Most professors, students said, grasp that the American campus has changed—big time. That the paradigm has shifted. Professors want a comfortable perch that looks nice on their résumés where they can write their articles and books and get ahead—just like the students want to get ahead, just like the universities want to get ahead. (Sam Beyda, the Columbia economics major, pointed out that his own school’s administration had been accused of manipulating data to game the U.S. News & World Report rankings.)
A recent Yale University graduate said his professors had encouraged him to get diagnosed with ADHD so he could get more time to finish homework or take exams. One student he knew received extra time for “academic-induced depression.” He smirked when he said it.
I hear from my fellow professors all the time that recent technologies (and not just the new chatbots) have simply exposed for all to see the heretofore unspoken deal between teachers and students: We pretend to teach them and they pretend to learn. Henry James Sumner Maine may have talked about the move from status to contract as the foundation of the social order, but what we have in academia is an unwritten contract that allows both parties to increase their status.
I know this will be hard to believe, but: We genuinely do things differently here in Baylor’s Honors College. Why? I think it’s a combination of (a) the presence of Christian commitments, among both professors and students, that encourage us to remember that education is personal formation; and (b) the fact that Baylor as a whole is not an elite institution. Students who come here tend not to think that they’re gonna rule the world someday; they want to do well in life, of course, but they’re not set on a lifetime of climbing Success’s greasy pole. And we can help them think about how to pursue good things in life that don’t involve stock options.