One common reflection following the recent election is that we each live within a “bubble” of likeminded and self-reinforcing folks. College campuses, in particular, have been accused of being out of touch with a large portion of society. And at the NEASC Annual Conference
last week, campus leaders expressed frustration with an apparent shift from assessment of learning outcomes to questioning of the value to society of the academic enterprise.
As someone who has the privilege of working with leaders from numerous academic institutions, I have a different perspective on the value proposition.
Across higher ed, leaders are making public statements reaffirming the necessity of maintaining colleges and universities as places where all are welcome. Collective statements such as the one from the “Seven Sisters
” colleges and the “Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and our Undocumented Immigrant Students”
signed by over 500 college presidents send broad messages. And dozens of institutions have internally re-emphasized their inclusive values proactively and/or in response to some hateful speech or action.
Even more telling, however, is the care on campuses that is going into respecting both the right to free speech and the right to be free of intimidation.
Real learning often requires recognizing a disconnect between our espoused values and our actions. In the examples below and others, academic leaders are engaging their institutions in explicitly examining what their actions convey about their values and how that impacts a learning community.
- At Salem State University, this was seen in response to an art exhibit intended to convey one political message but understood by some to convey another.
- At Hampshire College, it is a debate over the meaning and appropriate treatment of the American flag.
- At West Virginia University, it is in reaction to an invited speaker who made defamatory remarks about a professor.
- At Harvard College, it is in the controversy about opening membership to final clubs.
We are grateful for the work you do.
Wishing you a joyful holiday!