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greg dahlen

Alumnus, academy of achievement

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Shouldn't the best universities be in the best cities?

Can we agree that the best universities in America are Harvard and Stanford. Can we also agree that the top cities are Los Angeles and New York? Wouldn't one expect that the best universities would be in the best cities? Wonder why they're not.

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    Jun 23 2013: I don't think there is consensus those are the top two universities or the top two cities. If you look online at university rankings, you will see some variety rather than just those two. If you look at the most livable cities, you will also see different answers.

    Why should the best universities be in the "best" cities? Stanford is an hour from San Francisco. Princeton is an hour from NY, as is Yale.Their separation from intense urban distraction is part of their atmosphere and appeal.

    Oxford and Cambridge are not in London but not far from it either.

    To many people, a city is more livable if there are not lots of college students pouring in daily or all over the place. Others love college towns best.

    Of course Los Angeles and New York do have great elite universities. For example, UCLA is in Los Angeles and Columbia is in New York.
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      Jun 23 2013: Well, F, when I said "in," I meant in or near. But although Princeton and Yale are great schools, isn't Harvard still a cut above, creme de la creme? Harvard is near Boston, a great city, but surely most would say New York is even greater, that there is even greater creativity and influence there (TED, for example, is HQ'd there). I still would have expected Harvard to be in or near New York, logically. Do you still maintain not?
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        Jun 23 2013: I think different people would call it differently among these schools. I think many people would consider New York more of a creative hot bed than Boston, with the noteworthy exception of the universities in Cambridge- both Harvard and MIT, plus a nearby technology corridor.

        You went to Stanford. Didn't you think the beautiful, secluded Mediterranean style "Farm" offered a great ambiance for learning Could you imagine transplanting that campus into NY or SF?

        Would you have preferred a really urban campus?
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          Jun 24 2013: Well, again, Fritzie, I apologize for wording my question a little too loosely. When I said "in," I did mean in or near. As an 18-year-old, I didn't think about this question too much. I enjoyed being near San Francisco, but for me it is unusual, because I was born and grew up in Los Angeles, thus SF was a welcome change, this wouldn't be true for most of the students at Stanford.

          Probably now, if I were a professor and could teach at two excellent universities, one being near San Fran and one being near LA, I would choose LA, because it's really exciting here. You have the film industry, the music industry, the interesting/beautiful desert ambience, we have a big effect on the fashion industry with our beach style, you have your beaches and beach culture, you have the original Disneyland...it's a long and exciting list, it doesn't seem San Fran can really match it.
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        Jun 24 2013: Those who prefer sunny beaches and don't mind the traffic and air quality issues may well prefer LA. Those who prefer the climate and natural beauty close at hand in San Francisco will prefer the latter. You may have a strong preference for LA and i for the SF Bay Area, but the point in that is that people might call that one differently.

        Are you in LA proper then?
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          Jun 24 2013: Well, I agree, Fritzie, but I think I'm talking about what the majority of elite professors would prefer. I mean, there may be one top professor in the world who would prefer that a great university be located at the North Pole (for example), for whatever reason, but the majority would not. Would you agree that the majority would probably prefer LA to San Fran, or do you still think not?

          I live in Glendale, a separate city on the east and north border of LA. This is where I mostly grew up, my mother and sister live here, my brother lives a city further east, in Pasadena. I have lived in Los Angeles, I lived for three years in the Hollywood area (a lot of people think Hollywood is a separate city, but actually it's just an area within Los Angeles) and I lived for ten years in an area called Westlake, about a mile west of downtown LA. I feel extremely blessed to have grown up in SoCal and be part of the vibrant life here.
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        Jun 24 2013: I lived many years there. When I went to college I used to tell people I came from near the La Brea tar pits.

        I don't know what the majority of professors would prefer between the two.
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          Jun 24 2013: I'll have to think about it. I don't know what they would prefer, either, I suppose when I talk to some I can ask, I'm just guessing LA based on the attractions I've mentioned in this convo, doesn't that kind of make sense?

          It's conceivable to me that a top professor might not feel they have to be at the very top school. For instance, someone who is capable of getting hired at Harvard might be content to teach at, say, Princeton, if, for example, they preferred the location, they might feel that the students are nearly as good as Harvard's and good enough for them.

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