Years ago, Donna Shalala stated as a goal of her tenure – which included my undergraduate years – to bring UM into the top tier. Our rankings did increase for a time, peaking at 38 in 2011-12 but falling since to 53. While U.S. News & World Report methods may be questionable, I think this is a good impetus to step back and rethink UM’s trajectory.
These past decades, UM has made notable educational strides, especially in my own College of Arts and Sciences, adding a much-needed Classics Department. However, there has been too much emphasis on flashy new edifices and embellishments to student life. Administrative posts and costs have multiplied, while professor salaries are often markedly low for a school of our standing. And various ‘Canes football scandals of the twenty-first century suggest that unfortunately, we may not value dignity and integrity at UM as much as we ought.
I enjoyed life at UM and cherish the many lessons and memories from that time. But I’ve noticed many ‘Canes tend to consider the UM experience for the immediate sensations it offers rather than its value for the future, above and beyond “that piece of paper.” The skyrocketing tuition that is the price of the school’s ongoing facelift saddles many ‘Canes with massive debt at the start of adult life. Should UM be proud of this development?
I’d like to challenge current and future UM students: Go out partying just a little less often. “Getting involved” is worthwhile, but don’t neglect introspection at a young age. Take some interesting classes beyond what your degree requires. Take advantage of the Florida sunshine to read a few non-required books outdoors. Get any paid job, even several hours a week, and teach yourself budgeting skills. Work to optimize the return of your college investment, and you will be surprised at what you never knew UM and South Florida had to discover.
More to the point, you’ll make yourself a more interesting and complete person, and UM that much more interesting and complete. Rankings will come if and when they’re supposed to.
Nicholas Moses, B.A. History, 2007, writes from Paris, France.