Students are Not the Customers – Or the Product – But Our Partners

Are our students the customers, the product, or something else?

by Leonard Schlesinger (Babson)

Schools that identify students as customers are missing the essential reciprocal nature of the educational relationship. As someone who has spent most of his adult life running service enterprises that were truly taking care of customers, the use of that word for what is essentially a partnership relationship demeans the work that faculty do. You would not “flunk” your customer because you don’t want to make him or her unhappy.

The customer mode generally implies a transactional encounter. So, when they’re in line at the dining hall or bookstore or engaging in the administrative functions on campus, then, absolutely, students are customers.

However, what goes on in the classroom is not transactional. When they’re in the classroom, each student is a PILE—a Partner in the Learning Enterprise. A Partner in the Learning Enterprise recognizes that each of us has a set of Continue reading “Students are Not the Customers – Or the Product – But Our Partners”

The Narrowing of the American Mind

Are we preparing students for the professional world?

By Carol Geary Schneider (AAC&U)

Envision this: You’re an employer, interviewing a candidate for an entry-level position in your unit. The applicant is very direct.

“I’m in it for the money,” she explains. “I make all my choices on the basis of how much I can expect to earn. I chose my major based on earnings reports. I applied for this particular position because you pay more than any other company in the region. Actually, I’m a bit sorry that I didn’t stop with a two-year degree, since I read in the newspaper last week that I could have made almost as much in my first job with half the time spent on college. I hate thinking about all the time I wasted.”

You have no difficulty deciding not to hire this new graduate. The job applicant who arrives talking money first, money only, lacks common sense, and career sense, too.

And yet our candid candidate did Continue reading “The Narrowing of the American Mind”

The Distracted Academic Self

What is your passion?

By Donald E. Hall (Lehigh)

When I published The Academic Self: An Owner’s Manual (Ohio State University Press) 10 years ago, there was one point I hoped to make above all others: I wanted academic readers to understand the absolute necessity of continuously working to sort out what we can change or influence in our own lives and selves, and what we cannot.

Much has changed since then, but I believe that point is just as valid today.

Back in 2002, my work life was so hectic that I had to microschedule everything just to keep my sanity intact. I was working at California State University at Northridge, a teaching-intensive institution, holding two administrative appointments, and commuting two or sometimes three hours a day on Los Angeles freeways.

The context of my work has changed significantly in the past decade. I have made two Continue reading “The Distracted Academic Self”

Over Planning is Not the Answer in Today’s Uncertain World

How should you organize your life?

by Len Schlesinger  (Babson)

The world was a very certain place when I was growing up in New York City. From an early age, I had my life planned out.  Everything was marvelously scripted: I was going to go to a specialized high school; I was going to go to a great university; and I was going to be a lawyer. Despite the fact that my family had no money, through my academic performance I was able to excel in elementary school and junior high school and believed that I could do just about anything I wanted. And much of what I wanted came true. I went to an Ivy League college—and then I got to day one of law school and discovered that I had absolutely no interest in law as a career. Continue reading “Over Planning is Not the Answer in Today’s Uncertain World”

Poverty Is A Shortage Of Money

What have you learned about life?

by Larry Schall (Oglethorpe)

Ten years ago, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a book called Nickel and Dimed. She brought home in stark detail how hard it is for a family to break out of poverty. I recall one story about something as common as gathering the funds needed to put down a security deposit on an apartment while working a minimum wage job. First month, last month and a deposit on a $500 a month apartment while taking home $5 an hour. Do the math. One would have to save every cent you earned for 300 hours of work — seven and one-half weeks of work — to accumulate sufficient funds. Let’s go crazy and suggest your job is paying you twice that rate. It would take only a month of work while you spent absolutely no money on food, clothes or rent. Hallelujah. God forbid any one in your family needs health care, which your employer does not provide. I think Nickel and Dimed is in something like its tenth printing. It’s not a long book and it’s absolutely worth the read. Continue reading “Poverty Is A Shortage Of Money”

There’s More Than One Way to Defend Your Country

How should higher education be funded?

By Joseph R. Urgo  (St. Mary’s – Maryland)

I remember receiving my college financial-aid package in 1974, and among the grant and work-study information was a letter about my eligibility for a National Defense Student Loan. I don’t remember what the letter said, but I do remember stopping cold. What did my acceptance to a residential liberal-arts college have to do with national defense? Continue reading “There’s More Than One Way to Defend Your Country”

First, Figure Out Why We Are Failing

Is higher education improving or going down hill?

By Judith Ramaley (Winona)

In his inaugural speech, President Obama declared that “our schools fail too many.” Few would disagree with the fundamental premise that we must promote greater educational attainment for everyone if we are to meet the challenges of today’s world. The United States once led the world in the percentage of young adults with college degrees, but in recent years, 15 other nations have surpassed us in that measure. Some nations are already pulling ahead of us in the proportion of their total adult population that holds college degrees. Continue reading “First, Figure Out Why We Are Failing”

We Should Look to Other Indicators to Measure Worth and Value

Are we evaluating colleges the right way?

By Arthur M. Hauptman (Consultant)

There is little question that the shift in policy focus in this country over the past decade from access to success has been a positive development. College officials and policy makers at both the federal and state levels now recognize that it is not enough to measure the scope of higher education just in terms of how many students enroll; if we as a nation are to remain globally competitive, it is also critical to ensure that more students actually complete their program and attain a degree. Continue reading “We Should Look to Other Indicators to Measure Worth and Value”

A Lesson In Herd Mentality

How do you teach people to do the right thing?

by Daniel Kittle (Wartburg)

In the syllabus, the title of that day’s class was “Leadership and Cultural Competencies.” As part of an introductory course on the elements of leadership, it was supposed to include a discussion of prejudice and the traits, values, and skills necessary for leaders in our diverse world. But my students were about to encounter intolerance much closer to home.

Earlier in the year, an openly gay man on the college staff had been the victim of vandalism on the campus, with homophobic slurs scratched into the door of his vehicle. I asked the students: What would they have done had they known the identity of the vandal or witnessed the act? How would they have responded if they’d heard someone joking about it? Continue reading “A Lesson In Herd Mentality”

Where is the philosopher of the digital age?

Where is higher education headed?

re: Deborah Spar (Barnard)

In  her essay, In Search of Prophets, Debora Spar, President of Barnard College, asks,

“Where is the philosopher of the digital age?”

Among others, her paper makes four claims:

Claim 1: “Sadly, he or she [a philosopher of the digital age] doesn’t exist.”

Claim 2: “I don’t believe that higher education bears much of the blame for the inequities that now confront our country, or for the gloomy forecasts that have driven our students to the streets in protest.” Continue reading “Where is the philosopher of the digital age?”