Thursday, June 08, 2006

Holbrook to Retire in 2007

Karen Holbrook, president of the Ohio State University, has announced she's retiring at the end of her contract in June 2007 (HT: Ohio State Online). At first, I figured it was some sort of crappy joke, but then I received the press release in an e-mail from the university, so unless the prankster has friends in high places, it's true.

Holbrook's not going to be remembered kindly by a lot of people. Tuition's been rising steadily, which upsets the students, and the crackdown on tailgating and ban on open containers was spearheaded by her, which upset a lot of fans. So a lot of people are going to say "good riddance."

I have a more positive view of her. The various academic strides made by the university are detailed in the press release I linked above, but in short, Ohio State's a significantly better university than it was before she got here, which means my degree is worth more than it would have been five years ago.

There was a discussion on some radio station about a year back about whether OSU should be raising its admission standards. The argument seemed to be that tOSU was meant to provide a college education to Ohioans who couldn't otherwise afford one, or couldn't gain admission to most colleges. I would argue that this is a role that has been taken over by community colleges, and to a lesser extent by other public universities in Ohio. There are plenty of options in Ohio for someone who wants to go to college; Ohio State can be more selective in admissions without costing someone a college education. I think that accepting higher-quality students (2/3 of this year's graduating class were in the top quarter of their high-school class) attracts better professors, as does the increased spending at the university. This results in a better university, better graduates, and a better pool of potential employees for businesses, which is ultimately good for Ohio. So I give Holbrook credit for improving the university.

The gameday crackdown I'm more ambivalent about. Something had to be done, the rioting and gameday behavior were not acceptable. However, I'm not convinced the solution worked (ask your average Texas fan whether Columbus is a pleasant place to be on gameday). It seems like the measures taken went after easy targets (tailgaters and people walking around with beers) without addressing the real issues. For example, I was once stopped on a gameday by some undercover cops and ID'd, just for carrying a 12-pack of Bud Light to my buddy's house. I was sober and minding my own business, yet they decided to stop me. I think they could have better spent this time going after some drunk screaming "Fuck the Spartans!" However, much of the problem with the gameday enforcement is more the fault of the Columbus Police than Holbrook, I think. I'm guessing they came up with the policy, and they're the ones that decide how it's enforced. She could have said "No, there's got to be a better way to do it," though, and she didn't, so she certainly deserves some blame for that.

Long story short, for all the blame Holbrook gets for eliminating fun on gameday, she deserves even more credit for improving the university. Hopefully her successor continues improving the university, while working to develop a more intelligent policy regarding fan behavior on Saturday.


O-FACE said...

Not knocking but you kind of contradicted yourself. On one hand your happy that she added "value" to the OSU degree, but on the other hand you feel the poor people can get a degree of equivalent "Value" at a community college, especially if their poor????

Value of degree is artificial and I wish colleges would quit selling that b.s. to people. Performance is Performance...

Sean said...

To clarify, I don't think a degree from a community college would be equivalent to a degree from OSU. I was arguing that OSU's original role, providing a basic post-secondary education to the people that couldn't afford to attend private colleges, was now filled by community college and other public universities that didn't exist when OSU was created. This allows Ohio State to work toward targeting better students and providing a better education.

As far as value of degree goes, I agree that it doesn't mean all that much. The quality of a school does not ensure the quality of a graduate. But as long as people are putting stock in rankings and the like, I'd rather be closer to the top of the rankings than the bottom.