Coming of Age in New Jersey: College and American Culture

By Michael Moffatt | Go to book overview
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TWO / "What College is REALLY Like"

My first, most vivid impression from the dorms was how different college looked from the point of view of the undergraduates. The students' Rutgers was obviously not the same institution the professors and other campus authorities thought they knew. The college was a very complicated place, made more complicated by its inclusion in a bigger and even more confusing university. Very few administrators understood all of it--even its formal organization--let alone how it actually worked. Most campus adults did not even try; they simply did their best to grasp those small parts of the college and the university that they needed to understand. The students did the same. And the undergraduates and the professors--and the janitors and the buildings and grounds men and the campus police and the campus bus drivers and the secretaries and the graduate students and the librarians and the deans and the administrators and the public relations staff and the president-- were all in contact with very different bits of institutional Rutgers.1

Thus, to highlight only those differences I knew best, the students had no idea of most of what the professors spent their time doing and thinking about: research, publication, and department politics. Student friends in the dorms who knew I was a faculty member were surprised to discover that I had written a book, or even that I had my Ph.D. Two sophomore friends once admitted to me that they had always privately thought that "tenure" meant a faculty member had been around for "ten years." Most students were not sure of the relation between the two most immediate authorities in their lives, the dean of students and the dean of Rutgers College. And very few of them could name any of the higher-level university officials between these two deans at the bottom of the administration and the president of Rutgers University at the top.

Most Rutgers professors, on the other hand, would not have known how to do what the students had to accomplish successfully every semester--how to balance college and major requirements against the time and space demands of Rutgers classrooms, how to get to their classes on

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