Beloit College's Mindset List irks critics

Karen Herzog / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel /

Published Aug 22, 2013 at 05:00AM

MILWAUKEE — For most teens starting college this fall, a chat has seldom involved talking, GM means food that’s Genetically Modified and a tablet is no longer something you take in the morning.

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has rolled out its internationally known Mindset List, originally aimed at giving faculty witty glimpses of the pop culture that has shaped the lives of incoming freshmen, so they can avoid dated references.

Over time, the list has become a public relations gold mine for the small liberal arts college in Beloit, each year generating a million hits on its website.

The Class of 2017 may be the last to have its own Mindset List, though, if two anonymous professors — one from a large public university and the other from a community college — can torpedo it.

The two — who write as “John Q. Angry” and “Disgruntled Prof” and say they have no connection to the college — launched a blog this week called Beloit Mindlessness, “dedicated to the mockery and eventual destruction of the Beloit Mindset List.”

The blog’s introduction says it will lay out the case against the Mindset List “through a thorough examination of each of the 1,000 plus items that have appeared on the list over the past 16 years.”

Why all the hate?

The list “is a poorly written compendium of trivia, stereotypes and lazy generalizations, insulting to both students and their professors, and based on nothing more than the uninformed speculation of its authors,” according to Beloit Mindlessness. “It inspires lazy, inaccurate journalism and is an embarrassment to academia.”

The Mindset List is the brainchild of Ron Nief, emeritus director of public affairs for Beloit College, and Tom McBride, an English professor there.

McBride said they “welcome critiques of all sort” because the list is intended to spark discussions.

The anonymous Beloit Mindlessness bloggers aren’t the only critics.

Salon, in an article by Daniel D’Addario titled “Beloit College Is Trolling Us All,” said the only types of entries on the Mindset List are:

1. (Any celebrity or public figure) has always been (either dead or, more commonly, famous).

2. (Something completely random that one thinks about quite infrequently) has always been the case.

3. College freshmen have never seen (consumer product that is an easy punch line — think eight-track tapes, Betamax, etc.) OR have always been able to (thing you can do with technology).

4. College freshmen have never known about or experienced (news event from the recent past that everyone — EVERYONE! — has heard of or experienced).

5. Bad puns about technology.

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