Tucked away on a quiet campus on the fringe of busy downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, Meredith College is a women’s college that, for many, has beaten the man-hater stereotype attached to many all-female institutions.
For more than 100 years, women who choose Meredith have been given the tools to develop strength and smarts and graduate without a degree in indoctrination.
Young minds won’t get distorted on this campus, but rather they will be
encouraged to respect differences, explore different viewpoints and find
their own meaning for what they learn.
Classes usually are devoid of overt political messages, but as in many
college classrooms, sometimes they slip off the podium and into students’
notebooks. For example, I’ll never forget a marketing professor who told my class that
everyone who lived on the continent of North America should be called an
American, or the forums post-Sept. 11 that explored, among many other
questions asked by students, why the Arabs hate us.
Such instances were infrequent and never occurred in my English, foreign
language or communications classes, but an opinion every now and then proved
to me the need to explore all viewpoints before making my decisions.
In fairness, most professors would encourage students to challenge what they
hear and read instead of swallowing the lessons whole.
For example, in one politics class, students explore the pros and cons of
political ideologies such as liberalism, Marxism, democracy and others by
writing essays and discussing the philosophies with one another. Most students feel comfortable expressing personal opinions, and even though the student newspaper is funded by the school, President Maureen Hartford has promised not to censor the publication.
Worth exploring, however, is how the college has moved away from what is
known as its “historic statement of purpose.” The school was founded in the late 1800s by Thomas Meredith, a Baptist who was also editor of the Biblical Recorder who wanted to open a school based solely on Christian principles.
The school split from the Southern Baptist convention in the mid-1990s, and in 1997, adopted a less religious mission statement as follows: “Grounded in the liberal arts, the college values freedom and openness in the pursuit of truth and, in keeping with its Christian heritage, seeks to nurture justice and compassion.” The historic statement was challenged a few years ago when students who considered Christian faith important fought the administration to make Campus Crusade for Christ, an evangelical organization, an official college club and to allow meetings on campus.
In the end, the strength of Meredith College is its focus on
relationship-building within a liberal arts curriculum — now fading at some
larger universities. This past fall the college launched a new approach to the liberal arts,
implementing a new general education curriculum that incorporated
cross-disciplinary courses focused on the students learning to think
“critically, quantitatively and creatively” by exploring relationships among
people of different cultures, engaging in civic activities and making
connections within local and global communities.
A staff writer for the Naples Daily News, Christina Holder is herself a 2002 graduate of Meredith College.