Dr. Lewis H. Drew, retired Dean of Students – Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC), wrote a little book in 2016: Thoughts on the Inherent Connection among Education, Character Development, Leadership and the Formation of Good People.

Earlier, German philosopher, George Wilhelm Hegel, wrote: Education is “the art of making man ethical.” If he was correct in the 19th century, would he be correct today? For me the above citations act as simple grace – in other words….don’t allow the culture rob you of your soul – with hand-picked moral equivalencies. To be any kind of educator, one must stand one’s ground.

Weekly news reports throw untethered challenges, setting the template for educational errors. The sprint begins:

  • Yale professor allows student to skip exams due to shock over presidential-election results, November 9, 2016.
  • Here in Richmond, VA, we see Virginia Commonwealth University students abandoning their studies…to protest the 2016 Presidential election results – dismissing their academic, learning responsibilities – and attempting to massively block I–95….a nearby interstate through the city.
  • A testimony: “When I moved into my office at Darden a woman came around and asked me if I would place a ‘Safe Place’ hanging sign on the door-handle outside my office. ‘Why?’ I inquired. It tells students that if they’re feeling threatened they can find safety in your office, was the reply. ‘I don’t think I’m in a position to offer blanket sanctuary for everyone on campus,’ I replied. Especially, people I don’t know, or have never met. The woman walked away in a huff. I never saw her again”.
  • And this…they KANT be serious! PC students demand white philosophers including Plato and Descartes be dropped from the University of London syllabus. Such seminal figures including Bertrand Russell should be largely dropped from the curriculum simply because they are white. The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)…demanded that examples should be from Africa and Asia.
  • Other headlines: Wayne State University cuts Math – wants “Diversity” Requirements for General Education Curriculum…..The University of Wisconsin-Madison is now requiring all men to take gender identity class to “make sure” they are really men……George Washington University, a 25,000-student private university, located in Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. – eliminated its American-history requirement for undergraduate history majors – making it theoretically possible to graduate from GW with a history degree without ever having had to take a college-level course in U.S. history….

Often an ill-defined integrity means staying with the ship, no matter what, even if it was veering in unscheduled directions that bring disaster of all its loyal passengers. Loyalty to a cause can be impressively touching – like deep friendship – but oh, so perverse – as the above items illuminate.

So what about the enshrined status of Hampden-Sydney College (“Sydney”) after her recent years of reported clumsy leadership struggle? Alumni keep up – occasionally bombarded by the college’s despair with the Longwood University squabble; the apparent old nemesis – drugs and Honor Code violations (joining many Universities and Colleges) among some of her students. In years past, aberrant behaviors are addressed with strong Honor Code discipline, ridding the campus of those who attempted reward by dishonest means; we’ve learned to eschew such academic miseries.

H-SC, nationally ranked, is lead by energetic John Lawrence Stimpert, her 25th president; and M. Peebles Harrison, new Board chairman. Working together, they have geared up for a professional examination, focusing on both Board governance, and Admissions…with a deep degree of seriousness.

Remembering a challenging memorandum written by former H-SC board member, Bill Crutchfield, a good start is to address the decision to remain with single gender education. If the college is to remain single gender, it should aggressively leverage that unique differentiator. First steps need to be clear articulation of how a single-gender education truly benefits a specific sub-set of young men.

Developing a very powerful case for all-male education easily communicated to laypersons, such as potential students and their parents, is paramount. As Crutchfield explained in 2013, On the other hand, if the college cannot develop a strong case for single-gender education that can be communicated to lay persons, we should seriously consider becoming coeducational.

Dean Drew’s little book inspires. He quotes H-SC’s Walter Blair Professor of Latin, the late Dr. Graves H. Thompson: the four years a man spends at college should be like a hill in a plain. As he ascends the hill, he is able more and more to see back over the road that humanity has trod – the great things that have been thought, and said, and done, and believed, and created.

Woody Allen said that 80% of celebrity is showing up; Saying and doing the courageous thing makes it 100%. Both Stimpert and Harrison seem to get that.