Monday, April 11, 2011
According to a recent study by U.S World News Report - and already reported heavily within the Israeli media - Tel Aviv University ranked as one of the world's top universities for 2010 in terms of academic citations per faculty. In doing so, the White City's most esteemed institution for high learning surpassed Cambridge, Oxford, Yale and Columbia while sitting right next to Harvard, MIT and Princeton as far as faculty productivity and research quality goes (see Carlo Strenger's piece in Haaretz for the complete breakdown) You may be asking yourself what the hell this means in the first place as far as academia is concerned and why TAU is rarely mentioned in the same breath as the above listed schools let alone within Israel itself as other institutions - albeit not even close to being on par academically with TAU (sorry IDC students) - seem to be the front running choices for many prospective scholars.
On one hand, it means that the quality of research coming out of Tel Aviv University and the strength that research has provided to other academics and scholars is second to none worldwide. Yet, on the other hand, it means there are a number of inadequacies as applied to the ability of students to fully absorb themselves within the intellectual surroundings provided by the school's rich academic expanse as espoused by its faculty. This may best be explained by the Tokyo-like subway feeling that students experience as they sit sandwiched between other students while trying to focus on what the lecturer is saying instead of thinking about how they don't even have enough room to take notes as their elbows frequently meet others's in an attempt to scribble down what is being said. Simply, this situation is unacceptable. The year is 2011 and the majority of classrooms at TAU resemble what one might find in the not so illustrious public high schools in many of the US's largest cities. There is not even enough room on each desk/piece of wood to put a normal sized notebook. Hence, taking notes on 3x5 index cards may be more efficient than struggling to make sure an 8x11 notebook does not go sliding off the pieces of scraps that the university deems as suitable student desks.
So after 2 years of studying the 'Cuban Missile Crisis' and attacking it from every angle (thanks Graham Allison), I finally decided that sitting wedged in like a sardine was a miserable way to spend what should be a beautiful spring/summer - full of rebirth, seminar papers and day beers. And as much as Tel Aviv University is genuinely a place where students are exposed to a wealth of esteemed scholars, professors and other professionals, students will rarely feel those lasting influences, only to lose their focus as they think about how miserable it is to be crushed between other students that are feeling those same frustrations.