Friday, April 11, 2008

The end of Founders College at Berry Hill, Pt. II

Reading though the many comments to my last blog post, I see that I have brought out the finest people (albeit all operating under the cloak of anonymity, save for Ed and me).

I have no problem with people speaking freely about the issue at bar here, provided that they remain objective. That said, bleating "J'Accuse . . ." though anonymous comments smacks me as a bit much.

But since we do have the finest people visiting here and at least one of them thinks that I should feel guilty because I supported the school and thus some may have acted based upon my support, let me say that I am in no way burdened. I know all the people who acted upon my advice. We've talked, and believe me, they're cool about it. Similar to me, they liked what they initially saw in the college and they chose accordingly.

For example, when I heard Gary Hull speak at an open house about Founders' educational philosophy, I was struck with his command over the issue, as was everyone else in attendance. Everything that he said and every question he answered reflected the mind of someone with an expert's knowledge of both Objectivism and the philosophy of education. In contrast with the claims of some, there certainly was nothing to indicate that Founders was a half-baked endeavor.

"Well, you obviously don't know as much about education as we do," I imagine my critics will say. Perhaps, but I've read your commentary too. You didn't persuade me; he did.

* * *

At the same time, later on, I did serve a week at Founders as an unpaid intern with nontransferable college credit (heh) and I was able to see what I consider to be a telling side of the operation. I was still hopeful at the time, but I was not impressed.

I'll share with you an example: I keep on mentioning how brilliant Gary Hull's speech was, but I didn't take notes, because I never would have imagined that would have been the end of it. It was. You know how I can say this? Because I had to do things like explain to the marketing director non-trivial points like "Founders is not classical education" or "Founders is not great books." The intern. With non-transferable college credit. And Gary Hull was simply nowhere to be found.

In my view, Founders needed Gary Hull on site to communicate Founders' differentiating message in the way the chief visionary of a start-up must. Let there be no doubt about it: this was his baby. The project needed a person with his level of expertise and acumen to be able to broadcast the message with the precision demanded. Without that guiding force (and without some sort of written manifesto that I alluded in my initial post) I think the marketing (and the college) suffered accordingly.

I confronted Tamara Fuller with Hull's inexplicable absence at the opening celebration. I asked her point blank why Hull withdrew from the project. She looked me dead in the eye and said "I wish I knew. Why don't you go ask him."

Perhaps I should have asked him. On a slim-to-none chance, as outside supporter, that could have been one of the interventions the project needed to help get it back on its legs. I can't say, but coupled with Fuller's well-documented management style that did not engender either initiative or confidence in her subordinates, I think it was part of the caustic mix that killed the concept and I'll sign my name to it.

The faculty was up to the task and they did the job asked of them. The few students they had were any professor's dream. The location was exquisite. All I can say now is that I feel deeply for all who have suffered as a result of this meltdown.