state.” (Nimbus #73, pp. 4, 5, 11).
While O’Shea implicitly but consistently criticizes the previous president (“stagnation”), he offers no vision for solving the college’s problems. Further, there’s no mention of the college’s primary problem: that, by 2013, the college was mired in the quicksand of safety school afterthought (which, apparently, they’d discover six years later when their consultants informed them). O’Shea’s list of priorities belies the notion that he’s at all aware of the macro shifts that had occurred in higher education or of New College’s potential strengths. Instead, we get decorative bureaucratic reprocessing and distracting ephemera. After nearly a decade, O’Shea led New College to ever lower depths of sub-mediocrity, lurching from financial crisis to financial crisis, and, if failing is an improvement, improved out-of-state students from “just 20%” to 18%. And yet, in the bureaucratic collegiality of failure, no one pulled the fire alarm.
An instructive contrast can be found in Jean Mayer, president of Tufts from 1976 to 1993. When Mayer took the helm of the dreary Medford, Massachusetts college, it had almost no endowment, was in steep financial decline, and was admitting almost every applicant (sound familiar?). Aside from a few decent graduate programs, Tufts was being ground under a wave of inexpensive public schools that were increasingly offering a good education at a great price (that was New College). In the mid-1970s, Tufts was a safety-school held in low regard. Through sheer force of will, Mayer demanded better professors and better students. He was convinced that Tufts was hiring and promoting too many mediocre professors, so he reviewed every tenure application — a quality-assurance process that he committed to during his entire presidency. For students, he focused on becoming great in just a few areas, starting with nutrition. (In the 1970s, it was a popular interest and happened to be Mayer’s specialty). Mayer developed several programs, institutes and schools in and adjacent to nutrition. He raised $100M to establish a real endowment. Then he raised $200M more. In 1993, the Tufts provost commented that Mayer “represented a style of American college and university presidents who were becoming increasingly rare: the genuine academic leader, in charge of the intellectual enterprise from start to finish.” Mayer identified and leveraged trends. What Mayer didn’t do was hire consultants to tell him how to sloganeer his way to success.
In their 2019 report, the consultants hired by New College predictably resorted to sloganeering (“Name, package, and promote this experience aggressively”), which will be as effective as consultants suggesting to Kodak in 1997 that they need only be more aggressive with their film messaging. The kids aren’t buying it anymore, and even if they did, it’ll only result in New College looking like every other college that hired consultants to throw dirt on the corpse.
Organizations tend to move through a life cycle of start-up, growth, maturity. In the maturity phase, organizations often atrophy, obsess over process, replace culture with bureaucracy, and exhaust their resources fighting entropy. Of the 30 components of the 1959 Dow, only 14 still exist and only three are still part of the Dow. So in barely a half a century, most of the largest companies in the largest economy (and, in many cases, these were the largest companies on earth), have significantly declined; almost half these mid-century titans no longer even exist. Entropy attacks all organizations.
Amazingly, many of the people who got New College into this mess are still there (that’s what a lack of reflection gets you). And yet even with all these issues, Atropos cuts the thread when these organizations lose contact with and understanding of their constituents (again, Kodak, Blockbuster, a thousand other companies). It’s abundantly clear that this is happening at New College.
Colleges thrive on their brand (Harvard), some accident of geography (NYU), or leadership (Hillsdale). If not any of those options, you need a substantive, credible mission (Olin, Agnes Scott) that exists palpably beyond focus-grouped prospect pitches and sloganeering. Absent that, you’ll atrophy into a battle royale of price and convenience.
V. One of the great mistakes of smaller colleges (and colleges in general) is pursuing the Sizzler solution for education; no college will be all things for all students, and the more you try to be, the more you will fail. The consultants New College hired to save New College — Art and Science or A+S — recommended in their 2019 report that New College “Expand opportunities for AOCs, minors, and certificates” (page 13). This is the least correct recommendation in the entire report. It’s so bad that it’s lethal. It’ll provide a short-term revenue increase followed by dilution into Rollins.
Maximum majors is a mistake for a small college, so let’s look at the opposite end. Imagine if New College only had one concentration/major. Seventy professors, some of the best, but only one major. Imagine it’s not even a “useful” major — English Literature. Now, if you’re a high school junior who loves reading literature, you’ve got an obvious destination. Even if you got into Harvard, you’d think you’re missing something by not attending New College. (You’d still go to Harvard, but there’d be pangs.) New College only needs 300 new matriculations each year; you think there are 300 students who would respond to that?
Instead, New College — a college of some 800 students in total— has something like 45 concentrations/majors. This is absurd. If you nail a niche, the brand builds itself. Perhaps more importantly, nailing a niche speaks to potential donors. Yes, vague generalizations may speak to all donors but not sufficiently enough for them to give enough. A strong focus will animate the right donors (Hillsdale).
Absent from the A+S “save New College” report and other documents is a substantive conversation of New College’s only potential advantage: community. From page 8 of the report: “New College faces corresponding challenges with respect to perceptions of current students about their lived experience at the College. New College students report low levels of satisfaction overall and with respect to many aspects of their experience at New College, and a high percentage report having considered leaving the college before graduation.”
And from page 9: “Prospective students demonstrate a strong desire to go to a school that has a vibrant campus life. For current students, the social and community aspect of the experience at New College is a key driver of satisfaction. And is the most important factor for student retention. New College is perceived to lag the competition for prospective students and to fall short…”
First, it should be unrecoverably embarrassing if this is news to anyone at New College.
Second, sloganeering worsens the dissonance. Freshman dropout rates are high and persistence is low in large part due to misalignments between marketing (New College as a prospect) and “lived experience” (New College as a student). The degree to which your marketing makes undeliverable promises is reflected in your persistence numbers. (And yes, “lived experience” is a term from semantic clown school.)
Regarding community, consider this suggestion from page 12 of the report: the college should create a “highly customized curriculum that encourages students to take intellectual risks. We recommend building on these assets by adding, in a systematic way, a more intentional and explicit applied/professional inflection.”
So take “intellectual risks” but don’t mention them on your LinkedIn profile, which of course you have. This is a reflection of the corporate capture that has occurred in higher ed. “Intellectual risks” sounds sizzly, but the impending debt impairs any honesty with this approach such that all these colleges manufacture the same “new path” robots in their systematic ed factories.
America has trained a generation of materialists, whose functional discernment mechanism is price. The intangible cannot compete with the brutal numeracy of price shopping and the ruthless persistence of risk aversion. You claim to be data-driven; perhaps your students are, too.
“In the final analysis, each student is responsible for his or her own education” was New College’s motto. Today, I can only find two references to it on New College’s website, and both are speeches from members of the class of 1973. So who was the leader at New College who let that grain of wisdom — the core of New College’s culture — slip through his hands? How has this daring stab of honesty been replaced with the desperation of the admissions official explaining his New College revival plan as: “We are going to be more aggressive and ask for applications. We will have no application fee. Our application development will go into the spring. We will get names of students from the College Board. We might consider waiving an essay as some schools do.”
In the final analysis, community born from distinctive culture unsoiled by sloganeering is New College’s last hope. That is not a near-term solution, not an easy one, nor one they can probably execute because hollow men see clarity of purpose and vision where there is none. They see success in reprieve. Identity in cliché. Defense of that shape without form is the way a college ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.
 We start with Whitman, mostly because Whitman is mostly clickbait (always was), then we have the epigraph from The Waste Land. Eliot’s last great pre-Anglican poem, The Hollow Men, then picks up the first sentence and carries through to the last. One could argue, if one were into such things, that this entire piece is a Hollow Men meditation. The epigraph, in Latin/Greek/English/Italian, starts with Petronius and ends with Dante. Translation: For once I myself saw with my own eyes the Sibyl of Cumae hanging in a cage, and when the boys said, “Sibyl, what do you want?” she replied “I want to die.” The Italian is “the better craftsman.” Of course, the Whitman is https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45480/when-lilacs-last-in-the-dooryard-bloomd.
 It all started with an article in the NYT Magazine: Meehan, Thomas (December 21, 1969). “At Bennington The Boys Are the Coeds.” The New York Times Magazine.
 Andrea Dworkin, Bret Easton Ellis, Jill Eisenstadt, Jonathan Lethem, Donna Tartt, Justin Theroux, and many others.
 Berger, Joseph (October 18, 1988). “Why Bennington Is the Most Expensive College.” The New York Times.
 That’s about $42,000 in 2021 dollars. And yes, that was the total “Most Expensive” bill — tuition, room/board, fees. The total cost today is $76,848. In constant dollars, that’s an 83% increase. Of course, there’s a difference between the sticker price and the discounted price, which Bennington claims is about $33,000 less, for an average total cost of $44,000, or about a 5% increase (all 2021 dollars). What was “Most Expensive” in 1990 has been normalized.
 Yield is the number/percentage of students who are admitted who attend. A high yield tends to signify that the college was the student’s first (or only) choice. A low yield tends to signify that the student was admitted to other, more desirable colleges. Hence, yield is a proxy for desirability. Most 1991 college data is from the 1989–1990 admissions cycle. Most recent/2021 data is actually from the 2018–2019 pre-covid cycle. Generally, a few percentage points doesn’t really matter (particularly with smaller colleges, which may vary a few percentage points each year due to normal small-group variation.).
 There are relevant questions about the quality of the applicants across colleges. The general problem with this question is defining a comparative “quality.” The obvious route is test scores or grades (or class rank), though engineering schools would tend to have an unfair advantage with such a metric and art schools a clear disadvantage. As most liberal arts colleges tend to admit somewhere between these two types of schools, the variance in quantifiable student quality may only exhibit the variance in school emphasis on admission criteria and not some objective (or comparable) quality. That said, if we look at class rank (a broad but comparable number), about 80% of New College admittees tended to be in the top 25% of their graduating classes, whereas about 95% of University of Pennsylvania (to take one example) admittees tended to be in the top 25% of their graduating classes. This suggests that the University of Pennsylvania tended to attract students with higher GPAs than New College, for which New College compensated with a lower admissions rate. Such analysis breaks down when one considers that New College and the University of Pennsylvania were not attracting the same kind of student. (I’d wager that there was literally a zero-applicant overlap between these two schools in 1990, in practice and in theory.)
 That sentence deserves a medal for horribleness.
 Rollins actually promotes this on their website. And they have videos about it online. It’s ancient wisdom that a college’s academic legitimacy is inversely proportional to the number of wake-boarding videos it posts.
 I suspect that some/many of these very public documents were possibly meant to be password protected. Other web pages, such as faculty pages, were (are) password protected and probably aren’t intended to be. I get the feeling that the college attempted to use Google Docs but couldn’t divine its secret knowledge to unlock the mysteries of access and permissions. In themselves, such technical errors aren’t a major issue, but they do signify general incompetence. It also seems clear that the general New College population hasn’t actually read most of these documents. If they did, they’d riot. Then transfer to Rollins. (j/k they’d transfer to another FL public school) And why the college hosts public docs on Google Drive at all is baffling — they do in fact have a server. A few examples: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1uWAisQNAsJ-A7KaCfq1jw_CpEJQ0-Zhe/view; https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MB5RsMcrJC2vV27LqBYh53IOxe3ykb7Z/view)
I don’t recall the consultants mentioning New College’s most basic marketing failure: the non-functioning of its website. Artifacts, dead links, and random password protection litter NCF.edu. In 2021, such failure is lethal to initial prospect generation. At this point, maybe New College should go full hipster restaurant and not have a website at all.
 Or about $1480/semester in 2021 dollars. Room/board was about $3300 in 2021 dollars.
 The New College Student Alliance’s official motto was “There is more to running a starship than answering a bunch of damn fool questions.” https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B0vII2KR5vgWdkc2aExRbXNhbmc/edit?resourcekey=0-Wr8JfLV0QAlQWWeloxOINA
 I had previously criticized Drew for hiring Art & Science; I had no idea at the time that New College had done so as well. Consultants are a risk-mitigation strategy, not a failure aversion plan. If consultants tell you anything you didn’t know about your applicants and students or give you new ideas for how to communicate to them, then your first priority shouldn’t be to hire consultants. It should be to fire yourself.
Ten minute due diligence of Art+Science (LLC). Click on website; homepage has “case studies.” Click on the one for Hendrix College, in part because it’s a small college (around 1000 undergrads) but other than that, it’s a random selection. Observations.
1. This “case study” is 306 words total. That isn’t a case study; that’s marketing copy.
2. It’s not dated. Any decent researcher knows that’s deceptive (so much so, I’d count it as a huge red flag). A $300 million grant to U. Arkansas is mentioned. This grant appears in the news in April 2002. So, we’ll use the five-year period of 2003–2007 to assess this consultant’s impact.
3. Consultant makes the claim “Following our first study, Hendrix grew its freshman class by almost 50 percent ― a goal it accomplished in only two years.” Hendrix’s freshman enrollment decreased dramatically in 2004–2006. Hendrix’s average freshman enrollment for 2003–2007 was lower than the preceding five-year period (1998–2002). For no year during 2003–2007 was Hendrix’s freshman enrollment 50% higher, using either 2002 or 2001 as a baseline year. Hendrix’s average annual total FTE enrollment for the period 2003–2007 was lower than the average annual total FTE enrollment for the preceding five-year period. From a trend perspective, Hendrix’s total FTE enrollment grew in the late 1980s to early 1990s. In the mid-1990s, Hendrix’s enrollment suffered stagnation. This trend reversed in 1998, with growth again until 2003. From 2003–2006, Hendrix again experience stagnation. Substantive growth occurred again in 2010–2012. This pattern can largely be attributed to the counter-cyclical nature of the education industry (2010–2012 is the result of the recession).
4. A+S further claims: “[Hendrix] was even able to raise its cost of attendance (at the start of and during the recession) and make adjustments to institutional aid that resulted in net revenue increases.” Either A+S doesn’t know that education is counter-cyclical, or they think their clients (college presidents) don’t know; either way, it’s not a good look. Claiming success for macro-economic trends makes you look like the child who thinks the sun rises when he opens his eyes. And “adjustments to institutional aid that resulted in net revenue increases” means saddling students with more debt. Good work. Hendrix’s revenue certainly increased in the period 2003–2007, though the increase isn’t unusual over the entire period (1987–2021) nor is it the 5-year period of the largest increase. Growth in traditional full-time undergrads generated a minority of that increase. Of course, this isn’t sustainable. Hendrix’s freshman enrollment began to decline in 2011 and overall enrollment began its descent in 2012 (recession enrollment trends tend to be very spiky; see the decade after WW2). Today, Hendrix’s total enrollment is about where it was two decades ago. I’m sure their creditors will understand.
5. Totally left out of this is the type of student Hendrix is admitting or general competitiveness. At the beginning of the 2002–2007 cohort, Hendrix was admitting about 82% of applicants. By 2012, they were admitting 83% of applicants. In 1990, it was 81%. Today, it’s 82%. So over the past 30 years, Hendrix has essentially (and consistently) admitted everyone. No change. Their yield has dropped by almost half during that period, though.
So, three questions for New College. (1) You employ a number of academics who could have analyzed A+S’s claims prior to engagement. Did they? (2) Did you have a pre-constructed reference framework by which you could have benchmarked and possibly rejected A+S’s report/suggestions? If not, then close your graduate Data Science program. It’s clearly useless. (3) When David Strauss gave his presentation, did he wear clown shoes and a boinky red nose or was that implied in his PowerPoint? (Yes, I think A+S are con men in the purest sense of the term; they gain then abuse your confidence. These are parasites preying on the desperate. I learned this from Lou Gerstner; when he took over IBM to save it from bankruptcy, he first fired all the consultants.) Data Source: mostly The Institute of Education Sciences/NCES, starting with IPEDS Analytics: Delta Cost Project Database 1986–2012.
 The full quote is worse. From page 5 of the Art & Science Report: “Name, package, and promote this experience aggressively in all interactions with prospective students (electronic and print communications, campus visits, etc.). Acting on these strategies very expeditiously, at the magnitudes described in this report, and doing so in a way that is highly visible to the market, will enable New College to move forward along a path that is authentic…” The “experience” is small classes/caring professors/career. Try to find a small college that doesn’t promote this recipe. (There are about 500, so one would think you could find one.) The brutal irony here is the “promote aggressively … highly visible … authentic.” This is great advice if your target audience is 60-year-olds on Facebook. It’s scrumptious irony if you’re targeting 50-year-olds. It’s likely repellant to your desired matriculants, though. (About 20 years ago, Columbia’s slogan was something to the effect of “a college where you don’t have to leave your dreams at the door.” Prospects laughed at it.)
 Symptomatic, you say? From page 49 of “New College of Florida Faculty Meeting Wednesday, November 13, 2019”:
“William Woodson: Who in our community has had military service in their family? The library was closed for Veteran’s Day. We had a sign honoring all who served. Someone struck out the word “served” and wrote “contributed to genocide.”
· What kind of response would be helpful? Our students tend to respond and react this way. I would like for us to explore how to evolve our campus climate away from this kind of operation.
· Randy Harrell and I propose the idea that faculty members who would like to respond could create a video message about this incident. The video topic would be: given a personal connection with military service, this is how this event reads to me.
· There is no voice more respected than our faculty. The military is a community that we can humanize. We must do this. If you have ideas about this, I am open. I am hopeful that we can think of military and police as a part of the community. We must create a more gracious climate.
Walstrom: There are many careers in the military, and they are recruiting. We should think more broadly about what people in the military do.
Cornel: I think the video idea is good. Could you set up a location for faculty to drop in? We could have different faculty work on the project?
Feldman: The kind of event Woodson described is symptomatic. We seem to be hurting each other on this campus. We need to stop doing so, in any form.”
The impulse from these professors to create a counter-narrative from a position of power is comically inappropriate (just ask Foucault). “Contributed to genocide” is the kind of wondrous reactionary verve that one should expect of excitable youth; if you’re incapable of engaging it honestly, then you shouldn’t be teaching. Of course, Feldman’s “hurting people” is monstrously ignorant; perhaps the thoughtless hooligan who hurt people had just read that the U.S. military droned a civilian family in Afghanistan. (Well, since this hurting of people occurred in 2019, the hooligan had probably been thinking about some other civilians that the U.S. military droned.)
Or, given that New College is theoretically a place of learning and not jack-booted patrician propaganda, this could be a good moment to observe that democracies don’t create virtue; they consume it. Democracy’s institutions create virtue. Yet have they failed? Has New College failed? Has your failure caught up with you? Is Feldman’s response (and the total lack of objection from any other faculty) the “critical thinking” your consultants told you to aggressively promote? If there were a legitimate dialogue, I suspect Feldman would learn more than the hooligan. And perhaps the faculty would learn that you don’t turn a political weapon on your own students. (The “humanize” tactic was invented by Reagan and weaponized by Clinton.) The hooligan may be critical of policy, not any particular soldier; it’s difficult to make a determination from impromptu graffiti. And that’s why you don’t respond with narrative control but rather with dialog.
 Over the past 30 years, Agnes Scott has significantly lowered its admission rate while maintaining a yield in the 40s. Olin has likewise significantly lowered its admission rate while maintaining a yield in the 60s (while infinitely increasing cost … literally infinitely … it was $0.)
 From New College of Florida Faculty Meeting Wednesday, October 9, 2019.
 From dead land to whimper, it was all about the gestures without motion. https://archive.org/details/poems19091925030616mbp/page/n125/mode/2up.