Cultures of Abuse

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.

Rankings Reward Wealthy Universities – @jselingo of @WashingtonPost #SpartanDeans

Jeffrey Selingo rightly argues in the Washington Post that States’ Decision to Reduce Support for Higher Education Comes at a Cost.

“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.”