Vespasiano

Founders College, R.I.P.?

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Today's Gazette Virginian reports:

Berry Hill Management Change

“The exclusive focus of new management will be on hotel operations rather than the college,” continuted the press release. “Its goal is to develop this historic local treasure to its full potential as a destination hotel, resort and center for important events in the South Boston community.”

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The Berry Hill estate has switched hands quite a few times in the time that I've lived in Virginia. If it weren't for the date on the web page, I'd figure that this was just an old story. I'm not sure exactly what happened here, but the estate has been operating as a hotel for the entire time it was also Founders College. I wouldn't assume that the college is going to cease existing just because the land owner/management has decided to focus exclusively on the resort aspect of the estate's operations. Founders is one of the smaller operations on Berry Hill as far as the number of people in and out. There could always be a new deal between the College and the land owners.

I visited Founders College a month ago and while there are still only a handful of students, the place was very active - a few historical tour groups, hotel guests, resort/spa patrons, so on. Their website still lists the College as accepting applications for next year (2008-2009).

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The Berry Hill estate has switched hands quite a few times in the time that I've lived in Virginia. If it weren't for the date on the web page, I'd figure that this was just an old story. I'm not sure exactly what happened here, but the estate has been operating as a hotel for the entire time it was also Founders College. I wouldn't assume that the college is going to cease existing just because the land owner/management has decided to focus exclusively on the resort aspect of the estate's operations. Founders is one of the smaller operations on Berry Hill as far as the number of people in and out. There could always be a new deal between the College and the land owners.

I visited Founders College a month ago and while there are still only a handful of students, the place was very active - a few historical tour groups, hotel guests, resort/spa patrons, so on. Their website still lists the College as accepting applications for next year (2008-2009).

I think the key paragraph in that news item, relative to your point, is the following:

"On April 3 the lease to Founders College Education ended. On that date the owner of the property, Founders Land Company, assumed direction of management."

The timing of the "take-over" is the kicker: at the very least, it sounds a note of "no confidence" in the current College administration. But, unless Founders Land Company has agreed to a renewal of the College's lease, or has worked out some sort of new arrangement with this or a new College administration, this sounds pretty final to me.

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Nick Provenzo has more on this story over at the Rule of Reason -- here.

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The Berry Hill estate has switched hands quite a few times in the time that I've lived in Virginia. If it weren't for the date on the web page, I'd figure that this was just an old story. I'm not sure exactly what happened here, but the estate has been operating as a hotel for the entire time it was also Founders College. I wouldn't assume that the college is going to cease existing just because the land owner/management has decided to focus exclusively on the resort aspect of the estate's operations. Founders is one of the smaller operations on Berry Hill as far as the number of people in and out. There could always be a new deal between the College and the land owners.

I visited Founders College a month ago and while there are still only a handful of students, the place was very active - a few historical tour groups, hotel guests, resort/spa patrons, so on. Their website still lists the College as accepting applications for next year (2008-2009).

I think the key paragraph in that news item, relative to your point, is the following:

"On April 3 the lease to Founders College Education ended. On that date the owner of the property, Founders Land Company, assumed direction of management."

The timing of the "take-over" is the kicker: at the very least, it sounds a note of "no confidence" in the current College administration. But, unless Founders Land Company has agreed to a renewal of the College's lease, or has worked out some sort of new arrangement with this or a new College administration, this sounds pretty final to me.

I forgot to mention, with respect to the timing issue, that in addition to the April 3 end of Lease and Founders Land Company's assuming direction, the School ended the semester for its remaining five students' the last week of March, almost a month earlier than scheduled (read here).

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That’s sad news, but not surprising at this point.

I think they bit off more than they could chew. They started with all of the amenities, great dorms, exercise facilities, fancy atriums, a pool, and a beautiful scenic view. All of these things are ancillary to teaching. I mean, it was more like a resort than a school. It would have been far better to start small, maybe by offering web courses and slowly building up a reputation and growing that way. This is the way most businesses start. Just offer the essentials, the things that are at the heart of a good education. This would always be the foundation upon which to build. I admire them for taking such a big risk, but I really think they extended themselves too far in the wrong direction.

Think how much easier it would be for student and teacher alike to correspond via the web. Today, with programs like Skype, which are free and offer free two way voice communication, you have a big important component of education. Apparently Skype also provides a white board on which a teacher can provide diagrams, not to mention chat programs, email, etc. They could take students of all ages and just offer a few courses, adding to them as they grow. In fact, it's not too late for them to try this. Maybe I'll take a course myself. :rolleyes:

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This is very sad indeed. And I can't believe that so many people, who should've known better, were as hostile as they were to the idea, from the very beginning.

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And I can't believe that so many people, who should've known better, were as hostile as they were to the idea, from the very beginning.

Leaving aside - for a moment - the *reasons* for various criticisms, it is highly ironic to characterize an end result that is consistent with those criticisms as "should have known better." Who knew better, and who did not? And before the assertion is made, I will note that it was certainly not the critics who *caused* these results.

Personally, I've had two core criticisms of the school, one based on a private assessment that I have not publicly discussed, and one that I have publicly discussed: the fact that those running the school, and its marketing, did not explicitly embrace the only rational philosophy in history, without which they were left with floating generalizations about "being better". *Every* school claims that in some context, it is not a differentiator. Would ARI still exist if it had been titled "The Better Idea Institute"? It would have been a true characterization, and would also have resulted in a dismal failure, because nobody would have known what it really represented. Concepts need names for a reason, and different philosophies have different names for the same reason.

I don't have any doubt that a college explicitly based on Objectivism as a philosophic foundation - with particular subjects taught and integrated in a manner that is *explicitly consistent* with Objectivism to the maximum degree possible by subject matter experts - that is run by competent and honest individuals with excellent business skills - will succeed. Whenever that unknown ideal happens. Certainly a prerequisite will be the kind of courage exhibited by John Allison of BB&T, who isn't afraid to explicitly promote the ideas of Objectivism inside existing universities with millions of dollars to back it up. Nor will such a school need to be a literal country club; ask Marva Collins or Jaime Escalante about *their* priorities in that regard.

It is way too late in the day for half-measures, for the fear of explicitly naming Objectivism as a philosophic foundation. The world is in the middle of a philosophic nuclear war, and one does not respond to brazenly explicit promotion of Pragmatism, Islam, Christianity, communism, socialism, Kantianism, Multiculturalism, Feminism, etc., with a nameless foundation.

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I am beginning to think that philosophers are not good at business.

I disagree, I will be in business for 8 years next month. It is a rational philosophy/Objectivism that guides me in all my choices.

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I am beginning to think that philosophers are not good at business.

I disagree, I will be in business for 8 years next month. It is a rational philosophy/Objectivism that guides me in all my choices.

Are you a professional philosopher Ray?

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And I can't believe that so many people, who should've known better, were as hostile as they were to the idea, from the very beginning.

Leaving aside - for a moment - the *reasons* for various criticisms, it is highly ironic to characterize an end result that is consistent with those criticisms as "should have known better." Who knew better, and who did not? And before the assertion is made, I will note that it was certainly not the critics who *caused* these results.

Personally, I've had two core criticisms of the school, one based on a private assessment that I have not publicly discussed, and one that I have publicly discussed: the fact that those running the school, and its marketing, did not explicitly embrace the only rational philosophy in history, without which they were left with floating generalizations about "being better". *Every* school claims that in some context, it is not a differentiator. Would ARI still exist if it had been titled "The Better Idea Institute"? It would have been a true characterization, and would also have resulted in a dismal failure, because nobody would have known what it really represented. Concepts need names for a reason, and different philosophies have different names for the same reason.

I don't have any doubt that a college explicitly based on Objectivism as a philosophic foundation - with particular subjects taught and integrated in a manner that is *explicitly consistent* with Objectivism to the maximum degree possible by subject matter experts - that is run by competent and honest individuals with excellent business skills - will succeed. Whenever that unknown ideal happens. Certainly a prerequisite will be the kind of courage exhibited by John Allison of BB&T, who isn't afraid to explicitly promote the ideas of Objectivism inside existing universities with millions of dollars to back it up. Nor will such a school need to be a literal country club; ask Marva Collins or Jaime Escalante about *their* priorities in that regard.

It is way too late in the day for half-measures, for the fear of explicitly naming Objectivism as a philosophic foundation. The world is in the middle of a philosophic nuclear war, and one does not respond to brazenly explicit promotion of Pragmatism, Islam, Christianity, communism, socialism, Kantianism, Multiculturalism, Feminism, etc., with a nameless foundation.

Well said, Phil.

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It is way too late in the day for half-measures, for the fear of explicitly naming Objectivism as a philosophic foundation. The world is in the middle of a philosophic nuclear war, and one does not respond to brazenly explicit promotion of Pragmatism, Islam, Christianity, communism, socialism, Kantianism, Multiculturalism, Feminism, etc., with a nameless foundation.

My thoughts exactly, which speak not only to the Founders "experiment" but to most if not all other matters besides.

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I'm sure that the full story of what happened with Founders College will someday be told. But here are some brief comments.

Plans for continuing the college no matter what happened with the relationship to Berry Hill have been discussed. Whether and to what extent those plans will be implemented I cannot say. For my part, I returned to Colorado after completing my course at the end of March. I indicated to the CEO that I would be willing, under certain conditions, to help Founders re-organize over the summer and continue next fall. Whether or not those conditions will be met I cannot say.

I know that the faculty is proud of the education we delivered, and the students indicated being very pleased with it as well. I'm quite sure there is disappointment among everyone with the way things went and the possibility that it will not continue. Personally, I found great value in working with the other faculty and students. It was a rare opportunity, and I would have regretted not pursuing it. It's too bad that factors outside the actual delivery of the education led the College down the path it went. It would be nice if Founders has a future, but, at present, that is out of my hands.

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those running the school, and its marketing, did not explicitly embrace the only rational philosophy in history, without which they were left with floating generalizations about "being better".

But there was no question about whom the school was aimed after. They received plenty of name-recognition in the Objectivist community, and already a freshman class of sorts, even though they appeared out of nowhere just one year prior. I think that by desiring them to be better, the negative publicity killed the idea almost from the start.

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I am beginning to think that philosophers are not good at business.

I disagree, I will be in business for 8 years next month. It is a rational philosophy/Objectivism that guides me in all my choices.

Are you a professional philosopher Ray?

I'm sure Ray has his own response to this question, but here is my answer to the question.

One of my dictionary definitions for philosopher is the following,

The expounder of a theory in a particular area of experience. Ray is making a living doing exactly that, so yes Ray is a professional philosopher.

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But there was no question about whom the school was aimed after.

An assertion contradicted by the facts.

They received plenty of name-recognition in the Objectivist community, [...]

Does this "community" include the thousands of high school seniors who entered the Fountainhead essay contest and might have been interested in attending? The evidence for your assertion is ...?

I think that by desiring them to be better, the negative publicity killed the idea almost from the start.

If this cryptic assertion intends to say that criticism of the school led to its demise, that is - again - an arbitrary assertion. The news reports, and commentary from Nick Provenzo who was certainly not a critic at the start, indicates that the fundamental problem was the management, period.

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Does this "community" include the thousands of high school seniors who entered the Fountainhead essay contest and might have been interested in attending?

There were plenty of mistakes made in advertising, I agree with you. But it is undoubted, from the school's founder attending high Objectivist functions, from support that the school did receive from Objectivists, and in the hiring of prominent Objectivist intellectuals for its professors, that the school had Objectivist youth as an important core in its student body.

The news reports, and commentary from Nick Provenzo who was certainly not a critic at the start, indicates that the fundamental problem was the management, period.

There's been more than one problem, that's for sure. Management certainly was an issue, as well as the marketing department, as per above.

But if the reception hadn't been so hostile, then a freshman class of a hundred or more, instead of less than twenty, would have been possible. We're talking about a difference of a million dollars, which the negative publicity denied to the school, and which would've made a tremendous difference.

People can be skeptical, and even Stephen who was a supporter of the school seems to have had some reservations. But problems can be fixed, management can be ironed out, marketing improved in succeeding years. But you can't start a school with 12 or so students, which undoubtedly resulted from a general sense that "there was something fundamentally wrong" with the school. From the fact that the school would teach absolutely nothing contrary to Objectivism, and would embrace a very strong liberal arts curriculum, there wasn't anything fundamentally wrong with it.

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I am beginning to think that philosophers are not good at business.

I disagree, I will be in business for 8 years next month. It is a rational philosophy/Objectivism that guides me in all my choices.

Are you a professional philosopher Ray?

In a certain context, yes. And is that not what Ayn Rand meant when she wrote For The New Intellectual?

Lastly, if Objectivism does not give one the insight on how to run a company what will?

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Lastly, if Objectivism does not give one the insight on how to run a company what will?

Books and classes on management? I don't understand your question.

If philosophy is the science that comes before all the other sciences then a rational philosophy should help guide one in what is correct in all other areas of one's life.

"Philosophy is the science that studies the fundamental aspects of the nature of existence. The task of philosophy is to provide man with a comprehensive view of life. This view serves as a base, a frame of reference, for all his actions, mental or physical, psychological or existential. This view tells him the nature of the universe with which he has to deal (metaphysics); the means by which he is to deal with it, i.e., the means of acquiring knowledge (epistemology); the standards by which he is to choose his goals and values, in regard to his own life and character (ethics)—and in regard to society (politics); the means of concretizing this view is given to him by esthetics." [Ayn Rand, "The Chickens' Homecoming," Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, p 45.]

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I'm sure that the full story of what happened with Founders College will someday be told. But here are some brief comments.

Plans for continuing the college no matter what happened with the relationship to Berry Hill have been discussed. Whether and to what extent those plans will be implemented I cannot say. For my part, I returned to Colorado after completing my course at the end of March. I indicated to the CEO that I would be willing, under certain conditions, to help Founders re-organize over the summer and continue next fall. Whether or not those conditions will be met I cannot say.

I know that the faculty is proud of the education we delivered, and the students indicated being very pleased with it as well. I'm quite sure there is disappointment among everyone with the way things went and the possibility that it will not continue. Personally, I found great value in working with the other faculty and students. It was a rare opportunity, and I would have regretted not pursuing it. It's too bad that factors outside the actual delivery of the education led the College down the path it went. It would be nice if Founders has a future, but, at present, that is out of my hands.

Thank you for your comments.

This is sad news. My son is only six but it would have been great to have that kind of option available to him when the time comes.

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