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Assistant Dean Kuebler Goes “On Tap”
for California Students

Posted: September 25, 2019

Last Wednesday evening, California students gathered in the St. Cecilia Hall Recreation Room for “The Assistant Dean on Tap,” an informal forum with the campus’ new assistant dean for student affairs, Dr. Jared Kuebler. “I was thinking about giving a short talk, but then I realized, well, given that this is my first ‘Assistant Dean on Tap,’ I’d rather hear about what’s on your minds,” Dr. Kuebler began. From there, he opened the floor to student questions.

For the next 90 minutes, the Assistant Dean answered queries on a wide range of subjects. Many were of a personal nature, such as, “Who is your favorite composer?” (“Bach, for now”), and “What are your favorite novels?” (The Brothers Karamazov, Brideshead Revisited, and Kristin Lavransdatter). Others touched on practical campus matters, such as plans for the College’s newly acquired ranch property, the permissible limits of student pranks, and the daily Mass schedule. Others still inquired about his own time as a student, including, “What were your favorite classes?” (Junior Theology and Junior Natural Science”).

The questions and responses were most profound, however, when they addressed matters such as the College’s pedagogy or the reasoning behind particular rules in its Code of Conduct. When asked, for example, why the College’s tutors teach across the disciplines, and not just in their respective areas of expertise, Dr. Kuebler replied:

There are definitely advantages to having tutors teach all the subjects, because it allows them to see the connections between the disciplines. They are able to point out those connections to the students and make sure those connections are addressed in class. If, on the other hand, you had one person teach the same course for 10 years, by virtue of that experience he would likely be a little bit better at it. But there would be a disadvantage, too: The tutor wouldn’t have the necessary breadth of mind, which would leave him, and his students, blinded to those connections.

And when asked why the College only permits student Internet access in designated study areas, he replied:

That kind of goes back to the book I was talking about by Fr. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life, and even St. Thomas in his letter to Br. John. Both point out that to really progress in the intellectual life, you need to develop the habits of the contemplative life and avoid the distractions of modern daily life — and this is St. Thomas talking back in the 13th century, when modern daily life consisted of far fewer distractions than we face now.

I think the main reason behind our rule is that there are just so many distractions on the Internet. It can easily lead to wasting a lot of time, and apart from that it can just fill your imagination with noise. The wise people who have really progressed in the intellectual life have realized that the imagination needs to be quieted down. You need to avoid flooding the senses so that you can focus the powers of imagination and let the intellect do its work; the intellect has to use the imagination for thinking about higher things. When the imagination is filled and distracted, it is hard for the intellect to focus.

That’s in a way what all of our rules are about, trying to help students by giving force to the voice of reason and showing you how to cultivate the life that you are trying to live for these four years. Were we to take away that rule, it would send the message that it’s not a big deal to get caught up in the distractions of the Internet, that you can still succeed, you can still excel in the pursuit of wisdom even without those habits. And that would be a lie.

Based on the round of applause that followed it, the discussion was seemingly well-received — so much so that Dr. Kuebler intends to make “On Tap” a regular occurrence, with the next one planned for November.