Category Archives: Uncategorized


Poke, Prod, and Rile: Secrets of Good Teaching

Dogs tend to look like their owners, and often the same is true about academics and the historical figures they study. The reason could be as predictable as two friends’ becoming drawn to the same tastes after having spent considerable time together—I once heard a lecturer confess that her Southwestern wardrobe was inspired by her intellectual mentor. Or it could be something closer to what the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno wrote about his own experience in reading like-minded authors:…


CUNY’s Pathway to Shared Governance

William Bowen and Eugene Tobin’s new book, Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Faculty Roles in the Governance of Higher Education, has resulted in much commentary and discussion about the appropriate roles of faculty members and administrators in the activities and governance of colleges. Let us assume that the goals of all concerned are the best possible education for students and the best possible environment for faculty scholarship and creative activity. What should faculty members be doin…


Bringing BDS Home

On January 4, the American Historical Association voted not to consider two resolutions critical of Israel’s interference with Palestinian academic freedom. Though boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) were not on the table at AHA, their specter loomed over the debate. I want to offer here the perspective of a scholar of social movements. I see BDS as a strategy for applying global pressure, especially economic pressure, in the hopes of changing Israeli policy, a strategy that I respect. Alth…


How One Building Reveals What’s Wrong With Higher Education

On the heels of its inaugural football season in the Big Ten Conference, the University of Maryland announced bold plans: The Board of Regents’ Finance Committee unanimously agreed to move forward with construction of a new building that would transform Cole Field House, an old basketball arena turned student activities center, into a “dynamic hub at the intersection of athletics, academics and research.”

Jump-starting the project is a $25-million donation from an alumnus, the Under Armour found…


Obama’s Plan Focuses Where It Should—on Our Neediest Students

At one point on Friday afternoon #FreeCommunityCollege was the top trending hashtag on Twitter, a sign of universal interest in, if not universal acceptance of, President Obama’s “America’s College Promise” proposal. The president’s big vision is to ensure that postsecondary education is as universally affordable and accessible to as many Americans as possible. Community colleges are the logical place to realize this vision. Whatever Congress does with the proposal, it is safe to predict that,…


The Cruel Exclusions of the Literary Establishment

A front-runner for the year’s most regrettable literary social-media rant has emerged: Ayelet Waldman’s instant classic of dismayed pique at the non-inclusion of her novel Love and Treasure on The New York Times’s annual list of  “100 Notable Books.”

In an indelible series of nine tweets from 2:35 p.m. to 5:13 p.m. on December 2, Waldman’s emotions run the gamut from sadness and self-pity (“I am really not dealing well with having failed to make the @nytimes notable book list. Love & Treasure is…


Tentative and Incomplete

The Education Department’s “framework” for its college-ratings plan is surprisingly tentative, filled with verbs like “exploring” and “considering.” It can be seen as a smart move: Kick the ratings can down the road, telegraph what might be coming, get more stakeholder involvement, and so on. But it can also be seen as an OMG moment: After so much effort, so many meetings, and so much chatter, there remain far too many questions unanswered and far too many ratings criteria ill-defined.

The depar…


Why We Need a Federal Ratings System

The plan just released for rating colleges and universities is a concept that higher education should welcome as a first step toward developing more-comprehensive ways to measure colleges’ value. The U.S. Department of Education’s Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS), a continuation of the existing College Scorecard, will be complex for many reasons, including the diversity of our higher-education institutions and our well-documented limitations on data. But we should start by con…


Use Civil Law to Adjudicate Campus Sexual-Assault Cases

There is no debate that more can and should be done to stop and redress sexual assaults and harassment on college campuses. What is debatable are the best methods for achieving those goals. A particularly thorny problem is how best to adjudicate sexual-assault cases involving students.

For a number of reasons, students are reluctant to file criminal complaints for rape or sexual assault, and district attorneys rarely proceed with prosecutions. Consequently, survivors continue to suffer, and thei…


Reliving Newtown in a College Classroom

The only three-hour afternoon lecture that has ever held my attention was in this semester’s course on ethics in journalism, taught by Mark Bowden. The globe-trotting author told us colorful stories about the writing of his book Black Hawk Down, investigating the killing of the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, and bringing to light American interrogation practices during the war on terror.

We wrestled with the ethical issues surrounding graphic images, like the ISIS beheading videos, and debat…