Bowling Green State University President Sidney Ribeau has been a breath of fresh air in the broader northwest Ohio academic community for five years now, and time does not diminish the freshness of his approach.
First it was to create a premier learning community at the university, a place where even secretaries and janitors contributed to student growth.
Now he is challenging faculty, staff, and students to create a “principled community,” one in which youngsters take themselves and their studies seriously, and one in which they not only help others as generously as they have been helped, but where they also do the hard work of making significant political change happen. It could be as simple as going to vote, or as complex as finding an area of political engagement.
Dr. Ribeau's refreshing vision comes at a time when universities are being called upon to better and more relevantly serve society as well as be a force and a resource in their respective communities.
The key to all this is developing an activism hitherto unseen in most academic ivory towers and assuming a leadership role in identifying problems and framing solutions.
It's serious business, which is why Mr. Ribeau isn't interested in coddling the college party set. Enrollment is a major concern in higher education these days, but no more so than higher education itself. Students who aren't serious, he says, or who look at the college experience as a four- or five-year party, shouldn't waste the BGSU community's time, or their own, by enrolling there.
The country, and Ohio, need more stand-up adults like the BGSU president to firmly guide young people along the path toward adulthood. A young adult who would rather nurse a hangover than go to class has a lot to learn about the real world.
Every college and university in Ohio should similarly commit itself to creating “principled communities,” if for no other reason than to show young people that, with a little caring and a little action, such goals need not be elusive.