I was supposed to be celebrating my graduation from George Mason University (GMU) May 22 and happily reflecting on my accomplishments -- editor in chief of the biweekly student newspaper, Broadside, and a 3.8 grade-point average.
Instead, I found myself fighting for the survival of New Century College (NCC), which GMU's Board of Visitors wants to "integrate" into the massive College of Arts and Sciences. As a member of the first graduating class of NCC, a nontraditional, interdisciplinary program of 1,400 students, I find the proposal devastating.
This move by the governor-appointed board -- which includes former U.S. attorney general Edwin Meese, Weekly Standard publisher and editor William Kristol and Heritage Foundation President Edwin Feulner -- was the latest assault by this conservative organ on what it apparently views as liberal policies.
When I was a junior, the board went after Broadside when a post-election editorial criticized new Virginia Gov. James Gilmore and the Republican Party in general. Board member Alam Hammad said Broadside was "unprofessional" for not printing what he believed to be the majority opinion. The board subsequently made an issue about the paper's liability insurance and questioned the school's $16,000 student fee allocation to help support Broadside. Nothing much came of that early assault, however.
I also watched as the board dismissed the opinions of students, faculty and staff and blocked the hiring of a campus adviser for gay and lesbian students in 1996. Last year the board questioned a women's studies class that was addressing lesbianism, and it asked to review class materials -- micromanagement at its finest.
In May the board ignored the faculty senate's recommendation to limit ROTC credits to 10 and decided to allow at least 12 credits. But the most outrageous action by the board occurred in the middle of that month.
After a rushed study of the four-year-old NCC, the board's subcommittee ignored the provost's recommendation to keep the college separate until a more thorough review could be made in five years and voted to close the college. On June 16 the full board will vote on the matter.
In order for GMU to attract high-achieving, creative and involved students, it is imperative that NCC remain autonomous. NCC students focus on eight core competencies (communication, critical thinking, problem solving, etc.) while complementing traditional course work with cross-disciplinary learning communities. These learning communities combine team teaching, two or more traditional disciplines, group work, internships and real-world experience. The philosophy and methodology of NCC are promising and are catching the attention of colleges and universities around the nation.
In moving to close NCC, some members of the board have said that they actually embrace the program and hope it will help the decreasing enrollment numbers in the GMU College of Arts and Sciences. But Heritage Foundation President Feulner was quoted in The Post [Metro, May 21] as saying that NCC is "not educating the students." I wonder how he explains the fact that my NCC peers hold almost all the major leadership positions on campus.
NCC has supporters in almost every arena -- students, business leaders, parents, faculty, GMU's president and provost, and the Council of Higher Education Director, William B. Allen.
How can a board that governs a school with the motto "freedom and learning" ignore pleas for keeping NCC independent?
Instead of abolishing NCC in its infancy, the board should be looking for ways to improve the program.
-- Stephanie Ogilvie