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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Op-ed: A new vision for Lafayette Communications

I should stay off of Lafayette’s social media, because it’s too aggravating. Too many of the posts have the theme: “Why I love Lafayette.” Interviews with students on Instagram show them giddy with love for Lafayette. Usually, they invoke their friends and the beauty of the campus. If you just see publicity for the school, you might think we are recruiting for a young adult summer camp. Much of the language is infantilizing.

Where are the books? Where are the classes, which take up the majority of students’ time? It is good to hear about students’ travel, service to the community and athletic achievements, but we rarely hear students discuss their courses or the books they have read recently. The center of the college experience is, or should be, academic learning. It should permeate our presentation to the world and to ourselves.

For example, few of the students in my “Political Theory through Literature” class had read “Antigone,” written in ancient Greece in approximately 441 BC. Now they have, and we are having profound discussions about it. “Antigone” portrays the conflict between allegiance to family and religion, on the one hand, and the need for laws in a democracy. It raises questions about gender and political leadership. Its portrayal of political leaders who conflate the good of the country with the stroking of their egos is all too relevant.

Such discussions should appear on the Lafayette home page, Instagram and “Lafayette Today.” There should be a poem-a-day, a thought of the day, recommended reading, news from the classroom, an account of recent speakers, intellectual engagement with world events and questions about what we should do as individuals and as a country. We can’t crowd out the announcements, but we should constantly remind ourselves that our primary focus is learning. We are an educational institution and we should be teaching.

In Lafayette’s self-presentation, ideas are mentioned solely in connection with faculty achievements and student/faculty interactions. I understand that the central point of “communications” is marketing. The product is the college and we want to sell it to parents and students. This is the case with virtually all academic institutions; their websites promote their college. They need to do that to keep the lights on. But we also need to remind students and parents about what we do, even if that turns off some prospective students and their families. The liberal arts are under threat in our society and colleges need to make the case for them.

Joshua Miller is a professor of government and law at Lafayette College.

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  • L

    Leslie Ann HowardFeb 10, 2024 at 11:32 pm

    Josh, I love this challenge! It gets me thinking about the book I still have on my shelf from my Lafayette days that was so transformational for me. “The Psychology Experiment. An introduction to the scientific method.” By Barry Anderson. It cost $3.50 and is highlighted with a pink marker throughout. Yes, let’s have more of that! Leslie Ann Howard ‘76 Madison,WI Chair Mid/InterMountain West Advisory Council of Lafayette College.

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  • A

    Artie RavitzFeb 10, 2024 at 5:42 am

    Wery intersting josh,
    It has been 62 years since I graduated PSU
    and have realized years earlier, that it was, indeed,
    a different world but never thought about your problems
    in the academic world.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Cousin Artie Ravitz

    Reply
  • R

    Riley K. Temple '71, Hon. '09Feb 9, 2024 at 11:41 pm

    Thank you, Josh Miller. I follow Lafayette’s communications; their persistent appearances in my in-box are attributable to an earlier time when I was an active Trustee. I force myself to look, in vain hope that I will see some evidence that students are thinking. But when I do pay attention, I see what Josh Miller sees — a well-staged (carefully posed) advertisement for summer camp. (My word, by the way. I used it to describe our public image well before Prof. Miller.) Please publish whatever evidence there must be that Lafayette students think, write, challenge, argue, are provoked intellectually, and how the community helps them to wrestle with complexity and competing values. Stop focusing, please, on comfort. Discomfort in the academy promises enrichment and enlargement of capacity to engage in a difficult world.

    Reply