The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Letter to the editor: Restoring Lafayette’s liberal arts vision

Editor of The Lafayette,

If the now-rejected mission and values statement signifies anything, it highlights that the college has effectively abandoned its role as a liberal arts institution, opting instead for a commodified, theme park-like, one-dimensional experience. I am heartened to see our professors and faculties decisively rejecting college President Nicole Hurd’s inadequate proposal for a mission and values statement. This statement reveals a total absence of commitment to prioritizing academics and lacks any robust allegiance to the core values that a college should champion. It emerges as a confused and contradictory jumble of words, ultimately conveying nothing of substance.

Despite the retraction of the mission statement, I am concerned that the damage has already been done. The ongoing drama within Student Government, the substandard food services provided by Parkhurst and the high staff turnover rate all indicate a troubling situation at Lafayette College. Yet, my greatest concern as a student is our shift away from our commitment to a liberal arts education. A liberal arts education should promote engagement across disciplines, fostering well-rounded individuals, not one-dimensional characters. However, Hurd’s proposals suggest a gradual departure from our essence as a liberal arts college. Professor Joshua Miller has correctly observed that our social media presence now prioritizes superficial aesthetics and a facade of success over academic content.

Moreover, equating academics with athletics, as the mission statement does, seems an ill-advised attempt to cater to all, ultimately satisfying none. While our athletes undoubtedly deserve recognition, Professor Susan Averett has correctly emphasized that “the college’s primary mission is to educate people.” Therefore, learning is our foremost pursuit.

As a liberal arts college, we must uphold a steadfast dedication to academia, positioning ourselves as a center for multidisciplinary learning. Yet, if the latest op-ed from my peer in the art department is anything to go by, our institution seems to have failed in its mission to teach students to appreciate subjects outside their own fields and disciplines.

Thus, I conclude by urging President Hurd to think carefully and profoundly about the ethos of Lafayette College and the true meaning and purpose of a liberal arts education. I encourage her to truly open up and listen to the concerns of our students and professors. Now, more than ever, it is time to rethink and understand the essence of Lafayette College.

Curtis Dai ‘24

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Comments (7)

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  • G

    Grad’16Mar 11, 2024 at 3:15 pm

    After reading Dai’s opinion, I can surmise that there is no position more incredulous and absurd than the one presented. I cannot think of a more despicable prompt and unqualified acknowledgement of the events that have transpired at Lafayette recently. The original passage leaves its audience to recall one reverberating word uttered erroneously in the first paragraph: inadequate.

    The proposal at hand is not inadequate. Rather, it would be inadequate to say the rejected mission and values statement would create a “one-dimensional” experience at the college. On the contrary, the statement looks to promote a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional experience on campus. It seeks to acknowledge that Lafayette is not only a premiere academic institution, but more.

    It was also inadequate by the author to limit their view of Lafayette and liberal arts colleges at large. A liberal arts classification should not be a determining factor of a values statement, nor should it be viewed as a general debilitation. Other top educational institutions don’t incapacitate or restrict themselves like the author and professors quoted attempt to. As an example, Princeton University is a liberal arts college, and yet one where athletics are viewed as a co-curricular activity, per their website. This type of co-curricular verbiage is one of the major gripes Lafayette faculty has had about the proposed mission and values statement. Is Princeton’s primary mission not to educate because of this fact? Does their institution “prioritize superficial aesthetics and a façade of success”? No, I do not believe anyone who thinks critically would answer yes to these questions. Princeton has habitually been named US News’ number one undergraduate university while claiming athletics co-curricular. Of course, the faculty and author that held these criticisms about Lafayette would not categorize Princeton the way they have their own institution. Yet, it is their collective personal feelings of inadequacy that created their argumentative position. The essence of Lafayette College is not found in academics’ arrogance and egos. There have been enough college campuses in the last calendar year that have succumb to the foolishness of overzealous educators, and here we may have another example.

    Whether the lecturers at the college want to acknowledge it or not, the college experience is changing. It Is evolving like it always has from one generation to the next. President Hurd has surely considered and postulated what this would mean for her college, and she seems to be the leader meant to meet this moment. Her vision is not limited to the mission and values statement referendum. She has looked to create and celebrate an environment built on addition. The addition of engineering to a traditional classics education. The addition of community support to College Hill activities. The addition of academic certificates and programs that better ready young minds for the reality of today, not the reality of yesteryear. And still, there are detractors that seek not to promote a better vision for Lafayette, but only to propagate their own self-image for personal gain. I would implore the letter’s author and professors quoted to end their public slander campaign over fickle drama and unimportant issues, and realize that they have been gifted quality leadership that has reenergized the image and future possibilities of the college.

    I have no other sentiments to give than that which have already been presented. I will leave you with an external point of reference. Marquis de Lafayette, for who this college is named, championed his progressivism and called us all to reimagine our individual potentials when asking “Why not?”. He did not yearn to only be great in one endeavor, he strived to be great at many. So why should our college not call all its members to do the same? The criticisms of President Hurd show how far astray we have been taken from this guide. The author of the original piece allowed their limited mindset to be cultivated by professors with individual righteousness complexes. No wonder students love to cling to their “social media presence” and “façade of success” when they have seen their college professors cling to their own hyperinflated facades continually.

  • P

    PardMar 9, 2024 at 3:11 pm

    I read Curtis Dai’s letter to the editor and simply had to respond. It is obvious and sad that Dai did not have President Hurd leading the way for his entire four years on College Hill. And it appears he missed out on the real college experience. A liberal arts education is one that should be all-encompassing and open to all opinions and ideas, not to mention progressive in nature. The most successful leaders in the world have not retrograded or embraced complacency. They have introduced and advanced forward-thinking concepts and integrated changes that made a difference in people’s lives.

    President Hurd’s vision to lift up arts, athletics and the overall community experience at the college in no way sacrifices the level of academic studies. One can improve obvious areas of deficiency on campus without vitiating the school’s academic standards and successes.

    Like his missing out on the complete college experience, Dai apparently missed out on the theme park experience in life, as well. Quality theme parks are certainly not one-dimensional, and nor should a college or university be. The best theme parks are diversified, inclusive, thought-provoking, and exhilarating, and like the highest quality educational institutions, they keep you coming back for more because of the overall experience, the totality of your college years.

    The last time I checked a valued, comprehensive higher education is no longer a 60-something, gray-haired prof with a piece of chalk and a slate board. College education today is profoundly comprised of different methodologies, processes, and directions. The way we interact with others is the most important skill we learn from four years in college, and undeniably that is not a learned trait from the classroom. The lessen and message matter, no matter where they come from. The staff, aside from the faculty, play a pivotal role in the college years for all Leopards. They and the work they perform and the lessons they teach are equally as important to the development of our students. The next time you go to the theme park don’t just ride the carousel, because you will end up where you started. Embrace the whole park, the whole college experience, with equal vigor. You and your fellow classmates, and your community, will be better off if you do.

  • S

    StevenMar 9, 2024 at 11:38 am

    As an alum and a parent of a current student I felt the need to respond. It is my understanding this is not President Nicole Hurd’s mission and values statement. I believe there were faculty and staff who were all part of the process to create this statement. From what I read in another article in The Lafayette, the missions and value statement was not dismissed by the faculty. However, they would like to see some changes. I have seen great alignment within the college since the start of my child’s college experience. I have seen that the students are at the center of the work being done on campus, and everyone on campus has a role and a duty to educate. We are really unique as an institution, since we are a top tier liberal arts college that has an incredible engineering program and Division 1 athletics. While my child is not an engineer nor an athlete, my child has had amazing professors and is loving the Lafayette experience within the liberal arts education. I do see that some students are more focused on career success when they enter college, and therefore, they do not desire to study across disciplines. I think this is just a change in the times and might not reflect our college but more aptly reflects parental guidance and pressure to have a career upon graduation. As for the comment “the college’s primary mission is to educate people,” do our students not also learn outside the lecture hall in the community, in athletics, and in the performing arts? To dismiss this and think that the classroom is the only place to learn would be unfair, close-minded, and frankly regressive.

    As someone who has talked to other Lafayette parents and alumni, I can tell you that we are all excited to have President Hurd leading our college. She is a breath of fresh air who seems to have a vision to raise Lafayette up and be inclusive in the process.

  • A

    Alum 22Mar 8, 2024 at 6:15 pm


  • P

    Pard FirstMar 8, 2024 at 7:37 am

    A good and welcome opinion, however, upon closer look, Lafayette has been known for its engineering programs for more than 150 years. It would be a challenge for a 4 year college with an emphasis on engineering to also support a robust liberal arts curriculum and faculty.

    In essence, the strength of a Lafayette is its blending technical education with broad requirements in the liberal arts. It is regrettable that for students who wished to attend Bowdoin, Middlebury, Colgate, Williams, or other similar liberal arts colleges, Lafayette will be an insufficient backup. However, Lafayette is not simply a liberal arts college, but a college with a strong engineering program where superb students also study economics, politics, and learn through the liberal arts.

    Again, the excellence of the school is its blending engineering and technical education with liberal arts. This point should be clear for a prospective student who hopes to major in literature or creative writing, there are other better options for this path.

    In any future plan, it may be that no matter what is decided for a future vision, the institution can’t ignore its significant contribution to the higher education space in America as offering as 4 year college with an engineering program that rivals leading univities. This current identity crisis may stem from the impossibility of turning Lafayette into purely a liberal arts college without also losing its identity, funding, and best prospective students along the way.

    • A

      Alum 22Mar 8, 2024 at 6:17 pm

      Bro you missed everything they said in their piece…. Like comon…

      • P

        Pard FirstApr 5, 2024 at 10:04 pm

        My guy, I hear what you are saying, but Lafayette is not a liberal arts college in the same sense as Bowdoin, Middlebury, or even Skidmore. Y’all have Greek Life! And Division 1 sports!’ I know it’s frustrating, but there’s a possibility that Laf’s past and future are in a tension that blocks progress around important issues.
        Namely, the humanities are an afterthought.

        But yo, the lack of investment in the arts is clear. Ever walked the hill? And the admittance of athletes and engineers over poets and activists is also apparent. So apparent the admin squashed a pro-Palestinian student group from forming. Even crew creeps club money?!

        Keep on the good path, but no doubt, Laf is on its own path where the humanities are window dressing for the real money majors of engineering, government and law, and economics. Have fun at Greek week playa.