Few places can boast the level of energy and vigor that The University of Texas has on its campus on a daily basis.
Rarely can you find a presidential library, a 100,000-seat football stadium, a renowned art museum, nationally-ranked programs and departments, and world-changing laboratories—all amidst the hustle and bustle of 50,000 students and 24,000 staff and faculty members who are teaching, researching, and learning about the biggest problems and questions of the day.
This nexus of knowledge, innovation, and creativity took generations of hard work to build, but sadly it is in danger of being destroyed and dismantled within a far shorter time.
Looking back upon my decision to come to the University a few years ago, I can tell you without a doubt that it had nothing to do with UT being a “national research university.” In fact, I think you would be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of high school seniors who know what the Association of American Universities is.
However, there is no doubt in my mind that the reason I chose to attend UT is the energy and vigor that is created because it is a national research university. At UT, students and faculty are engaged in the conversations and debates that are providing solutions to today’s questions and problems.
As a student, I felt empowered by discussing the latest thinking and research with my professors—whether it was on issues of capital punishment and foreign policy or the migration and mating patterns of mosquitoes. When students challenge and participate in the discussion of the current generation’s ideas, they are actively learning the skills necessary to push themselves to the next level. This is how you create and cultivate the next generation’s thinkers.
Ideas that would turn UT into a degree mill or alter its dual mission of research and teaching would relegate students to the sidelines of these important conversations of the day. UT would become a passive place where students are simply fed information that is created elsewhere. The activity, energy, and vigor would soon die.
This is a UT I would not have chosen to attend.
Keshav Rajagopalan graduated from UT in 2010 with a BA in Plan II Honors and a BS in Communication Studies. He is a founding member of the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education and served as student body president in 2008-09.
Photo by Christina Murrey