August 19, 2012, 11:00 am
Innovations readers: We’re excited to call your attention to The Conversation, The Chronicle’s new home for opinion and ideas online. Building on Brainstorm and Innovations, it includes many of the regular contributors you have seen over the years and offers new ones as well.
Please follow us there. We hope to enlighten and entertain, and we also hope to hear from you. Feel free to reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 16, 2012, 1:07 pm
On Monday, the Obama administration, along with most of the higher-education and business establishment, weighed in with amicus briefs in support of racial preferences at the University of Texas at Austin. Given Barack Obama’s mixed messages on affirmative action in the past—he has said his own daughters do not deserve a leg up in admissions and that he understands the resentment toward preferences by whites who do not feel particularly privileged—there was a modest hope that he would break with longstanding Democratic Party orthodoxy to promote a better kind of affirmative action that looks at gaping economic inequalities in our country rather than just counting skin color. He blinked, however, and filed a brief that is unlikely to do anything to change the minds of Supreme Court justices and may do real damage to the president’s own re-election chances.
August 15, 2012, 4:50 pm
When I last wrote about the proposed closure of the University of Missouri Press on June 4, the story had recently broken and I had little, and as it turns out incomplete, information. My central point in that post was simply that the closing of a flagship university’s press, were it actually to happen, would mark a paradigm shift in American universities. However skeptical one might be about academic scholarship as the best way of disseminating knowledge, that is our current system; most importantly, it is the centerpiece of our current reward system, the means by which we assess candidates for tenure and promotion. And the fact is that university presses publish that scholarship: the fewer university presses, the more challenging the tenure system becomes. Additionally, the presses of land-grant universities, such as Missouri’s, have come to assume the role of repositories of the…
August 10, 2012, 11:12 am
The spiraling rise of component costs in higher education is helping to inflate the higher-education bubble. One of the reasons those costs are out of control is that colleges and universities see no merit in keeping track of some of the larger ones. You cannot exercise fiscal discipline if you have no idea what you’re spending. Higher education has at least two major cost drivers that it hides from rational oversight: diversity and sustainability. In Green Acres, I wrote about a new Solyndra-like scheme for getting taxpayers to underwrite the cost of a massive expansion of campus-sustainability programs. A new report from the College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, Second Nature, and the National Association of College and University Business Officers enunciates this ambitious way to farm out the virtually unlimited expenses.
The bubble also crosses paths with the…
August 8, 2012, 12:28 pm
On Monday, as Peter Schmidt noted in the Chronicle, the University of Texas at Austin filed its brief with the U.S. Supreme Court defending the use of racial preferences in admissions. Like the brief of the petitioner, Abigail Fisher, the UT Austin argument is pitched directly at the likely swing vote on the Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy. I doubt it will be persuasive.
UT Austin faces an uphill battle because the Supreme Court has long held that race can be used to promote diversity in higher education only if it is “necessary”; Kennedy has emphasized that race should be used as a “last resort,” where race-neutral means won’t suffice. For years, supporters of affirmative action argued that no workable alternatives existed for creating racial diversity. In the words of Justice Harry Blackmun’s opinion in the 1978 Bakke case: “I suspect that it would be impossible…
August 7, 2012, 3:39 pm
Stanley Kurtz’s new book, Spreading the Wealth: How Obama Is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities, is not likely to be a campus bestseller. Some 88 percent of contributions from faculty members to candidates in the 2008 presidential election went to Obama and estimates of the percent of voting faculty members who voted for him range from 80 to 92 percent. Though some of the ardor for Obama has cooled, he remains far and away more popular on campus than Mitt Romney. Moreover, books arguing that Obama is committed to leftist policies receive an especially chilly reception from the left-leaning professoriate. The storyline they generally prefer is that Obama is a pragmatic centrist.
Spreading the Wealth, however, bears directly on the economic prospects of higher education. Kurtz’s provocative thesis is that under bland-sounding labels such as “regionalism” and “Building…
August 7, 2012, 2:19 pm
There are two persons of radically different political perspectives whose single-minded devotion to gathering and disseminating data on higher education set them apart from the rest of us: Tom Mortenson of Post Secondary Higher Education Opportunity, and Harry Stilles, of the Higher Education Research/Policy Center. Tom is a self-described “Minnesota socialist” dedicated to improving higher-education access, while Harry is a decidedly more conservative retired professor and legislator from South Carolina dedicated to increasing efficiency and improving quality. Higher education benefits from having both of them gather and publish data.
Today, I want to talk about some recent data published by Harry. Harry has come up with a way of measuring by state the degree of admissions selectivity. He looks at the percentage of students ranking in the top 10 percent of their high-school class,…
August 7, 2012, 12:01 pm
The Gainesville Sun broke a story on July 19 that has potentially significant implications for postsecondary instructors across the country. The story concerned a lawsuit brought by Darnell Rhea, an adjunct instructor at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Fla., who claimed that his contract was not renewed because a student filed a complaint against him. The e-mail “complains of Rhea’s classroom behavior, his humiliating remarks to students, and his unorthodox teaching methodologies.” Rhea simply argued in his lawsuit that he wanted an opportunity to defend himself, but couldn’t because he didn’t know the identity of his accuser, yet the circuit court dismissed his case.
The First District Court of Appeal, however, reversed the dismissal, ruling “that when a student submits a complaint against a postsecondary instructor, the student’s name is public record.” Santa Fe College…
August 2, 2012, 7:00 pm
Sen. Tom Harkin has issued his final report on for-profit higher education, a book-length indictment of one-tenth of American higher education, the for-profit sector. Obviously I have not had an opportunity yet to read the full report (I’ve been traveling for the past week or so), but from news reports alone, I see huge problems with it, much of it related to either an ignorance or contempt for how the capitalistic system of free enterprise does a very good job of delivering the goods—lots of them—in America. It is market-incentivized ingenuity and enterprise that leads millions every decade to migrate here to enjoy the fruits of the labor of American capitalism.
To be sure, the report concedes that for-profit education is here to stay, and even acknowledges that several providers (e.g., Strayer Education) have done a relatively good job, and others are at least making some…
August 1, 2012, 10:00 pm
I appreciate President Rosenberg’s praise of my skill as a writer and return the compliment. I also share his hope that my predictions about the financial mess that lies ahead for American higher education prove mistaken. I don’t welcome “collapse,” though I do think it is a distinct possibility.
Dr. Rosenberg takes strongest exception to my statement that too many students are going to college. His exception, however, is grounded on a quiet emendation of what I said, and several of the comment leavers have noticed this. Education, in my view, is among the highest of human goods and I would not want to deprive anyone of the opportunity to pursue it. But education and enrollment in over-priced college-degree programs are not one and the same thing.
Most readers here have no doubt run across President Garfield’s quip in his 1871 address to the alumni of Williams College…