Universities: Learning on the Seven Seas

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The University of the Seven Seas is a school that really gets around. Last week its shipboard campus was in San Francisco after a 110-day, 22,000-mile "semester cruise" around the world with 270 students and 45 faculty members. Its accreditation, the university admits, remains "tentative," and its course credits are refused for transfer by most other U.S. universities. Students do not seem to care. The experience of cruising on the university's chartered Holland-America liner Seven Seas is "worth it, and the loss of credits is not sufficient reason to stay at home," says one.

Founded in 1959 by President William T. Hughes, a Whittier, Calif., businessman, in cooperation with some of his local fellow Rotarians, the school has thus far organized three floating semesters, and is planning a fourth, beginning next October. Courses include the standard liberal arts and sciences, plus "Advanced Fundamental Skills," which teaches "swimming, dancing, weight training, judo, wrestling, fencing," and Course 300, a "historical overview of the European origin of sports, games and gymnastics." The daily schedule of five hours of classwork had its problems. "You'd be writing an exam, and your chair would be sliding across the deck," says Roberta Mount, 18, of Hayward, Calif.

During the 49 days spent in 18 ports of call, the students went on field trips. Dena Lambie, 22, of Menlo Park, Calif., is rapturous over discovering the Orient and swimming with new-found Egyptian friends in the Nile. "I skied in Japan, saw the bullfights in Spain, and went Honda riding in Greece," recalls Janice Cope, 22, of Fresno, Calif. Manila offered the students a cockfight, Ceylon a performance by the Kandyan dancers. The semester trip, plus 17 course credits, cost $2,500 to $3,000, depending on accommodations.

On the whole, say Seven Seas officials, there were no more disciplinary problems than landlubber schools have. On the first jaunt, by the time the ship reached Hong Kong, three girls and one boy had been "asked to leave" for drinking and sex offenses. During the recently completed semester, two professors were let go: one, who lectured on hashish, was dismissed after some of his subject was found aboard; the other had violated university rules by entertaining students at jazz and beer parties in his office on the ship's fantail. All in all, says Roberta Mount, "it's really an educational trip."