UCSB: What Is a University?

A former roommate’s note sent me back to my UCSB La Cumbre yearbook, where I rediscovered my published essay next to a photograph of me at 20 years old.

Would these words resonate in 2021?

Ideally the University is an institution of higher learning, a place where students expand their horizons into the realms of discipline and intellectualism. To reach this peak, it requires listening attentively to lectures, cramming books into your mind and getting rid of emotion that might make you identifiable with ordinary people.

The University carries on the American capitalistic tradition of instilling the sense of competition in all its subjects in order that the country reach new highs in technological advancement. But what is all this worth in a world filled with hate, fear and hunger?

In my view, the University is an extremely valuable part of our world, but not in these ways. It is a place where we can learn to understand people, not only the type we identify with or like, but also people we might otherwise condemn.

We study different cultures, political systems and individuals and through this we gain an understanding of the world in its present state. This is the basis for revision–we cannot bring about effective change without understanding what we want to change.

But perhaps the most valuable part of life in the University is the constant contact with people and the opportunity for involvement in a variety of experiences. This is the University–a place where books and classes play a secondary role to people meeting and enjoying each other.

My generation, which came of age during the tumultuous late 1960s, vowed to change the world. How did we do?

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