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Collegiate Moral Climate Has Chilled, Researcher Says

March 17, 1985|GARRY ABRAMS | Times Staff Writer

REDLANDS — The moral equivalent of nuclear winter may be settling over America's campuses.

That's one of the fears of Jon C. Dalton, a student of college mores today. Dalton worries that the mushrooming of an educational-industrial complex is obliterating a traditional role of colleges and universities--namely, the formal and informal teaching of values, the codes of right and wrong that should be lifelong guides to private and public conduct.

He also worries that schools today are rife with a "survivalist" mentality that encourages "a highly materialistic" student culture.

Dalton's concerns are shared at the University of Redlands, a small private school, where he was invited recently to discuss research on current student attitudes and the environment that helped create them, said the university chaplain, the Rev. Brent Waters. "I think many faculty here know there's a problem in this area, but they haven't had the empirical information that would define its scope."

The assistant vice president for student affairs at Northern Illinois University, Dalton has conducted his own studies and compiled surveys by others to measure the collegiate moral climate.

In a talk before one faculty group, Dalton outlined a variety of reasons that today's college students are more self-centered and career-oriented than their counterparts in the 1960s and 1970s.

One reason is historical. Since the founding of Harvard College in 1636, American schools have steadily shifted their emphasis from religious and moral instruction to professional education and the latest demands of the job market, he said.

For example, when it was founded in 1965, North Florida University stated its goals as to "serve the northeast Florida area by providing a sound foundation in professional education, to meet the local needs of business, reflect the economic characteristics of the community and prepare students for useful careers."

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