8.12.07

The Boys - and Girls - of Summer


Trinity rarely sleeps. Although our resident students are gone for the year, other groups and programs continue or begin as the year draws to its end.

This week, the campus is covered with a younger and (even) more diverse group than usual. Trinity has been running Summer Schools for High-School age students for some years, focussing on Science and on Creative Thinking. These two have now been combined into a “Young Leaders” program which adds Leadership Development to the two existing streams. So in these first two weeks of December we have 168 students, along with mentors and instructors, engaging in an intense, and intensely enjoyable, program at the College.

Most of the Young Leaders come from overseas; we have targeted the program carefully in the countries where we recruit for Foundation Studies, as well as on the subcontinent, which is not a large Foundation Studies market but where students are eager to take up the Summer School experience.

Remarkably however we also have, among the Australians taking part, 22 young indigenous students. They come from metropolitan areas, regional towns and far-flung communities; from most states and the NT; from strong educational environments where many students continue to post-secondary education, and from small poorly-resourced schools where staying until the end of Year 9 is a victory. Some are from communities and institutions where we have been building networks over the years; from Minyerri in south-east Arnhem Land, where resident students and staff have visited over a number of years to learn and share experiences, or from Nightcliff in the suburbs of Darwin, where Trinity has built links with Nungalinya College working with teenagers through Drama.

The Summer School is a great example of how Trinity is seeking to extend and give fresh expression to the Collegiate experience. Some of these students, Australian and international, will one day return to Melbourne for Foundation Studies and/or for University study. Others will proceed to University programs elsewhere. We hope that each of these groups will be enlarged by the intensive residential experience they are sharing now.

Summer School is a sort of microcosm of College life, a concentrated burst of the transformative experience that can come with studying and living in community, and from considering questions and problems beyond those related to a single discipline or set of skills. I understand from the program leaders that much work and much fun is being had, and maybe not a lot of sleep – but that’s Trinity.

3.12.07

California Diary (I): El Camino Real


In November I spent just under two weeks in California, meeting alumni in San Francisco and Los Angeles and attending the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in San Diego. My own contribution to the SBL meeting is covered in my other blog, Andrew’s Version.

This trip took me the length of what was historically known as El Camino Real – the Royal Highway – that ran between the various Franciscan mission stations from San Diego north to San Francisco. Dotted along the way – every thirty miles or so, representing an achievable day’s journey – were missions, often now towns with names familiar even to Australians from references in popular culture, derived from saints important to the Franciscan friars who blazed the trail. Three times in four days I rode the rails between LA and San Diego, seeing familiar names like San Juan Capistrano fly past on one side, and familiar-looking beaches on the other.

Los Angeles itself is shortened from El Pueblo de Nuestra Se├▒ora de los Angeles de la Porci├║ncula – the town of our Lady of the Angels of the Little Portion. The “Little Portion” refers to the famous Church at Assisi where Francis worked and died, where a fresco depicted an apparition of the Virgin with angels. The eighteenth century Spanish expedition that mapped the Los Angeles River did so on a feast day connected with Francis and this Church.

In both San Francisco and Los Angeles I met with alumni, from the 60s through to the 90s; they included Americans who had visited Trinity, and Australians currently “seeking their fortune” in the US. The attraction for Australians of the concentrated resources in human, social and economic terms in the US is increasingly clear. The West has particular attractions for those engaged in the Arts and Media, as well as the other strengths related to academic research familiar in the Northeast.

In Los Angeles I was welcomed by the Australian Consul-General, Innes Willox, and his wife Ms Jennifer Conley, current Trinity parents. Their pleasant villa backs onto the property of extraordinary Getty Center, where I spent a couple of hours looking at medieval and early modern art and generally feeling as though on Parnassus, wandering around this marvellous hilltop monument to culture. A few days later I was back in LA and went to its sister pilgrimage site, the Getty Villa, a partial replica of the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum, and an extraordinary collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. Both of these are free to the public – testimony to the strength and importance of philanthropy in that country.

As a former resident in the United States I am well aware of the extraordinary richness and diversity – and the striking contrasts – that characterize that country. California itself is a sort of microcosm, distinctive in its history and geography, massive in its own scope, and full of its own contrasts. LA is yet a further concentration of contrasts, more a sprawling zone than a community, with pockets of brilliance (and tawdriness) set in a maze of freeways and suburbs. It is no Australian dream, but plays host to the dreams of many, from close by and far away.

5.11.07

The First Casualty...

The 2004 Federal election was won and lost for more than one reason – but if there was a policy that signalled Labor’s woes it was the Education “Hit List”. It was a waste of time in terms of gaining votes, playing to existing prejudices and vested interests. This time around there is no “hit-list”. Ominously for the Government, the closest equivalent in the 2007 Campaign has been scare tactics relating to Labor frontbenchers’ union leadership experience. Again, this language seems to reflect a caucus or secretariat that projects its own fears and fantasies onto an electorate slipping from its grasp.

The Hit List was also a loss in terms of real education policy, given the widely-acknowledged need for public schools in particular to get a better deal. It was bogged in the mire of comparison rather than helping set clear and general standards for the quality of education we want all Australian children to have.

One echo of the Hit List has continued into the 2007 election – a set of figures about Federal funding of private and public education. These have been the centre of a series of advertisements from the Australian Education Union pointing to unfavourable comparisons – 70% of Australian students attend public schools, but these attract only 35% of Federal funding.

Unfortunately this is a bit like complaining about the small amounts of money the Victorian government puts into the RAAF. Defence is not a state responsibility, and primary and secondary schools are not primarily a Federal responsibility. To find any starting point for the debate we need to have about the quality of Australian schools, total government funding is the only meaningful figure.

In today’s Age it got worse, however: Leslie Cannold claimed that “For every dollar the Federal Government spends on a child in public school, $5.63 is expended on a child in a Catholic or other non-government school.” Although woven into a personal narrative of concern and guilt, this is the sort of thing that gives cheap shots a bad name. Note the change from “the Federal government” to the impersonal “is expended” between the two clauses. Has Cannold compared Federal funding of public schools with all funding of private schools? An honest mistake from an ethicist, presumably.

In fact it works something like this, or did in 2004-5:

The Federal government funded each Victorian school student in public schools at $920, and each private school student at $4,340. But State funding for the same public students was $8,779.57, and only $1,112 for private school students. The total: $9,700 of government funding per state school student and $5451 per private student.

Blame and shame, our own or others, isn’t how to have the debate. Children deserve rather more than to be the victims of crossfire in a mean-spirited cultural skirmish alongside this election. Australia’s kids deserve good, and potentially free, education. Australia also needs parents who have the means to do so, to contribute at much higher levels to the education of their own as well as others’ children. Teachers generally need better pay and recognition. More investment does need to be made in facilities and equipment. And yes, especially in public schools. Why private school funding should be the source of new resources for public schools has never been properly explained, nor can it be.

Australian kids and their families also deserve choices, and specific communities such as religious traditions need to offer such choices to their own members and others. And above all we all need to consider the outcomes we want for each child, not by making false comparisons but by seeking the best for them in absolute terms. I trust the elected government will face that challenge.

23.10.07

To Make an End is to Make a Beginning

"The end is where we start from" (T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding)

At this time of year "Valedictory" begins to appear as a way of describing events around the College. Resident students triumphed (at least over boredom) in "Survivor: Bulpadock", their imaginative approach to Valedictory Day activities, two weekends ago. An End of Year dinner provided a somewhat more formal setting for celebration, and last Sunday the End of Year service was the most reflective opportunity for departing resident students to mark this transition.

Similar activities are in mid-stream in the Theological School and yet to come for Foundation Studies students.

All these festivities mark departures. I have noted before that a College such as this exists to send people away - hopefully after years of work, play and reflection, with deeper experience and higher aspirations.

One particularly important departure is Peter Tregear's. After two years of outstanding service to the College as Dean, Peter is to step down early in 2008 to pursue his academic research and teaching. In 2006 and 2007 Peter has initiated and overseen key events and programs that have expressed the highest aspirations of the College. This year's Caldwell Lectures were in quite different areas, exploring history, art and law; yet the presence at Trinity of world-class historians Richard Evans and David Starkey was also a sign of Peter Tregear's imagination and commitment.

Other of his initiatives have been musical, not surprisingly - the initiative of making the prize-winning TinAlley String Quartet our "Quartet in Residence" is an obvious example. Peter's immediate attention will go to his continuing role as a Fellow in the Faculty of Music at the University of Melbourne.

I know you will join me in wishing Peter and our departing students well, even as we strive to maintain the standards of excellence and imagination they have set for us. Farewells are inevitably tinged with sadness, but it is good for us to celebrate them as we do. They are, after all, really beginnings. I also know well from experience that Trinity has a way of calling us back!

30.9.07

‘Where is the real University experience?’; Or, ‘Brisbane, Banff and Beyond…’

Last week I attended a national gathering of University College heads in Brisbane. One highlight was an address by John Hay, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland whose Colleges were our hosts.

Professor Hay had been here at Trinity just a few days earlier, attending a Symposium on Philanthropy and the Humanities that we had sponsored in conjunction with other sections of the University of Melbourne. Attendees at the Symposium here were entertained by the TinAlley String Quartet (‘TASQ’), Trinity’s Quartet in Residence, who have been making use of College facilities (appropriately enough in the old Kindergarten, now a Performing Arts building adjacent to Tin Alley itself) and inspiring students with their musical prowess. Professor Hay referred to Trinity’s relationship with TASQ as a model of the way Colleges can engage the aspirations and imaginations of students.

TASQ’s progress this year has in fact been stunning, capped by their winning the 9th Banff International String Quartet Competition earlier this month. Next year they will have a residency at Banff and tour North America and Europe.

Another and more general point made by Prof. Hay was less specific to Trinity but just as important for us. Colleges, he said, are where the real experience of University is now to be had.

This observation, both encouraging and sobering as it is, seems to me to have a number of implications for Colleges. It is a reflection of the great potential of using residential life as a basis for the educational experience, but also involves a difficult if accurate acknowledgement of how varied – to put it fairly positively – student life can now be in Australian Universities.

First, we do have an enormous responsibility to make the more positive element of Prof. Hay’s observation entirely justifiable. Are we managing to provide a “real” University experience? I am confident that we do so at Trinity, and the TASQ example is a wonderful sign of that, but I have not the slightest complacency about this. I am also more conscious, after the Brisbane conference, of how varied the aspirations of different Colleges and Halls of residence are. It is crucial that we keep raising our sights and encouraging others to do the same.

Second, if we are providing not merely a convenience or service (as “accommodation providers”) but something fundamental to the real or richest University experience, then the rarity of that experience must be mitigated by diversity, and by imaginative extension of College life to others. As to the former, Trinity is working to make what we offer available regardless of financial resources, to those who will contribute to, and benefit from, the College experience the most. On the latter point we will shortly be engaging, along with colleagues from other Colleges at this University, in a process of considering initiatives such as renewing non-resident programs – of which ours at Trinity is one of the few active remaining. This is a very promising possibility.

Third, if we are really seeking to provide something so fundamental, this “real” University experience, there must be clear willingness to speak not merely about vocational outcomes and the acquisition of skills for professions, but also about meaning and values. This is part of the reason for Trinity’s existence. And it is, I think, part of what any “real” University experience ought to involve, wherever it takes place.

12.8.07

Trinity Moves

Based on remarks at the Gala Dinner of the Union of the Fleur-de-Lys in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria, August 11th 2007

It may seem a bit surprising to find a Trinity event being held somewhere other than on Campus, even in as remarkable and inspiring a space as this. Yet our being somewhere else, and here in particular, seems to encapsulate something important about the College as well. In a variety of ways, Trinity moves.

We move individuals, offering them opportunities for growth and transformation. The transition from School education, with its highly-structured and ordered reality, to University education does involve a great step into freedom and responsibility. The value of that freedom depends on the choices available and the resources and influences at hand. This place, which has such a wealth of artistic beauty, exemplifies that process for us. Collegiate education affirms that it is crucial to offer significant cultural, social, sporting and intellectual activities in community life to allow that. We don't judge the success of being at Trinity by whom or what we bring in, but by whom we send out, and how they may have changed.

Second, Trinity itself moves, it changes. To pursue a tradition of excellence across a long period of time necessarily means change as well as continuity. To be justly proud of the College in the future we should not expect it to resemble the College of the past in all respects. I am proud of long standing customs and connections at Trinity; I am also proud of new ideas and practices, of a more diverse student body that reflects our commitment to this experience and to making it available to students on the basis of their ability to gain from it and contribute to it, not their personal economic resources. I am proud of our connection with a world-class University engaged in its own process of change, in which we are partners, seeking to provide experiences the equal of any in the world. I am delighted we have families connected with Trinity across generations, and also students who are indigenous Australians or who have been refugees. The only thing I want you to be prouder of than Trinity's past is Trinity's future.

Finally, Trinity moves because we take it with us. Despite coming here to a different place, being of many different eras in the College, hundreds of us tonight are again immediately "Trinity". We believe that there is something important - about excellence, about community, about values - that moves with us. We are here not just because it was important for 2 or 3 or 4 years once in the past, but because we take something of it with us wherever we go. Thank you for being part of Trinity's past - thank you also for being part of its future.

14.7.07

Singapore Diary (II): Raffles, the Institution

The name “Raffles” is ubiquitous in Singapore. Tourists will tend to think of the Raffles Hotel, founded and named by some enterprising Armenians in the 1880’s and home to the “Singapore Sling” (for the curious, on our recent trip my contingent stayed in respectable but less-storied quarters on Orchard Rd, and no, I did not drink one!). Other “Raffles” manifestations include a shopping centre, a city square and a station on the underground railway (MRT).

Sir Stamford Raffles (1781-1826) was effectively the founder of modern Singapore – the city, that is, rather than the nation. Governor of the area for a couple of relatively brief periods , he established British interests securely in the Malay Peninsula and provided a relatively enlightened legal and social framework for what was fast to become an economic hub.

There are certainly places in Singapore where continuing use of the name “Raffles” indicates an older and more direct link to the name’s famous bearer than some of these can claim. Raffles’ coat of arms features in the central panel of the East window (behind the High Altar) of St Andrew’s Cathedral, where I attended a Sunday liturgy that combined elements of a very traditional Mattins with traces of revival-meeting evangelicalism. This artistic acknowledgement in stained glass reflects Raffles’ choice of the site of St Andrew’s, adjacent to what is now called the Padang, a kind of “common” reserved for public and civic use.

The same coat of arms is used by one of the leading schools of the nation and the region, the Raffles Institution. This – originally the Singapore Institution - was founded by Stamford Raffles himself in 1823 – almost fifty years before Trinity began. Its alumni include two Prime Ministers and three Presidents of Singapore (that’s half or more of the total of each so far). During our tour of Malaysia and Singapore in July, Director of Music Michael Leighton-Jones and the Choir of Trinity College were able to conduct a workshop there. Speaking to the audience to acknowledge their welcome, I had to acknowledge that it was fairly rare to find Trinity conceding seniority in age and tradition to another educational institution in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Trinity Choir and our hosts’ own Raffles Voices each performed for an audience of students (members of choirs from different local schools), and then sang two pieces together, finishing with the beautiful “Shaker Allegro” (“Tis the Gift to be Simple”). The Raffles students were impressive and enthusiastic in their own repertoire of western and local pieces.

Stamford Raffles’ legacy persists in various ways – and each of these reflects in some way the interesting and vigorously hybrid character of Singaporean society. As at Trinity, traditions of educational breadth and excellence are certainly important among them. So too the capacity of Anglicanism to take root and take shape in different settings is evident in Singapore.

11.7.07

Singapore Diary (I): With the Academy of Principals

On July 5th I addressed a gathering of the Academy of Principals of Singapore, a peak body and professional development organization covering all Singapore schools. What follows is a precis of my remarks.

There are many differences between school and University education, and not all are to do with curriculum or level of achievement. Regimentation must give way to a kind of freedom or space, a benign “educational vacuum” as it were, which can draw out the potential of students to fill it.

Yet it is not sufficient to provide that absence of imposed order. Students must also be given a rich set of resources, experiences and choices, the wherewithal to construct their own set of skills, interests and values. Autonomy and capacity for critical thinking are only as useful or as adequate as the context in which they are formed.

Remarkably, while there are some University programs where great emphasis is placed on an aesthetically-rich physical environment, the provision of cultural activities, sporting and social opportunities and more besides, others have none of these. The role of a University in inculcating values and pursuing a particular ethical mission is also entirely variable.

Perhaps this variation is an unavoidable element of the Higher Education reality, but there is a real tension between some versions of it, and what a group like this might actually assume education is – not just the inculcation of knowledge or even of skills, but the formation of creative, capable individuals, through a variety of processes and experiences.

My sense is that educators in countries such as Singapore and Malaysia are quite conscious of the challenge of fostering critical thinking and creativity among their students.

However there is still, both in Australia and in countries like Singapore, a sort of supposed “common sense” which sees the purpose of University education as to equip the student for success in a particular vocation or career, and hence holds that it should focus strongly on a specific set of professional skills.

Yet in a rapidly changing economic world, students need to acquire generic or “soft” skills – those of creative and critical thinking, and of effective communication. Specific vocational training may meanwhile quickly become redundant.

When we think of great Universities, we know we are not simply talking about outstanding lecturers and libraries. These are communities characterized by excellence and diversity, where there is considerable scope and responsibility given to students, but also personal attention and mentoring; where there are inspiring elements of environment as well as of curriculum, and where profound conversations take place in dining halls, as well as or perhaps even more than in lecture halls.

Leadership for that educational world means giving attention to curriculum, but also to more. In the increasingly competitive and differentiated Australian educational environment, the question of whether tertiary education is understood to include the development of the whole person, and preparation for leadership in society, will be one of the crucial tests of a genuinely outstanding educational experience.

9.7.07

Malaysian Diary (II): Nasi Lemak

Some will be aware of my interest – scholarly as well as personal – in food and meals. Naturally, interesting food is one of the benefits of being in a place like Kuala Lumpur, where Malay culture and different varieties of Indian and Chinese influence mingle creatively at table. Those of us travelling here have had remarkable meals both in 5-star restaurants and in a local kedai kopi (coffee house).

Our hotel offered breakfast in various forms, and I tended to choose the local Malay specialty, Nasi Lemak – rich or fatty rice, literally. Nasi Lemak consists of steamed rice prepared with coconut, served with a number of accompaniments: cucumber slices, peanuts, fried ikan bilis (tiny fish, like whitebait or anchovies) and some form of sambal seem to be essential, but there are other options and infinite variations. While Malaysians will often buy their morning Nasi Lemak in paper or leaf packages from vendors, I was curious about how best to balance the tastes at a breakfast buffet table. I asked one local host for advice, and he assured me that it was a matter of individual taste – you construct it as you will.

If this sounds already like a culinary metaphor waiting to happen, well yes – but I was beaten to it by one articulate young Malaysian. Trinity sponsors a public speaking contest annually along with a leading local school, Sri Kuala Lumpur, in Subang Jaya (not far from KL). There, fifteen talented high school students spoke on topics chosen from a list, one of which was “The Sugar and Spice of Life”, and one young woman picked up the Nasi Lemak concept – the combination of contrasting tastes and textures, assembled in just the right way for the particular eater – as a Malaysian contextual version of the topic.

She didn’t win, but the metaphor holds, as does the fact of that speaking competition itself, to illustrate how Trinity is contributing to students from Malaysia and other countries in the region. We often find that they have well-developed skills in quantitative disciplines, but have not had the same opportunities to foster communication, critical thinking and creativity that will be necessary for success in the Australian University system and beyond. I have been struck by how often our hosts have focussed on the importance of what are sometimes also referred to as “soft skills”, and how well they recognize Trinity’s Foundation Studies program as a means to developing them. The TCFS experience amounts to the addition of new flavours or elements to the local Nasi Lemak, complementing the existing ones and making the whole even better.

8.7.07

Malaysian Diary (I): The Legend of P. Ramlee

Even a week in Malaysia is a rich and varied experience. Along with members of the Choir of Trinity College and a number of staff, I have just spent the last few days in and around Kuala Lumpur, where we met with alumni, parents and friends, shared experiences with educators and leaders, and generally soaked up the experience of a vibrant mix of cultures. As Malaysia celebrates 50 years of independence (“Merdeka”) this is an important time for the nation to reflect on its identity.

Trinity has had students from Malaysia since before that time, and in recent years has had many in its Foundation Studies program in particular; but this is the most significant effort the College has made to engage alumni, friends, parents and others connected with us.

The Choir performed two concerts at the new Kuala Lumpur Cultural Centre, and seem to have come close to rock star status with enthused audiences. After singing arrangements of Shakespeare by Ralph Vaughan-Williams, and versions of hits from the Beatles and Burt Bacharach, they presented their own cultural mix of folk songs of various origin, to warm applause. The audiences were quite surprised and thoroughly delighted however, when these two dozen young Australians broke into a jazz-tinged version of Malay folk song “Jong Jong Inai”. Still louder cheers met a medley of popular music from the opus of Malaysian actor, director and composer P. Ramlee. One comic segment in this finale depicted (so I am assured – my Malay is mostly limited to food) three “dowdy bachelors”; three rather younger and more eligible Trinity choristers stepped forward for the roles, to wild acclaim.

P. Ramlee seems always to have the epithet “legendary” when Malaysians mention him. As a kind of mid-twentieth century renaissance man of Malay popular culture, he has elements of what Australians attribute to Barry Humphries, Peter Weir and Slim Dusty, rolled into one. One of Kuala Lumpur’s major streets was renamed after his untimely death, and one half of the huge shopping centre at the base of the massive Petronas Twin Towers next to it is accordingly the “Ramlee Mall”. In at least one store inside, I heard some of the same Ramlee music piped in to accompany the consumer pursuits of a very different Malaysia from the one in which he first became popular. The legacy and legend of P. Ramlee are one complex image of contemporary Malaysia; his music and following link the emerging post-colonial nation of 1957 to the gleaming achievements and aspirations of 2007.

21.6.07

The (Other) Idea of a University

I am beginning this Trinity-related blog by posting a version of a talk also published in TrinityTODAY a few weeks ago...

Debates about the nature of a University usually involve contrasts between the “liberal” model represented by John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University, and a more pragmatic ideal that emphasizes the needs of society and training for the professions.

University education usually needs both (the Growing Esteem strategy for the University of Melbourne establishes a place for each. Its new undergraduate degrees will emphasize “breadth and depth”, including requirements for interdisciplinary study, while professional and research degrees, geared solely to graduates, will serve for vocational outcomes).

Yet an alternative pair of “ideas” of the University might be suggested. In Newman’s era, there were two quite different aspects of the University. One was the experience of “going up” to Oxford or Cambridge, living as a member of a College and reading particular subjects. The other was examination and attainment of a degree, which not all students sought or were even eligible for. This measure of accomplishment assumed, but did not replace, the fundamental experience of being a part of the University and its life.

When Newman asked the question “What is a University”, he emphasized community rather than curriculum; the University is “the assemblage of strangers from all parts in one spot”. Australian Universities, however, have tended to assume the reverse, thinking of the University as defined by examinations more than experience, by curriculum more than community. Educational achievement, and University degrees in particular, are supposed to reflect the examination of knowledge or skill, but say little about the particular experience that might have led there. The degree itself has become a supposed guarantee of standards, a mechanism that promises the supposed parity resulting from widely (or even wildly) different experiences, rather than symbol of one held in common.

One reason for this separation of examination from experience in Australia has been geographical isolation. We have been particularly adept at finding ways to deliver information across great distances, long before the internet ushered “distance learning” or “flexible delivery” into the vocabularies of educators. The need to organize and recognize such forms of teaching and learning added to the distinction between experience and examination Australians inherited from the English tradition.

Another distinctive Australian factor is the unevenness of Collegiate or community life. Since the forms of common life that distinguished Colleges once seemed necessarily religious, they provided a means for the “sandstone” Universities to assert their essential secularity, while dealing with religion in a “co-curricular” fashion. The cost of this approach was the marginalization of community life and the emphasis on experience that Newman and the other great figures of nineteenth-century University theorizing, such as Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Eliot, took for granted.

For Australians, University education thus became the inculcation and examination of a body of knowledge, not the experience of being a community of learners. To an extent that would not so readily have been countenanced in the UK, the USA or Europe, University education in Australia came to be seen as focussed on the lecture hall alone and on the absorption of a canon of knowledge, rather than also on the dining hall and the exchange of views across disciplines and perspectives.

Recent developments in Australian Higher Education have underlined the problem. I myself went through undergraduate education, about twenty-five years ago, without the benefit of a Collegiate experience. I did have access to community life through an active Student Guild, and I was also in the Honours program of a relatively small department where students knew one another, and the most senior academics as well. Now, increases in class sizes on the one hand, and the gratuitous VSU agenda on the other, have threatened the broader forms of community life as well as the narrower academic collegiality necessary to the formation of would-be scholars.

American poet and teacher John Ciardi said that “a University is what a College becomes when the faculty loses interest in the students”. In the American context these words have a slightly different meaning, but there is a message for us here too. A University that does not understand what educational community provides has lost more than just an interest in students. Colleges may yet be part of the answer.