Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy Inauguration, New President

Tomorrow New President will be inaugurated. Oddly, although I have been at Zenith University for 16 years, and have "served under" (ahem) four Presidents, this is my first inauguration. When I first arrived at Zenith as a teeny-weeny untenured Radical, a mood of gloom had already settled over our campus. Our Methodist architecture can tend to give the impression of gloom anyway, even when we are not feeling gloomy. But this particular gloom had descended because the Bald President, at his inauguration the previous year, had said, "Let's not kid ourselves. This isn't a university. This is a college," or some such thing. Now, since he had come from Railroad Magnate U., one might assume he was simply being descriptive when he looked around and saw six brick buildings, fifty wood frame houses, some newly built concrete bunkers and a few hideous Bauhaus glass boxes and thought he saw a little liberal arts college, not a mighty university. It may be that he is one of the few college presidents to have been booed at his own inauguration. At any rate, after the students bombed him and he was ridden out of town on a Coke bottle, no one has ever made that mistake again.

Girl President had no inauguration: she was an interim appointment, and was then burned at the stake. Then along came the Big Guy, who became a special friend of mine, and was a big relief all around. I can't imagine why I missed his inauguration, but I think he must have said something like: "I will stop your precipitous slide into chaos, show you how to not constantly insult the wealthy so that you might help me raise pots of money, wipe that Railroad Man from your memory, build some big shiny buildings that will dispel gloom, and as a bonus I will liberate funds to hire new faculty." I think this is what he must have said because that's what he did, and I can vouch for the fact that he was a man who kept his word and paid his debts.

So what can we expect of New President, whose inauguration is tomorrow, and who the Radical will dress up in fancy purple robes and floppy hat with gold tassel to honor? Well here's a start, just announced on the Zenith web page:

"Beginning with the first-year class enrolling in the fall of 2008, most students whose total family incomes are $40,000 per year or less will receive an aid package that substitutes grants for any loan obligation. Beginning with the same class, all other students who receive aid will graduate with a four-year total loan indebtedness reduced by an average of 35 percent. Aid packages will include a single student loan, the federally subsidized Stafford Loan. The interest rates for Stafford Loans are among the lowest available."

You can read the whole story here, and if you are one of the six people who don't know what university Zenith is, now you will.

Needless to say, I am impressed: at the policy, at the commitment, and -- well, frankly, the panache. So happy inauguration, New President. Tomorrow is your day, and I hope you have a blast.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy we've done this. I hope we never drop need-blind admissions.

- A Zenith jr. faculty member

Anonymous said...

I am incredible excited about this.
-an alum who was lucky (privileged) enough to graduate without loans, but has tons of friends who have huge debt.

human said...

My goodness!

*kidnaps your president*

squadratomagico said...

Nice!

(And another Zenith alum smiles quietly into her coffee.)

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Wow, you have to love someone who is in touch with the biggest problem students have upon graduation..

Anonymous said...

did anyone see the inauguration? the (former?) president of the student body or some such figure said he knew Zenith was special but not why until he went abroad and returned. so, why is Zenith so special? because we are "critical thinkers." then he added something like, "you just know that right now, somewhere on campus, somebody is thinking." i giggled with laughter!

Anonymous said...

Reducing student debt is a great thing. But before people at Zenith get all back-slappy, they should understand that only the first institution to institute an admissions / financial aid policy gets "credit" for it; in this case that institution is Princeton. Fancy schools that want to stay fancy have to react to changes like this, or fall behind in the recruitment battle. Cf., for example, Harvard's decision to eliminate early decision (another great thing for students): everyone else, including Princeton, had to react.

Belle said...

What a wonderful idea. I'm at a SLAC with a prez who says 'I can't sell Arts & Sciences...'

He has raised over $100 million for the endowment and even managed to raise faculty salaries. So even though we now have a women's wrestling team (argh), we feel more like a real SLAC.

Tenured Radical said...

anon 12:13: yes I was at the inauguration, and yes, the WSA president really did say that someone was thinking a thought. Several of us on the faculty were simultaneously wondering whether the class of '79 should be honored by us passing the bong, but we decided to think a thought instead.

anon 12:02: I dunno -- do you really think only the first counts, particularly since Princeton could buy and sell Zenith ten or twenty times over? Better to react that sit on our butts and watch the world go by, if you ask me. I get your point, but on the other hand -- Cooper Union doesn't make anyone pay tuition at all, so up your nose with a rubber hose, Princeton. Also, we are the school with the lowest endowment to make this move, which I think is ballsy, if nothing else. Princeton, if it doesn't start spending more, will risk losing its non-profit status.

anthony grafton said...

As a Princeton professor, let me say (a) that I hope we can do without the rubber hose, which sounds really uncomfortable, and (b) that TR is largely right, as usual: it was right for Princeton to start putting pressure on the other wealthy private schools, and I'm very glad we did, but it takes real guts for a school that doesn't have a bunch of billions in the bank to do this.

Props to Zenith and President Roth.

Anonymous said...

Another alum happy to hear it. Also will be bitter each month that it didn't happen a few years ago. Or that when my parents refused to pay the "family contribution" the fin aid office had more to offer than "sometimes people have to take time off." All bitterness aside, this is great news.

Anonymous said...

what an amazing difference that excerpt implies from railroad man, who I endured for another 5 years elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

As both a Princeton alum (Hi Tony!) and current faculty member at one of Zenith's "peer" institutions, I am very happy to see this happen. I hope we here at LobSLACster will follow suit in some way. I am still paying off my undergrad loans. Granted, one (not the biggest, mind you) of my reasons for going to graduate school in the first place was to slip into that wonderful world of in-school forbearance. But I think student debt is largely a negative shaper of post-graduate decisions, and I recognize that my own process isn't an appropriate model to follow. Good for Zenith, and here's to hoping yet more schools call the bet!

Anonymous said...

http://tenured-radical.blogspot.com/2007/11/happy-inauuration-new-president.html

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