Dear Ambassadors and Respected Representatives of UW-Madison and Education – A Year in Review

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Over a year ago I wrote an open letter to several faculty members of the University of Wisconsin – Madison. In the letter I voiced my concerns over the broken admissions process and broken academic protocols within the school and within other universities. I also discussed the importance of building a network and more importantly, maintaining the health of that network.

Well, this past weekend I attended my younger brother’s graduation at UW-Madison and I couldn’t help but think about how broken the system still is.

This is another open letter to the faculty members of UW-Madison.

(Before reading this letter, please note that I will be making this letter publicly available on my blog. Also, kindly take note of the recipients).
To: Chancellor Carolyn Martin –
To: Provost Paul M. DeLuca, Jr. –
To: Director of Admissions, Steve Amundson –
To: Dean of Students, Lori Berquam –
To: Vice Chancellor for Administration, Darrell Bazzell –
To: Vice Chancellor for University Relations, Vince Sweeney –
CC: Executive Director, Youth Speaks –

Dear Ambassadors and Respected Representatives of UW-Madison and Education,

It’s been over a year since my first letter to some of you regarding my concerns over the current admissions process, concerns over the current state of affairs within various academic departments, and concerns with the overall reverence (or lack there of) for the alumni network. This past weekend, I sat in the Kohl center watching my brother and his peers graduate in the same exact 2:30 pm “Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the School of Business and College of Engineering” ceremony I did two years ago. In attendance from my family was, in addition to myself, my parents, grandparents and sister. Simply being back in Madison and sitting in the Kohl center brought back all of the feelings I had when I was attending school. A sense of pride, distinction, loyalty, success, and belonging. All of these feelings came back full circle, and then I watched James Kass’s charge to the graduates and his words hit me like a ton of bricks.

In his closing remarks, he said:

“So I’m going to ask you to do something starting next week after you revel in this weekend celebrating all that you’ve done and all that you are. And when you wake up next week, always and forever celebrating all that you are and all that you’ve done, I want you to ask yourself if you’re satisfied. And I don’t care where you come down on the political spectrum, even if you passionately disagree with everything I believe in. I just want to know if you’re satisfied, and if you’re not, what it is you’re going to do about it, because the system has been designed perfectly to achieve the results it achieves.”

Almost a week later, I’m still asking this question, “am I satisfied?” And the answer is most certainly and emphatically “NO.”

I’m not satisfied because over a year ago I wrote some of you a letter voicing my concerns for your methods and system. How the university showed either a lack of interest, lack of means, or incompetency when evaluating and rejecting a potential UW candidate, my younger sister (and probably others). A person that would have most certainly strengthened the UW network and its legacies, which was a theme that was addressed in one of the speeches during the commencement ceremony (so much so that the alumni present in the ceremony were asked to stand among the crowd, I among those). Well, a year later I can report that my sister, a could-have been future UW-Alumni, has just finished her first year at Penn State with a 3.8 GPA making dean’s list both semesters. In addition, she was 1 of about 30 freshmen selected among an application pool of about 250 for the nursing program. Although I’m proud of my sister, I’m disappointed with UW because she could have been an asset and member of the badger network in years to come. Perhaps if the system hadn’t been “designed perfectly to achieve the results it achieves” she would have been accepted to UW and could have been sitting next to me in the Kohl center as a badger, your peer and ambassador, and not as an outsider. So I ask, what have you changed since last year? What steps have you taken to improve?

I’m not satisfied because over a year ago I voiced my concerns about a University that is trying “to compete in a rapidly changing world using obsolete methods and practices.” As this world becomes more complex, it will be less relevant for a student to earn a 4 year degree and some are already beginning to question its purpose. In addition, as technology becomes more advanced, it will become even easier to obtain the same level of education for a fraction of the cost. And with a fragile economy, unpredictable global markets, and diminishing job openings, what does the University do? It raises tuition for students and claims that it will benefit everyone. I ask how? How could this possibly benefit everyone or anyone? By increasing tuition for students and families, who are already struggling under current circumstances, we are supporting a system that was designed for a 9-5 industrial revolution. How can the University (or all universities for that matter) possibly expect to maintain its clout among other academic institutions when the best students either can’t afford tuition or aren’t accepted in the first place? Furthermore, why do you use broken metrics to evaluate these candidates? Metrics that look at grades from standardized tests (tests that might not be conducive to some of the brightest and most creative minds), metrics that look at grades from high school systems that were also designed for the 19th century, or worst off, metrics that do matter but are greatly overlooked – like leadership, entrepreneurship. Every aspect of our world is changing, some quicker than others, and if the academic institutions can’t adapt at least at a “satisfactory” speed, then “satisfaction” will be the least of our concerns because at that moment, we will be concerned most with survival as a society and as individuals.

At the end of the day, I respectfully ask that you take the same advice that was delivered to your students at their commencement ceremony. Like James, I’m here “to tell you that I’m not satisfied, but that I am one of many trying to do my work, knowing that it’s in your hands now and hoping that you’re willing to do yours.”

Please don’t be complacent. Please don’t raise tuition because it’s the only way. Please don’t reject exceptional students because they don’t fit your admissions template. Please don’t support a broken system.

But most of all, please challenge the status quo among other academic institutions because tomorrow is very different from today, and if you do this, you will secure a bright future for our university, its legacy, and indirectly, our society.

My Very Best Regards,

Dan Reich

Class of 2008′

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