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1950ish? Hardly

Posted by Howard Denson on April 25, 2018 at 6:15 PM


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By HOWARD DENSON

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[EDITOR'S NOTE: A local tempest in Mr. Coffee Pot occurred when the outgoing president carelessly said that one of the campuses was like something out of the 1950s when she arrived four years earlier. A former campus president resented the assessment, and this writer gave a faculty perspective.]

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I was a charter member of the North Campus faculty when the campus opened in 1970 and taught there until the end of 2007. When new-comers refer to the campus as something out of the 1950s, I do have to take exception.

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Originally, we were the science and computer campus. If you took physics, you trucked out to North Campus. If you were studying DOS, COBOL, etc., again you did it at North. By and by, the various administrations peeled off programs and, after a decade or so, returned some of them to North.

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When I took an adult enrichment course on the $12,000 IBM Displaywriter (with an 8-inch disk), I fell in love with this new way of processing words. As cheaper units (Apples at first and then IBMs later) became available, I required (not recommended, but required) my students to write their papers on word processing programs. When someone complained, I said, "This is how writing will be done in the 21st Century."

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Our North Campus lab (called Learning Center and other names as fads came and went) featured PLATO lessons, a Cadillac-program for courses ranging from economics to chemistry, to English grammar. These lessons replaced the embarrassing and time-consuming trips to the board as students did exercises on subject-verb agreement, etc.

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Other campuses simply were not using such advances, sometimes arguing, "Good grammar will not make you a great writer," while ignoring that bad grammar will not make you even a good writer.

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In certain classrooms, especially in the humanities, we were able to use a variety of aids as we perhaps compared the various statues of David done by Donatello, Verrocchio, Michelangelo, and Bernini. In the 1950s, you would have to hope the textbook had photos of each or you would have to walk two or three books around the room for the students to notice the similarities and differences. Each student got about five seconds to check out a picture.

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For a couple of years, a South Campus natural science instructor came to North to use the room that could broadcast to and interact with students at a downtown location.

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Certain classes at North could be broadcast to students up in Nassau County.

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These were expensive, and, while administrations are adept in pushing this or that fad, they are even more proficient in canceling fads that seemingly cost too much money.

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I could go on, but each campus has its own virtues and its own special problems.

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The edifice complex is a big institutional problem, because any college loves an excuse to erect new buildings. At one time, they wanted a separate building for a library at North, but one fad caused them to discard all of their books in favor of electronics. Bye-bye for any justification for a new building. There was a mention of building an allied health building to bring them all together. As it is, the programs are fewer than 50 to 100 feet from each other today.

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When enrollment is stagnant or declining, we do not need new buildings. When more classes are taken online, we do not need new buildings.

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The building craze kicked in back in the 1950s and 1960s when the system was hitting its stride. To keep building is so, well, 1950ish.

Categories: The Human Comedy or Tragedy

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