The Michigan Difference

December 15, 2011

Learning, Political Theory

A common expression at UofM is, “the michigan difference”.  Does Michigan really have a difference that makes it a much greater institution then other schools.  I believe it does, but how would various political theorists feel about our school?

Hobbes says that the primary motivation of people is fear of death.  In the academic world, this is the fear of getting poor grades.  Students do crazy things when they believe they might fail.  They will take adderall, pull an all nighter, or blatantly cheat on an exam.  Especially during finals week, students go crazy to get good grades.  This happens at Michigan and every other school in the country.  So what is it that makes Michigan special and how would political theorists classify our educational system as being fair or unfair?

The University of Michigan has a strong reputation for being a world class school.  UofM has the best professors and gives the best education to its students.  University of Maryland is a pretty good school as well, but the huge difference in the ability of the schools to provide for the students takes Michigan to a different level.

The University of Michigan has resources that greatly outmatch the majority of other schools in the country.  These resources are used to support the growing Michigan Campus and strong athletic teams.  If we speak strictly in numbers, Michigan has an endowment of nearly 8 billion dollars.  In comparison The University of Maryland has an endowment of about 500 million dollars.  Marx probably rolls over in his grave every year when the new financial reports are released.  Every building on our campus is either state of the art of has a renovation planned.  The Ross school is a multi-billion dollar building, and the computer power of north campus is second only to NASA (for real).  All these resources that our school can luckily afford make it quite easy to enjoy learning.  I have taken a class at Maryland and the facilities are disgusting in comparison.  In addition to academic buildings, the on campus housing at Michigan is on a whole different level than UMD.  North Quad, Couzens, Alice Lloyd, and soon East Quad, mimic hotels.  While UMD housing mirrors jail.  The conditions that students live and learn in play a big part in if they will succeed.

Would John Locke, who believed in equal rights and opportunities in society, agree this makes sense or is fair.  (Obviously I am all Blue, I am just using the Terps for comparison).  I don’t think Locke would react well to hearing that Maryland is planning to cut 8 varsity sports for next year, while Michigan just added a mens varsity lacrosse program with a women’s team following next year.  This does give Maryland much opportunity to become the most winning school in college history, does it?

Examples of The Michigan Difference can be found at



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5 Comments on “The Michigan Difference”

  1. jps3520 Says:

    I think it’s interesting to bring up Locke, and I enjoyed your post. I like hearing that my school is better than other schools in some categories. However, when is Locke looking at this, now or when the schools were formed? My original thought was that now we have it better than other schools do, but mostly because of a series of good decisions made by the people in charge. Sort of like we started out on an even playing field, but we excelled more than they did.

    That having been said, maybe they didn’t have the same advantages that we did when they began. Michigan was formed in 1817, while the University of Maryland was formed in 1856. I’m assuming that we get an advantage from already having been established for almost forty years when they were just beginning. So maybe to compare the two we need to look at each school in each stage of development. Maybe we should be comparing them to Michigan in one of the years past to get an accurate comparison. Another comparison between the two would be the competition surrounding them. Maryland is in the east, and has Ivy League schools in close enough proximity to create a problem for them to expand their academic brand. Maybe they’re being dwarfed by these schools being near them. On the same topic (and this is going to sound really arrogant, playing right into a stereotype), but we don’t have a number of comparable institutions in a close proximity. This must help us out some. I really don’t mean that there aren’t good schools around, but we don’t have a bunch of Ivy League schools around. Also, to say that the other schools in the area don’t compare isn’t that bold of a statement, maybe not that bold of a statement comparing universities throughout the world.

    Alright, I apologize for the tangent, but I think it’s important that we examine a certain timeframe when talking about inequality. If we had the same advantages starting off and this school just excelled more than others, then I don’t think we would be dealing with an inequality problem. There are things that could have made it easier for Michigan to become the school it has, such as getting an earlier start and having less local competition, among others.

  2. kirtip Says:

    I would think Locke would not be too upset with the differences between the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland. While there are clear differences between the opportunities available when attending the two public universities, it is still a fair system that I personally believe Locke would approve of. This is because every student has the ability to apply and get into the prestigious school versus the less prestigious school. If a student proves their worth in academia through their high school studies and outside activities, they can get accepted into a more prestigious school because they earned it. While there are certainly some smaller issues that make the system unfair, such as being born into a poor family as opposed to being born into a wealthy one, the overall idea of the system is fair. Everyone starts in high school on an even playing field and people differentiate themselves on the playing field. More prestigious schools then accept more prestigious students so that their students and graduates go on to accomplish more prestigious accomplishments. I think Locke would approve of the general system and I do not think it will be changing anytime soon.

  3. evanhw Says:

    In my opinion, Locke would undoubtedly accept the difference in credibility each university offers. First off, Locke believes that inequality is inevitable within societies. Basing this argument off the “disproportionate and unequal possession of earth” that the pre-civilized humans began with leading up to the creation of societies. (Second Treatise of Gov., 50) His main argument is that labor constitutes the entitlement to land and that uncultivated land is wasteful.

    Using the same logic, the amount of work a student exerts in high school will one way or another result in his or her GPA. One cannot get into any given college from doing well on the SAT or ACT alone. Almost always, the universities the majority of students are accepted into directly correlate with the type of student he or she is. Yes of coarse Michigan is the best school on the planet, but its students had to work for it. In Locke’s eyes, the students at the U of M are all deserving of the benefits due to the current system that, for the most part, bases its acceptance off of previous work.

  4. abswang Says:

    This brings up the idea of whether or not wealth should be redistributed among citizens to keep everyone at an equal level. Honestly, Michigan has these resources because the people who go to this school try hard and alumni donate money. It’s not fair to take the success that Michigan has and redistribute it throughout other colleges so that they can enjoy the benefits we have from attending a nice university. Yes, it may make us arrogant in some ways, but we pay the tuition and applied to get in. The Michigan Difference may be an obnoxious saying, pointing out how we’re better than others, but I believe that the students here work extremely hard for the education they get and deserve the campus benefits we have as perks.

  5. pelarkin Says:

    Although it is quite clear that the University of Michigan is vastly superior to the University of Maryland, the glory of the public university is the fact that nearly everyone has the same chance to get in. There’s a reason that we’re all students here, and its because we all worked incredibly hard in high school to earn good enough grades to be able to attend here. It might not sound nice, but I really don’t feel sorry for anyone that was rejected from here, because they had the same opportunity as the rest of us. The fact that we worked harder during our high school years because we wanted to achieve this goal is proof of the fact that we are able to survive the brutal education here. In turn, students who didn’t work as hard during their high school years will be forced to go to lesser schools, such as the University of Maryland, and will graduate with a degree that is nowhere near as prestigious as a degree from the University of Michigan.

    The fact that many of the facilities and housing at Michigan are better than the facilities and housing at Maryland is a result of the fact that since the education you receive here is better, the chance that former students will be successful is much higher. In turn, since our graduates are (usually) more successful than the graduates of lesser schools, and the fact that the graduates attribute their success to the education they received here, we are able to receive many more donations of larger amounts of money than what a worse school would be able to achieve. This, in turn, leads to better facilities and housing for our students and professors. While it is unfortunate that some students don’t get to enjoy the amenities that we do, I must say that they had their chance in high school, and they didn’t take it.

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