North Easton, Mass.
Profs. Sandra McAlister and Robert Rosenthal find the same problem in dealing with students as little Stonehill College -- student conservatism. As dean of freshmen and a biology professor, Dr. McAlister finds that students come to her locked into traditional patterns. Males, for instance, never consider the wide range of career openings in the field of medical technology, while the females never consider raising their sights to such careers as dentistry.
So Dean McAlister works closely with other faculty members in a "consciousness raising" operation for both men and women students, aimed at "trying to get sexuality out of the career area."
Overall, she considers Stonehill students "a bit sheltered" and says that "most of the faculty find it their duty to at least raise issues, though not to favor one issue over another."
Associate academic dean Paul Gastonguay, another biology professor, explains that one successful way of getting students to deal directly with issues is Stonehill's expanding internship program. Student interns who spend a semester (with full credit) out in the working world return with "their life style drastically changed, dressing well and getting up at 7 in the morning," he reports.
There is general faculty agreement that students worried about their job prospects tend to concentrate in their major fields and ignore courses in other areas. So, Dean Gastonguay says, "we thrust them toward the liberal arts, we suggest a broad spectrum of courses."
The business majors in Robert Rosenthal's labor economics class paid close attention and responded quickly when asked questions -- and are expected to do the same in their arts classes.
The bearded young professor filled the blackboard with figures and charts as he explained how both employers and employees canm benefit when a nonunionized company starts to pay union wages. Then he introduced examples to show how different conclusions can follow from the same basic figures -- because changing the method of measuring changes the results.
He looked at the factors affecting wage increases and concluded that despite lack of clear statistical evidence, unionization appears to be a relatively minor factor, and in some ways can depress wages in an industry overall.
Professor Rosenthal explained to me after teh class that "one of the biggest challenges for me is the conservatism of the student." He finds them coming to Stonehill convinced that unions are the cause of many of society's problems -- and so naturally finds himself providing an alternative viewpoint for them, talking a good deal about the need for "redistribution of income."
Thomas Clarke, head of the religious studies department, also believes strongly in challenging his student's preconceptions.
Professor Clarke points out how careful and rigorously honest a teacher needs to be in presenting alternative perspectives. He shows students the wrongs that need righting in such areas as the nuclear power industry and the milk industry. Then he tells them the price of protesting against the system, because "I don't want them coming back to me in 20 years and saying I didn't tell them they would get their heads kicked in."