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Berry College: The Biggest and Almost the Most Beautiful Campus

So TRAVEL AND LEISURE has ranked the place where I teach eighth in the nation in terms of beauty.  That's news, of course, to those who have the leisure to travel a lot, and we expect to be overwhelmed by such visitors soon.

I think we might be ranked too low.  No. 5 Florida Southern, for example, is talked up for its buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  I would say that they're more really interesting than truly beautiful.  Certainly the natural surroundings of the foothills of Georgia are more pleasing than those of the interior of Florida, even with those random sinkhole lakes. 

It's true we've had sinkholes too, but we generally fill them in.  It's also true that the water in the big lake on campus disappeared more than once due to sinkholes.  It's no longer a lake but a kind of science experiment displaying what grows in the bed of an ex-lake.  So I may be writing out of bitterness here.

Berry is also, you can learn, the largest "contiguous" campus in America, with the 26,000 acres actually touching one another.  I'm not sure what the larger non-contiguous campus is. 

I do know that Berry has the best acre-to-student ratio in the country.  We only have a little over 1900 students.  So well over 10 acres is available for each student.  It's easy to be alone at Berry, although it's hard to be lonely.

Another great thing about Berry is that the college is "private," and so not subject to the bureaucratic idiocies—such as misguided political correctness—characteristic of state schools.  (It's true that we're more than a bit touched by such stuff by the necessity of being accredited.  But no college can avoid that.) We're also not tied in any big way to the sinkholes that are the collapsing state budgets throughout the country.

We're "Christian in spirit" and have a chaplain, but we're not connected to any particular denomination.  So we're not enmeshed in the factional squabbles and "doctrinal correctness" issues found at many colleges that are Christian in some more particular way. 

Our curriculum is not particularly Christian at all.  It's what you'd might find at similar four-year colleges, and faculty aren't chosen for their religious beliefs (or, for that matter, for their lack thereof).  Well, our range of majors is actually larger than most small colleges;  we're great at animal science, for example.

Our student body—partly because we're in a very Christian part of the country and party because our campus is dry, is free of fraternities and sororities, and actually has dorm visitation policies, and so forth—is probably mostly pretty seriously Christian, although there are more than a few student skeptics. There are lots of active student religious organizations. No one Christian denomination dominates, though.

These peculiar characteristics actually turn out to be good for intellectual freedom.  At Berry, for example, it's actually possible to discuss in class whether Roe v Wade was righly decided.  They'll be students on both sides, and none of them feels afraid to speak up.

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