I’m ready to get back to our college journey, but first I’d like to tie up a few local loose ends…
1. On Tuesday, June 26th, to high praise from the University of Virginia community, the Board of Visitors reversed their ill-thought acceptance of President Sullivan’s resignation and reinstated her. This came after more than two weeks of rallies, hundreds of FOIA’ed emails, and thousands of tweets, column inches, chatter, and online comments.
2. On Friday, June 29th, the Governor of Virginia reappointed Helen Dragas to the UVa Board of Visitors. It was Ms. Dragas, in her role as Rector of the BoV, who — through borderline-legal manipulations and extremely poor management — launched the UVa community into this upheaval.
3. Mere hours later, Mother Nature unleashed a derecho (straight-line storm with very high winds) and Virginia experienced its worst non-hurricane damage, leaving more than a million households without power, most for multiple days, and some are still without nine days later.
In case you’ve not read enough about the UVa story, here’s one more article worth paying attention to…
Jeff Selingo, an Editorial Director for the Chronicle of Higher Education, wrote Fixing College for the New York Times op-ed page. He outlines the source of the anxiety UVa and most colleges face today:
Students were not the only ones to go deeper into debt. So did schools, building lavish residence halls, recreational facilities and other amenities that contributed little to actual learning. The debt taken on by colleges has risen 88 percent since 2001, to $307 billion.
This heady period of growth occurred precisely when colleges had the financial flexibility to prepare for what was to come: fewer government dollars, a wave of financially needy students, a drop-off in the number of well-prepared high-school graduates who could afford to pay, and, of course, technological advances in teaching and learning. Instead, colleges continued to focus on their unsustainable model, assuming little would change.
Other information industries, from journalism to music to book publishing, enjoyed similar periods of success right before epic change enveloped them, seemingly overnight. We now know how those industries have been transformed by technology, resulting in the decline of the middleman — newspapers, record stores, bookstores and publishers.
Some of Mr. Selingo’s solutions will sound very familiar: better use of technology and more online courses were at the heart of the Dragas-led complaints about President Sullivan. Other solutions take higher-ed to task for their own mismanagement: shift the focus to academics from administration and reduce the number of wasted credits. If you’re at all interested in the challenges colleges face today, it’s a good start.
Finally, I’ll end this with a quote from President Sullivan, when she spoke to a crowd of supporters after the vote to restore her to office. This, from the Charlottesville Daily Progress: Historic day at UVa: Sullivan reinstated after two weeks of turmoil.
She also expressed relief.
“As we know, Mr. Jefferson provides a perspective for every occasion,” Sullivan said, drawing a laugh from the crowd. “And I’m reminded of his letter to James Warren after the election of 1800, in which he says, ‘It is pleasant for those who have just escaped threatened shipwreck to hail one another when landed in unexpected safety.'”
The crowd cheered.
- University of Virginia Reinstates Ousted President (nytimes.com)
- The Troubles in Mr. Jefferson’s Academical Village (The Quick and the Ed)