On Campus

Wente on the challenges facing universities

Are universities a nest of richly subsidized radicals who are overpaid and underworked?

Though the moment is sure to fade away, the recent York University strike brought the challenges of the modern university to the attention of the chattering classes in central Canada — a fleeting benefit of the prolonged and unfortunate experiences of York’s students and workers.

In her column in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente reminisces about her experiences with higher education, including time spent smoking dope at an unnamed university (likely UofT). Amidst her usual tried-and-tested barrage of insults and name-calling, Wente manages to hit on some of the biggest problems facing our universities at present:

The first problem is that there is no money, especially these days. The second problem is that universities are not terribly popular with the public, who tend to see them as a nest of richly subsidized tenured radicals who are overpaid and underworked. (Unfair, but not entirely.) Taxpayers are only willing to subsidize universities to the extent they believe they contribute to the national wealth. The third problem is that a vast proportion of the student body neither wants nor needs a traditional liberal education anyway. They have no desire to sit at the feet of cloistered masters debating truth and beauty. They are essentially there for the credentials.