Sweet Briar College to Close? Quit? Cowards!

Paul G. Rice, Board chair, said in an interview that he realized some would ask, “Why don’t you keep going until the lights go out?”

But he said that doing so would be wrong. “We have moral and legal obligations to our students and faculties and to our staff and to our alumnae. If you take up this decision too late, you won’t be able to meet those obligations,” he said. “People will carve up what’s left — it will not be orderly, nor fair.”

This tragedy is not a result of “trend lines” or changing cultural mores, it is a direct result of the lack of fortitude  all too often associated with “progressive” educators, too proud to ask for help, too guilt ridden to admit their failure; paralyzed by angst, they do exactly what all narcissists do, they quit.

President James F. Jones, Jr. can make all the excuses he feels justifies his and the Board’s decision, but only cowards quit. If it isn’t easy, quit. Why fight against the inevitable? If no one will come to our rescue, quit. If the government won’t help us, quit. If our student recruitment programs don’t work, quit. If the odds aren’t in our favor, quit. If it requires, energy, dedication, perseverance, the will to overcome all obstacles, quit. And for Goodness sakes, if the nearest Starbucks is 30 minutes away, quit. (Better yet, get thee a Starbucks franchise! A better man would!)

Thank God this progressive cowardliness did not exist in Eighteenth Century America. We’d all be very different.

Sweet Briar College has a wonderful reputation, an idyllic location, an enriching curriculum, and should “market” itself aggressively to the tens of thousands of bright minds seeking just a little more than a “bidness” degree, or learning to write “code,” or even study the human genome, as worthy an endeavor as that may be.

I grew up reading, as early as third grade, from Mortimer Adler’s list of “Great Books,” I attended a preparatory high school, and had a dalliance with several of America’s finest “liberal arts” schools, I even attended the University of Georgia when the “liberal arts” scene in Athens included classroom and course work, not the soon arriving wretched, wrenching, warbling of imitators of Bob Dylan’s funereal folk songs, or later, the beer soaked, pot toked, guitar stroked, guilt poked cacophonous cretinism of the Athens music scene.

The need of intellectuals is to contemplate, to review, to gather together disparate ideas and dissonance theories, and to think, think, think… I did so in the Quad at Georgia, lying out upon the sweet grasses, beneath towering fragrant Magnolias and orb shaped “American” Ilex Opaca, reclining in thought before the vestibules of the Antebellum and Victorian buildings which enclosed that sacred space. I wore my usual wheat hued khaki Levis and a grey sweat shirt decorated with a silk screened image of Beethoven ( yes ladies, that was I) and I refused to join ROTC, for good reason, and one damp day, early in the Fall Quarter, caught in a fierce rain shower under the spread of an ancient Oak which had been growing at the corner of S. Lumpkin Street and Baldwin Street for a century or more, I was joined in the protective shade of its many thick boughs, layered with rustling dying drying leaves, by a incipient Bulldog hero, Preston Ridlehuber.

Who can forget the victory in the Sun Bowl? Who can fail to remember our hero’s part in that tale, on a day when Erk Russell’s later to be named “Junk Yard Dog” defense stunted the attack of the vaunted All American running back Donnie Anderson, and Ridlehuber’s outstanding quarterback play led the novice Head Coach of Georgia, Vince Dooley, to his first bowl win!

There was I, standing in addled admiration of Ridlehuber, thinking of what I might say, when he, staring directly at me, addressed me:

“What kind of nut are you?”

His attitude, his profound misunderstanding of my motives, his profound shock when confronted by someone of a different culture, his athletic, he a frat boy; mine intellectual, a patron of the liberal arts,  provides the underpinning of my final comments:

I completely understood “from where he was coming,” and who he was; he, alas, had not a clue about who I was. He remains a hero of mine, perhaps a less glittery one, and I remain a Bulldog to this day, despite being asked to leave the University by the venerable and most honorable Dean Tate. This tale illustrates why every Liberal Arts College is sacrosanct, and why the loss of one is a “modern” tragedy. Where are bright minds to go, what academic garden exists where time slows, words are read and felt, and thoughts, original thoughts, evolve but in small Liberal Arts colleges and universities? Yes, you can forget Harvard and Yale, those bastions of EuroAmerican social philosophy haven’t produced an original thought since the 1930’s!

But to assume that a scholar, an academic, a progressive administrator can be, should be, entrusted with leadership of such a school as Sweet Briar College, well, in a word… or two… that’s just plain folly! While I treasure the liberal arts college concept, and trust it to produce “thinkers” far more often than universities many times their size, the flaw here is that thinkers are most often cowards, or lazy, or shy, or eccentric, or neurotic, and none of these attributes bode well for developing the marketing analysis and strategic recruitment planning necessary to attract and retain students who suffer from a need to read, a delight in gathering facts, assembling them into workable theories, and then, thinking deeply upon them.

Intellectual ideas, political ideas are all, in our culture, subservient to economic ideas, to competitive capitalism. Knowledge without a cost effective purpose is cheaply crafted, literacy is impoverished and fast thumbs, sound bites and glib comments decorate the surface of an entertained and ensnaring culture sphere. There is nothing below the surface, and few are left to ask why.

Clearly, Mr. Rice, you are common stuff, a small and little man, for when any being claiming to be sentient, uses in an argument, or even blurts out, in the muddled street jargon of “modern “America, the word “fair,” in any context other than a statement about a Street, Country or State “Fair,” it is obvious that the being so speaking is a dimwit, a nimrod, a neanderthal, certainly not an intellectual.  Which, in this case, actually explains your callous and cowardly behavior; consider this, wise men seek justice not “fairness,” seek always to become just, a quantifiable phenomena, not judging by the vacuous vulgarities and vagaries of “fairness,” but by reasoning and logic, and evaluating fact, or as I like to opine,  “I’d rather ride a horse than a unicorn, n’est pas?”


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