Well, the Daily has shown exactly what an interesting institution it is, publishing today a viewpoint I’ve penned about why I think the Perlman Honors Commons should be formally opened to all students. I have to say that my pessimism about the paper has waned slightly; they’ve posted their bylaws, and proven themselves more mature than a lifetime ban of myself. (Although somehow failing to write anything about their former writer David Enders’ recent visit back from Iraq) Both good first steps, however small. Maybe next week they’ll co-sponsor a panel discussion on the coverage of campus crime with the Black Student Union. As a former crime beat reporter, I’d be more than happy to participate.

Anyway, what about this honors lounge anyway?

“Elitism is an interesting idea to be concerned with at the University. After all, the competitive admissions process combined with high tuition inherently create an elite institution. What matters, of course, is exactly how that elite is chosen. This is in part what the admissions lawsuits have been about: which criteria can and should be weighed so that the University can achieve en elite with justice. There exists across campus a variety of resources for students who seek them out – from offices geared toward specific communities to programs like the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. These are entirely appropriate, and in fact, needed. However, if a program supported by the University’s general funds overtly excludes students from their resources, we must examine their selection criteria closely.

Few lounges, offices or classrooms on campus are overtly advertised exclusively for the use of only some students. Certainly very few are situated in a highly visible location at the center of campus, passed by thousands of students every day. In fact, I can only think of one like that: the Perlman Honors Commons.

Under these admissions criteria, which admitted this years’ honors freshmen, the honors lounge institutionalizes these biases and privileges and tells the student body: Only some have the right to be here, and other’s don’t. Never mind the criteria are little more than a proxy for wealth, only loosely related to intellectual curiosity or intelligence. Never mind that honors is partly self-selecting: Many people have other interests or jobs or families that keep them from having the liberty or desire to write a thesis or take more rigorous classes. Never mind that all students are at least initially charged the same tuition, live in the same city, take almost all of the same classes. If honors had its way, the commons would be for honors students only. Period.

In four years, after the composition of the honors program has (hopefully) changed to reflect a more comprehensive admissions process, the honors lounge would still be wrong. Having an office is one thing, deliberately closing a large space at the center of campus to the majority of students, perhaps because they don’t have the time, money or interest to participate in honors is unacceptable. To the extent the honors program reflects the pragmatic observation that there are students who would like to experience a more demanding undergraduate experience and actively seeks and admits students on the basis of their intellectual seriousness and curiosity, I believe it is an acceptable institution. It’s unacceptable, however, if it means opportunities and spaces automatically closed to the general student body. This is why you’ll never see me studying in the Perlman Honors Commons until the day it is formally opened to all students. I encourage my fellow honors students to join me.”

And to nip this one at the bud: every student is welcome in the Residence Hall’s “Multicultural” lounges. Hence the “multi” part.

Author: Rob