What prompts universities — places whose very purpose is to be engines of innovation — to treat their most creative and enterprising students this way? Part of it is a monomaniacal focus on “safety” and lack of “disruption.” But another factor that can’t be overlooked is the extraordinary amount of administrative bloat that today’s colleges suffer from — and that students pay for! Unbelievably, administrators actually outnumber faculty on our nation’s campuses. And bureaucracies are not known for producing innovation — or for rewarding it when it happens.
At UCF, Berkeley, and at schools across the nation, those in charge of quashing innovative computer programs and think-outside-the-box dorm rooms almost certainly outnumber those who see it as their business to ensure that creative thinking is rewarded. Today’s students aren’t just unlearning liberty, they’re unlearning creativity itself! No wonder people like PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel are encouraging people to skip college altogether. It’s time that colleges once again prioritize freedom and ingenuity above a predictable, inoffensive, but stultifying order.
Robert Shibley is the senior vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).