U’s Morris campus provides a top liberal arts education, without the private school price tag

Hopefully, those lobbying for the University during this legislative session will keep all campuses in mind.

On Jan. 21, University President Bob Bruininks sent an open e-mail to the University’s Morris campus assuring his “colleagues” that he did not intend to close a campus of the University.

I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure that the students on the Twin Cities campus did not receive a similar e-mail. Thursday, The Minnesota Daily published an opinion entitled, “University of Minnesota – deception campus” by Bobak Ha’eri. Ha’eri blasted Morris’ marketing techniques and criticized their use of rankings published by U.S. News & World Report that rank the Morris campus as the United States’ third best public liberal arts college. It seems as though the Morris campus has been given the opportunity to defend itself through outlining its goals as an institution. As a student in the “Multi-U” program from the Morris campus currently studying at the Twin Cities campus, I would like to make a few points in defense of Morris.

First, I should address Ha’eri’s comments on Morris. Ha’eri noted in his column that U.S. News & World Report ranks approximately 20 public liberal arts colleges, of which the Morris campus is currently No. 3. The Morris campus has been ranked No. 1 within the past few years. It has only been a series of recent cuts (that the entire University has seen) that has dropped Morris’ rankings in comparison with other similar schools.

The Morris campus can’t choose who it is rated against. And to be fair, it simply isn’t logical to rank Morris against schools that don’t have any similarities. We’re all adults, we should know by now that the proverbial apples and oranges don’t mix.

Where the Twin Cities campus has graduate students, the Morris campus focuses solely on undergraduate education. Where the Twin Cities’ facilities are often based around research, most of the facilities you’ll find at Morris are again for the purpose of undergraduate education. Furthermore, private liberal arts colleges like those that Ha’eri mentions in his article are able to charge exorbitant amounts for tuition, Morris, in comparison, is a steal. Pointing out that the Morris campus doesn’t make the cut against Ivy League schools (or even the Amherst College and Carleton College that Ha’eri mentions specifically) is like complaining that your Honda Civic didn’t make the rankings that the Porsche Boxster did this year in Car and Driver magazine.

Given the number of cuts that the University system has received over the last several years, it is very impressive that our Morris campus has faired so well in the rankings. It is true, as Ha’eri states, that many people haven’t heard of Morris, and the Morris campus uses the ranking against other similar institutions in order to demonstrate to the public that it’s a legitimate institution.

It is impossible, as Ha’eri states, to simply tell people that it has a “good reputation.” Rankings make that statement legitimate. Find a school that doesn’t use some sort of rankings to make a point.

Just this week Bruininks used the Twin Cities campus’ rankings as a measure of success. The fact of the matter is, the quality of education that an undergraduate receives at the University’s Morris campus should be something those at our other campuses should strive to achieve.

In reference to Bruininks’ recent letter to those at the Morris campus, it seems that pressure from our state’s governor to expand the Rochester campus is again forcing the University to defend its current system. Morris is not a broken campus. Students at the Morris campus graduate with the highest satisfaction rates in our system, yes, higher than the Twin Cities campus. Maybe there is a reason for that.

Before this upcoming legislative session, it might be a good idea for those who will be lobbying in favor of the University to take a look at all of the campuses the University has.

Each campus is different in its nature, and each has different goals in mind. If we understand who we are, we will be able to make more effective arguments in defending our role in this state to a government that seems to lack this same fundamental understanding.

Sam Redman is a University Morris campus student currently taking classes at the Twin Cities campus. Please send comments to [email protected]