Dear President Bruininks

The University would not have given me what it has if I had approached it five years later.

The University has given me so much. I came to this institution as a transfer student into General College. I am now a junior in CLA with a minor in religious studies pursuing my bachelor’s degree in psychology. I have been involved with student groups on campus and have had the opportunity to assist with research in the psychology department. I have many friends with similar interests that I feel I will have the rest of my life. Many of these friends share my passion for, and are, more often than not, better at reasoned critical thought.

But this University would not have given me those things had I approached it five years later: my ACT score was not above average, my high school involvement was paltry, my community involvement even more insignificant and my ambitions low. This University was the only school I applied to from a community college, and it has made me a much better person. I fear that will not be the case for future applicants.

We are in a time now when the general public would rather spend their time watching “Grey’s Anatomy” than reading classics like “Huck Finn” or “The Age of Reason.” The voters would rather know the statistics of their favorite football player than their Bill of Rights. My peers are choosing ignorance and apathy over freedom and justice (e.g. choosing video games over protesting atrocities at Guantanamo Bay). And like a virus, the problem is spreading. People no longer truly appreciate the contribution the United States offered this world: democracy and the opportunity to pursue a life better than the one they have.

The University was a place where this pursuit could take place, and to an extent, still is. Unfortunately, the worthy goal of becoming one of the top three research facilities in the world comes at a lofty price: We will be removing the gift of critical thought from so many who wish to pursue it. By becoming a fantastic research facility we are sacrificing a gift to Minnesota that the University has been better equipped to give in the past: a well-informed citizenry.

We will no longer be training a populace of critical consumers of daily information. We will become an ivory tower where a select few may exercise their already developed reasoning abilities. In 2007 the University students now average in the 17th percentile rather than its ’99 standard of students in the 22nd percentile on their ACT scores, how much higher do we go? We have gone from yearly tuition cost of $3794 in 1997 to $7950 and about a thousand dollars in fees, thus removing the less well-educated and the less monetarily fortunate (not entirely under the University’s control, I know). I think the University’s goals are positive, but other goals are more honorable.

At a time when people are so fearful they are willing to “give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety,” critical thought is desperately needed. The citizens of the United States are, in fact, safer than they have ever been (from a peak in 1993, violent crime rates have dropped from about 4.25 million to under 2 million offenses per year, the lowest they have been since the Bureau of Justice Statistics started these measures in 1973). The University has an opportunity to teach tens of thousands of individuals each year how to be more critical and thoughtful citizens, rather than simply rewarding those who already are.

I admit that pitting the University against such a large-scale phenomenon as the intellectual climate of our nation is humbling. But we are a part of it, and this University can provide an opportunity to huge numbers of individuals. As the president of the University, you are supposed to represent the interests of Minnesotans in their educational facility. With people so willing to give the president of the United States more power than any president has previously had, I would prefer an institution that taught citizens rather than aristocrats.

Will Martin is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]