Saturday, April 4, 2015

The future of higher education

I spend a lot of time thinking about this topic--it's my job to do so, at least until June 30, when my time as an interim administrator is up.  My convictions.

Tenure will go away.  There can be other, better contractual situations for faculty.  Or at least it needs to be restructured. 

Academic freedom is a word that gets thrown around and is meaningless because of so many definitions for it.  If academic freedom is in any way conflated with "lack of accountability," that needs to go away.  Lack of accountability in the college classroom is unsustainable.  I hear faculty say, "I just want to close my door and deal with students."  I understand that; it's why we chose this work.  But why so defensive?  Why not more open and transparent about what goes on in there?  Not to put the burden of proof on hard working faculty, but I have to wonder about a refusal to let others know what and how you teach.  Where else in the economy is such secrecy allowed? (Other than therapy?)

Publish or perish is a strange model.  Why do we have to pay to get journals that were written by people who were not paid for the articles and who did them while on the public dollar? (at least most of the time, either through grants or through being paid for working in public institutions?)  Our system has a wonderful virtual library where almost everything is available, but not everyone has that.  Google Scholar is helpful at time but most of those articles have to be paid for to access. 

Secondly, a great deal of what gets published under the need for publication is not really of much value, but that is my opinion and I would understand arguments to the contrary.  I also am prejudiced against some fields that seem more to be navel-gazing and political screeds than legitimate disciplines (no names, again).

That said, every faculty member needs to be doing research of some kind because research is learning.  How it is disseminated is another issue, but it should be.   And SoTL is not inferior to other research.

Doctoral education is doing a poor job of preparing candidates for real academic jobs.  Leadership is undervalued, as is collegiality and working in groups.  My program was not like that, but I know others are, especially in the humanities. 

On the other hand, state governments need to have their butts kicked about funding.  The state in which I live is suffering from lack of prioritizing higher education.    It is paying the price.

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