Defending UNLV’s New Freshman Orientation

Today, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that UNLV will begin a new class next year, a required freshman orientation course.  The class looks like a seminar designed to acclimate students to college life and work, focusing on the purposes of higher education and the skills required to succeed there. 

A local talk radio host ripped into it this morning, and the comments under the RJ story are universally negative.  But here’s why they’re all wrong. 

If this seems like a dumbing down to anyone, consider the caliber of students we now work with.  The decade-plus long experiment in Nevada with the Millennium Scholarship has filled our campuses with students who barely squirmed out of high school, who did it with lowered standards, and who now come to college with little financial investment of their own in it.  Many simply do not have the background to succeed here.  If UNLV wants to reduce its abysmal drop out rate, such remedial training is necessary.  Who can fault us for giving our students  the foundation they need? 

To those who see this as more liberal indoctrination, simply because a class has a “multicultural” component doesn’t mean that it’s an exercise in grievance mongering.  A university has a mission to live up to its name–to expose students to a universe of ideas.  Broad experience in a variety of subjects is a crucial part of college. 

Which brings me to the third and final complaint I heard today, the one that bothers me the most.  Our local radio talk show host and the commenters on the RJ’s online story say that this is only a humanities course, and thus just one more waste of time.  It’s ironic that they’re the ones whose vision of college is what’s new and lacking: college has always been about deeply developed education grounded in the arts.  The idea that school is for narrow technical specialization is recent and stunts students immeasurably.  It cheats them.

But here’s a conservative solution: if you hate the new requirement that much, don’t go.  Nobody’s forcing you to go to UNLV, or to college at all.  If it’s a hoop you have to jump through to reach some career goal, be innovative and find some other way.  We conservatives love that.  If you’re resigned to attending college, find one that doesn’t have orientation seminars or humanities requirements. 

Oh, wait, every real college does those things.  Maybe that’s because they know something you don’t know.  And isn’t that why people go to school in the first place?

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