The Necessity and Mechanics of Institutional Change

by eea | Thursday, July 18, 2019 - 12:00 PM

Over the past year, I have issued short descriptions of the topics covered in How University Boards Work: A Guide for Trustees, Officers, and Leaders in Higher Education . In this post, I attempt to summarize the challenges and methods of institutional change.

You no doubt have read the stories about falling college enrollments and the closing of small private colleges. Did you know that the number of potential new college freshmen in the Northeast and Mid-West is projected to decline by about 15% over the next five or six years? The causes for this decline are falling birthrates, reduced numbers of international students, developments in higher education and policies in other countries, and economic pressures on families, among others. For tuition-dependent campuses, this projection should be a call for urgent action.

Unfortunately, many trustees are not knowledgeable about higher education and think they can cut their way out of trouble by replacing full-time faculty with part-timers and substituting technology for teachers. Other trustees and presidents think they can fundraise their way to the future, thus taking their attention away from the need for changes in how institutions operate. Many staff members who understand the...Read More

Hodges’ Scout: A Lost Patrol of the French and Indian War

by eea | Friday, July 5, 2019 - 12:00 PM

And some there be, which have no memorial;

As though they had never been;

And are become as though they had never been born . . .

That passage from the book of Ecclesiasticus, which begins Hodges’ Scout , came out of the blue. More honestly, it came as an offering from R. Patrick Murphy, who was attending a conference at which I was delivering a work-in-progress talk. I remember being, first, impressed with Mr. Murphy’s powers of recollection, and second, amazed that someone still read the Apocrypha . Who does that?

But it was a wonderfully appropriate epigram for my project, and indeed every historian can appreciate its simple truth. It certainly applied to the men of that doomed patrol of 1756, most of whose remains were long ago scattered about the woods near Lake George. For the handful of those who returned to their homes in New England, there may in fact be a memorial or two. Jeremiah Lincoln, taken captive at the massacre, made a daring escape from Montreal nine months later, lived to a ripe old age, and was buried in Lunenburg, Massachusetts....Read More

The Edge of Seventeen

by eea | Wednesday, July 3, 2019 - 12:00 PM

What did it mean to be an adolescent in the British eighteenth century? According to one influential argument, there simply was no such thing ; the idea that youth represented a distinct life stage is, by this light, a modern invention only anachronistically applied to Enlightenment narratives. And yet, the era had a number of ways of thinking about the cusp of adulthood, what novelist Frances Burney would call the “ entrance into the world .” The ancient Greek belief in climacteric years—milestones arriving in multiples of seven—lingered, making fourteen and then twenty-one key moments. Legally speaking, reaching twenty-one also meant you had achieved “man’s estate” (if, that is, you were a man…and, heck, it didn’t hurt if you had an estate). Of course, for the novel, marriage marks the social recognition that one has shifted to a different narrative, put away childish things. Entering the world means asserting one’s status as a social actor by proclaiming one’s eligibility, and the realist novel finds this distillation of social relationships (courtship, rejection, seduction, marriage) endlessly appealing.

We’re no better now at pinning down adolescence than were eighteenth-century writers, but the concentrated force of youth continues to make demands...Read More

Making the AI Discussion More Human

by bjs | Monday, July 1, 2019 - 10:00 AM

The term "artificial intelligence" can conjur up any number of thoughts. Some may think about a home device providing instant access to weather and news. Others may find their minds going to technologies that aid in policing, employment and other important aspects of our life. These many aspects of AI can lead to confusion about the role it plays in our lives and the development of regulations to govern AI.

Earlier this year, Eileen Donahoe and Megan MacDuffee Metzger published the essay " Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights " in the Journal of Democracy . Donahoe, former U.S. ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, serves as executive director of the Global Digital Policy Incubator and adjunct professor at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. Metzger is a research scholar and associate director for research at the Global Digital Policy Incubator.

The essay lays out strategies "to figure out how to protect and realize human rights in our new AI-driven world." Donahoe and Metzger joined us for a Q&A about the essay.

How did the development of this essay come about? ...Read More

How University Boards Work - News Stories About Alternatives to Traditional Colleges

by eea | Thursday, June 27, 2019 - 3:00 PM

Over the past year, I have issued brief discussions of selected topics covered in How University Boards Work: A Guide for Trustees, Officers, and Leaders in Higher Education . In this post, I comment on recent news stories about alternatives to college.

The article by Molly Worthen in The New York Times on Sunday, June 9 th , “The Anti-College Is on the Rise", was interesting. It and other articles in The Times and elsewhere about alternative colleges and “work” colleges such as Berea in Kentucky are compelling. However, these reports, as welcome as they may be by those covered, do not help us understand why these colleges are appealing to students and families and what lessons can be learned by other institutions.

As president of two colleges for over 30 years, I think one of the causes of our current crisis in higher education, a lack of focus on student learning leading to dismal graduation rates, results from the way campus presidents think of themselves and how boards reward them. Presidents seem to take seriously the title Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and all that it implies. The implications are more attention to organizational size...Read More