Two articles from this weekend have brought further into focus the degree to which higher education is plagued by a persistent and pervasive culture of abuse.
In their article, “Investigation at Yale Law School,” Dahlia Lithwich and Susan Matthews provide a thorough and depressingly familiar account of the abusive system of power by which law students are unable to hold faculty accountable for inappropriate behavior for fear of losing out on opportunities for prestigious clerkships.
Here is a passage:
The picture we got from these conversations is not one of straightforward abuse but rather a fraught and uncomfortable situation full of insinuation and pushed boundaries that can make learning difficult and has the potential to push women out of the pipeline for the most prestigious and competitive areas of the law.
In his article, “A University Comes Undone,” Michael Sokolove provides a thorough and depressingly familiar account of how big-time college athletics perverts the academic mission of universities by focusing attention on the University of Louisville.
Here is a passage:
An emphasis on athletics at a university — which always means the revenue sports of football and men’s basketball — tilts the conversation toward men. … At its most extreme, the focus on sports boils over into misogyny.
On Saturday morning, I woke up early to put the final refinements on the presentation and, as dawn spread its rosy fingers across the sky, I set out on a morning walk to consider some of the themes that emerged over the course of the conference.
Engage and Support Faculty
If the general education curriculum is to be valued as the heart of the undergraduate experience, faculty need to be empowered to see in it the expression of a core commitment to cultivate the next generation of ethically imaginative citizens. We need structures that cultivate the intellectual life of the faculty through the General Education endeavor.
Indeed, we need to move away from thinking of GenEd reform as a once in a generation undertaking, and begin to build institutional structures and habits of continuous GenEd quality improvement and engagement.
The results of that initiative were on display in the creative ways VTech faculty like Trudy Harrignton-Becker, Eric Hogan, and Ann-Marie Knoblauch had thought creatively about their courses and integrated dynamic, active learning opportunities for students into their curriculum. Prof. Harrington-Becker’s transcription course focusing on the correspondence of WWI veteran Joseph F. Ware and his wife, Suzie, is a great example of how an entire history can come to life for students by studying the correspondence of a single solder and his wife.
Putting Equity into Practice
The Department of Focused Inquiry received a Division for Inclusive Excellent Award to integrate a commitment to equity into the heart of their GenEd curriculum. They recognized that it would be important to create a teaching faculty with the cultural competencies required to integrate practices of equity into their courses. They asked each faculty member to set specific goals of their own in this regard, to try new assignments and pedagogies, and to reflect on the results of their work at the end of the year. Each faculty was required to add these goals to their faculty work plans, so the Chair could hold them accountable for their work and reward it accordingly when it came time for salary increase decisions.
Telling the Story of General Education and Liberal Arts
John Frederick, Director of Faculty Learning and Engagement at Central Piedmont Community College, raised a series of questions about how and when to tell the story of General Education. He argued for the need to begin talking about General Education with High School Guidance Counselors, and then to integrate it deeply into all of our communication with prospective students and their parents. He also emphasized the importance of having a strategy to facilitate substantive conversations with faculty about the meaning and purpose of General Education.
The AGLS adopted an approach to lightning talks that required presenters to provide 20 images that appear on the screen for 20 seconds. It was compelling to watch. It is also a powerful way to make ideas come to life. The principle of simplicity under time constraint makes the format at once theatrical and disciplined.
Such structured lightning talks provide an interesting way to engage faculty and students about the importance and value of General Education. Hosting regular and structured #GenEd Lightning Talk events throughout the year would be a fun way to elevate the profile of the general education endeavor on campus.
At the heart of generous thinking is critical humility – this is one of a number of points @Kfitz made at her @msuc4i talk on Generous Thinking that resonated with me. Another was her emphasis on the need to cultivate “a listening presence.” #MSUCAL
At yesterday’s College of Arts & Letters Chairs retreat at the Think Space in Lansing, we focused our attention on the core values each of us seek to embody in our leadership and how we will put those values into practice in our relationships with one another as leaders and in our leadership of our respective units.
Our conversation today was rooted in a deepening trust won over a difficult period in our university’s history. The values that began to emerge as shared include equity, active listening, kindness/care, transparency, and accountability, but the real value of the conversation was the conversation about values itself.
The community we seek emerges in and through the conversations we have about how to put our deepest values into practice; and it is enriched by the ways we hold one another accountable to the practices to which we commit ourselves.
I am grateful to be part of a group of academic leaders who bring their creative energy to the important work we do each day.
“In the late 1980s, eight of the top 25 national universities in the U.S. News rankings were public, compared with three today. Much of that change is not attributed to a decline in quality of public universities, but to the formulas used by many of the rankings systems — formulas that reward wealth. And on that measure, private universities have been pulling away from public schools for years.”
He goes on to recognize the shift in how lawmakers think about higher education:
“But state lawmakers now see higher education as a private good that should be supported by students rather than as a public good underwritten by the states.”
Selingo is right to call for another reinvention of higher education. It ought to be one that recognizes that education has always been a catalyst of prosperity and must continue to be a public responsibility.
“Now, as we enter the third decade of the new millennium, rather than use higher education as a balance wheel in the state budget, lawmakers working with college officials need to develop a new model of public higher education. In doing so, they must decide the missions of their institutions, whom they should serve, how they should serve them and, most of all, who should pay for them.”
He was eloquent and insistent in framing the urgency of the problem: language learning is undervalued in the United States, and a failure to inspire more students to learn languages at higher levels of proficiency–including a textured understanding of the cultures from which the languages emerge–will undermine our ability to respond effectively to the most complex challenges we face in a globally interconnected world.
Happily, Stéphane did not remain at the level of diagnosing the current state of affairs and the root causes that brought us to the situation in which we find ourselves. The second half of his keynote began to point us in a promising direction that deserves serious consideration and intentional, coordinated action.
Stéphane rightly speaks of “Four Axes of Action” that mutually reinforce one another such that progress in one advances progress in others. They are:
Inform – Identify decision makers and stakeholders and tell the compelling story about the transformative power of language learning. Whenever possible, empower students to tell the story themselves.
Advocate – With robust data and compelling qualitative information, assiduously advocate for the importance of language education, integrating it wherever possible into the strategic vision of the University. Stéphane’s focus on engaging advisors is important. We need their help to encourage students to enroll in language programs even and perhaps especially when they have “tested out” of language requirements.
Innovate – Reassess what we are doing in our language programs. We need to provide compelling curricula that provides students with what they most want and need. Here, I would add, that we do ourselves a disservice when fear animates our response to the situation we are facing. Now is the time for bold experiments, new pedagogies, the development of responsive and relevant curricula.
Collaborate – We need to move from competition to collaboration. This requires us to think across boundaries and imagine innovative solutions to common problems. Our collaborations, however, need to be strategically coordinated so that we draw on the divergent strengths of our institutions to enhance the teaching and learning of language and culture. This is the spirit in which this SLCTL Symposium was organized, and the relationships we are establishing and nurturing will be the basis upon which new horizons of collaboration with open for us.
B1G AA Course Share
During the Symposium, we had a number of important conversations about how we might coordinate more effectively across the Big 10 Academic Alliance Courseshare. Traditionally, the Courseshare has focused on individual courses, but the coordinators of the program, as Danielle Steider emphasized, are starting to strategically work together to ensure courses at higher levels are available when students need them. We need to establish more structural support for this kind of strategic coordination that scaffolds the curriculum to ensure higher levels of proficiency.
To facilitate this, we ought to consider convening a meeting of Coureshare coordinators, engaged faculty, Department Chairs, and Administrators to identify ways to more intentionally organize the sharing of courses into the sharing of curricula. Some of the lessons we are learning here with LCTLs will be applicable to other programs that might benefit from the sharing we are learning more effectively to do.
Integrated Strategy with the Research Endeavor
As Federal funding for Title VI grants diminishes, I have been thinking more about how to create new opportunities for more sustainable support for LCTLs in particular, and language and culture education more generally. One approach we might take is to more effectively engage faculty and programs doing research in various regions in which a textured understanding of language and culture would enhance and elevate the research they are undertaking.
At MSU, there are many faculty engaged in research across the globe whose work would be enhanced by a strategic and articulated approach to the languages and cultures of the regions in which they work. The key here will be for us to facilitate collaboration as the research questions are being formulated so that the language and culture dimension of the research can be integrated into the heart of the work from the beginning.
As I board the plane from Chicago, I am heartened by the creativity and commitment of colleagues who have dedicated their careers to enabling students to deeply engage new cultures through the languages that bring them to life.
Today we broke ground on the new #MSU #STEMEd building. Mel Cooper, Lappan-Phillips Prof. of Science Ed., William Yakah (@msuneuroscience), @erinmcampbell28 (@xa_msu), & Provost Youatt spoke eloquently about the arts & sciences as catalysts of creativity to solve 21c challenges.
If you are on the #MSU campus today for the opening of @MSU_Football’s 2018 campaign, stop by the south end zone to see the new installation of this mirrored arch by sculptor Brad Howe. #MSUPublicArt #SpartanDeans