Lunch with President Arnn
Written by Aaron Andrews
Of the many idiosyncrasies that make Hillsdale unique, President Arnn’s regular cafeteria visits stand out as possibly the coolest quirk of Hillsdale.
Periodically, Dr. Arnn roams around the Knorr Family Dining Hall and interrogates unsuspecting students about “The Good”— Aristotle’s idea of the thing which we pursue for its own merit and for no other reason. Aristotle says that this thing, this “Good,” is the life lead according to virtue; furthermore, they both concur that it is of the utmost importance. So, amidst the bustle of lunching students, Dr. Arnn totes Aristotle’s ideas from table to table, dropping bombs of truth. We students refer to this phenomenon as “being Arnned.” It has never happened to me, but my sister, Megan Andrews, a senior and the head RA of Benzing Dormitory, has been “Arnned” on multiple occasions. She describes the scene to me in detail.
“There’s nothing we can do,” she tells me, “We see him approaching and looking around, trying to decide which of the round tables looks ripe for the rhetorical challenge. We all kind of freeze as he chooses our table, walks up, and asks, ‘Y’all freshmen?’” Dr. Arnn asks about the students’ majors, about what they think of Hillsdale, about whether or not they miss home—you know, normal conversation. Yet even in his normal conversation with students, Dr. Arnn has a desire (nay, an urge!) to teach. He inevitably asks the question to one of the students, “What is the Good?” And the dialogue begins. Using a Socratic method of conversation, Dr. Arnn draws students towards the answer. He wants them to come to the same conclusion about “The Good” that he holds, but he wants them to discover the answer for themselves. By asking them little questions, he helps them confront their presuppositions and examine their own thought processes; and so he leads them towards understanding. Hillsdale students have their own private Socrates in Dr. Arnn.
Hillsdale is a small college. Last time I checked we had about 1400 students. While some people might see this as a bad thing, I’m here to tell you that Hillsdale’s size contributes to a quality of education and a unique culture distinct from most other colleges. This small size makes it possible for students to have real relationships with their professors, and even for the president of the college to teach individual students over lunch! Students get the benefit of their instructors’ full attention, inside and outside of the classroom. I think that’s pretty special.
Aaron Andrews, ’18, is studying English, Latin, and whatever else crosses his fancy. He spends his summers in northeastern Washington, rural Stevens Country, the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where he goes for weeks on end with no internet. He spends his free time photographing local herds of cattle, and frolicking in Washington’s famous amber waves of grain.