.. with mayonaise, please.

US universities are funny. At least, US university naming is funny from a European standpoint. Or well. I think it’s funny. Think of that what you will.

Much of the conversation over the last few days has been directed at grad school programs. What programs are connected to which organizations, which career paths are easily attainable with certain degrees, which specialization would be most valuable and would allow most access.

I did some reading and burst out laughing when I pulled up a sub-site for Carnegie Mellon University. Apparently it is possible to study at Heinz College. Later on, I looked at for iSchools. I am confused. Seeing as that the Heinz College does not, in fact, offer a Master’s degree in advanced tomato assessment or PhDs on the sociocultural implications of preferring chunky sauces over organic unsweetened ones and that the iSchools teach more than professional degrees in aluminum block-cutting and Comparative Steve-Job-ism, the naming of said schools obviously does not reflect the content of the programs.

Why name a school after someone who does not exemplify the intellectual values of the school? Bluntly said, a main reason is university financing. The relationship between American universities and their alumni and sponsors is radically different thank what the old world is used to. Let’s generalize my experience a bit. I do not feel gratitude to the university I studied at. I would not refer to it as my Alma Mater, because it does not feel like I was nurtured at anyone’s loving bosom while I was there. If anything, my education was an indifferent wolf’s teat that I suckled at while risking claw and teeth marks due to the bureaucratic inclinations and lacking communication skills of the academic wolf pack.

Since this distinct lack of emotional connection exists at many (state sponsored!) universities in my part of Europe, universities do not generally receive spectacular financial donations from their alumni. Hence, no naming stuff after wealthy benefactors (to ensure more donations) either. Universities remain free (or are limited to, if that’s how you’d like to see it) naming their buildings after old thinkers.

I’m curious to see if university naming policy in Europe will shape itself after the American model over time. We’ve already adopted the Ba-Ma system over the German one. Will we see extreme quality differences as more progressive universities start working their alumni harder for financial gain? Britain already does. Universities ignoring the track-based education system in preference of individualized admission barriers? I’m sure we have them somewhere. Perhaps soon we’ll have the Benz-campus and the Shell-schools teaching us philosophy and medicine.

Maybe we can have a McUniversity drive-through M.Ed. program somewhere, too.


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