December 8, 2023 | Rome, Italy

If I ran the U

By |2018-03-21T19:47:38+01:00December 28th, 2015|"Notebook"|
When asking a Lorax, be ready for more acts.

ith national debate raging over university tuition costs, campus security and freedom of speech issues, Dr. Seuss weighs in with a new version of “If I Ran the Zoo.”

If I ran the U

Getting in is where I would start,

By making applications much more like art

While essays and scores prove you can write

There are better ways to show you are bright!

I’d ask for a portfolio that shows what you do,

Your writing, your painting and lab reports too.

Write them by hand, send only a few

No Common App when I run the U!

College, I know, costs really a lot,

And it can divide have and have nots.

To help with tuition and create campus unity

All students will work within the community.

Working together will build great strong bonds

With classmates and teachers, staff and beyond.

It might seem bothersome but you will learn,

Education is a luxury that indeed, you must earn.

You can rake, you can mend, you can catalogue too,

You can teach, you can file, it’s all up to you!

Another job one might choose to do

Is waiting your table every Thursday at noon.

You see, I will teach you about dining with strangers

With sit-down luncheons with chatter that ranges

From serious to silly; the topic doesn’t matter,

You’ll learn to converse with even the Mad-hatter.

Mealtime discourse is not really trivial

Plato! Last Supper! Eliza Doolittle!

Social change takes place at the table!

College is awkward, don’t we all know,

With Facebook and Yik-Yak and dreaded FOMO.

It may be nice if friends feel familiar

From your class, your race or your gender.

When I run the U, I’ll require groups to mix-up,

Diversity will be action, not just a concept.

Instead of pro-teams and new student centers,

Alumni will fund advisors and mentors.

Donors who want to make names for themselves,

Will be asked for gifts that really can help.

Teaching and tenure, tuition for the needy

Maintenance for structures before they get seedy.

We’re less keen on cash to build new facilities,

Than on tools to build new abilities.

Foucault, deconstruction, Derrida and stuff

Is all well and good but it’s not enough.

University’s not just theory, it’s also real life.

War, and love, domestic strife.

Pythagoras, Balzac and even Thoreau,

Wrestled with problems that you and I know.

U will teach you tools for your future,

Science, history, music or literature.

They’ll help you live a life that is better,

And bring you joys you’ll have forever.

Many you read are white, male and dead.

But U will make sure you know what they said.

You may not agree, and they might be outdated,

But there’s little to gain if they are negated.

Critical thinking means seeing all angles,

Hammering out differences and dialectical tangles.

Controlling the past is a tyrant’s favorite tool,

Comprehension leads resistance; you’ll learn at my school.

A degree brings a salary, that often is high,

But you need more than bread to get by.

Education provides a life well-examined,

Which is handy when things don’t go as you planned ’em.

Depression! Crises! Economic and mental,

Life is anything but uneventful.

The skills you gain at U are multiple,

Literary, critical and numerical.

No matter what life dishes out to you,

You’ll be ready for anything, when I run the U.

Madeleine Johnson has written her "Notebook" column for more than a decade. She lived in Italy for almost 30 years, mostly in Milan, before returning to the U.S. in 2017. Her work has been published in the "Financial Times" and "New York Post."