administrators

Colleges must move from simply asking people's opinions to making them count (essay)

Higher education was already reeling from a tumultuous 2015-16 academic year. Serious campus climate issues about race and class surfaced across the country in the form of student, and even employee, protests. Those protests came as a surprise to many in higher education who have worked hard to build inclusive communities on campuses. But they nonetheless clearly demonstrated that colleges and universities still have a long way to go.

Then last month’s presidential election sent another shock wave across higher education. It was a reminder that many experts, the news media, some elected officials and, to a certain extent, the highly educated elite are still “missing something.”

That something is a better understanding of what’s truly going on in our country, on our campuses and in citizens,’ students’ and employees’ lives.

If we in higher education want to have a deeper and clearer understanding of why there is considerable unrest on our campuses and across our nation, we must grasp a fundamental attribute of democracy that we seem to have lost track of: opinions being heard and counting.

Certainly, tens of millions of opinions were just heard in the form of votes cast for president of the United States. But being heard is about more than being counted once every four years. It’s about people being given a chance to exercise their opinions, on a regular basis, about many aspects of their lives. It’s about exercising their opinions at work, too -- where most of us spend many of our waking hours. It’s also -- most especially -- about people feeling that their opinions matter, that they counted and weren’t simply asked for. Those are very different things.

If, for example, you conduct a survey and ask someone’s opinion about something, that’s a decent first step. Certainly better than not asking them at all. But if you never do anything about that survey -- never provide any of the results or insights to those who responded to it and never take any action based on it -- you might actually be making things worse.

Higher education isn’t alone in this challenge; organizations of all kinds struggle with the process of collecting, disseminating and acting upon data. What’s clear, however, is we must both ask and respond. We also need to ask different and better questions.

Behavioral economics tells us that about 30 percent of the decisions we make as human beings are based on rational information, while 70 percent are based on emotion. Emotions are therefore the biggest driver of our decisions and behaviors, and they are as real as any concrete data might be -- in fact, they might be more so. Gallup research has demonstrated that, in the United States and across the globe, measures of people’s well-being (how they feel about and evaluate their lives) are often a stronger predictor of unrest than classic measures such as gross domestic product.

Behavioral economic measures of emotions will forever revolutionize how we come to understand how people are doing -- and how we can accomplish goals like building more inclusive communities. The only way to do so is to ask people directly and to ask questions about how they feel. This is not data we can gather about them; it has to be from them.

Gallup’s extensive research in higher education sheds light on the problems and opportunities for institutions of higher education when it comes to how they can build more inclusive communities. In the past year, Gallup has conducted several campus climate and employee/faculty engagement surveys for colleges and universities. What we’ve learned is that whether someone feels they are part of an inclusive campus community boils down to two absolutely crucial questions. These questions account for more than half of the variance in whether someone feels their campus is inclusive.

The first and most important question is whether they strongly agree that their opinions at work count. And the second is whether they strongly agree that someone cares about them as a person. Unfortunately, higher education institutions do not score well at all on these measures. Nor do K-12 schools. Teachers, for example -- of professions in America -- rank dead last in feeling that their opinions at work count.

Implicit and explicit in this is that institutions need to do more than just ask students, employees and alumni for their opinions; they must do something as a result -- whether that is communicating the findings and insights back to the constituents surveyed or taking action steps toward changes as a result of what was learned.

Emotions must be measured as well. As an example, think of how we typically measure something like student engagement. It’s usually about measuring activity levels -- such as how many times a student volunteered or visited the library or met with an academic adviser. Rarely -- if ever -- do we measure how they felt regarding those activities and interactions. Did they feel their adviser cared about them as a person? Were they excited about what they learned in the library? Did they feel they were able to apply what they were learning in the classroom to their volunteer experience?

Higher education has worked hard toward creating more diverse campus communities. Indeed, as we look at the demographics of colleges and universities today, it’s clear we have accomplished a lot in this regard. While we certainly still have a lot of work to do, we’ve made much more progress on diversity than we have on inclusivity.

That’s a crucial distinction. Diversity is what we see. Inclusivity is how we act and what we feel. The two are interrelated, of course. Diversity serves as a foundation upon which inclusivity is built. But achieving inclusivity requires something quite different from what most of us have probably thought.

Before I started leading Gallup’s higher education work, I would have never guessed that inclusivity was fundamentally about opinions counting. But if someone doesn’t feel their opinions count, they are essentially and fundamentally disconnected from their community. What we have learned from the recent examples of student protests about campus climate and race -- and from many Americans in the aftermath of this election -- is that they are examples of people who felt their opinions have not counted for some time.

In higher education, we must embrace a new era in which we seek to carefully understand how students, employees, faculty members and alumni feel about their studies, work and lives. We have to move from simply asking about their opinions to ensuring those opinions matter and count. And we need to understand that people’s feelings are facts. We can’t dismiss feelings; we need to treat them with great care. If we do, we will make a lot of progress toward creating the inclusive communities we have long sought to build.

Brandon Busteed is executive director of education and work force development at Gallup.

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How higher education can help workers displaced by globalism (essay)

The national discussion over the need for colleges and universities to produce better outcomes and be more inclusive is largely focused on the young people who enter the system. Yet we often ignore older workers whose skills are outmoded or no longer in high demand due to the changing economy -- and who are being displaced by technological shifts and the free flow of goods and services among countries.

While hardly anyone argues that improvements in technology should be slowed down, the same cannot be said for a greater integration of the global economy through freer trade. In particular, globalization and its impact on high-wage manufacturing jobs has become a key political issue in Western economies. It is evident that our country as a whole, as well as the higher education system, is doing a poor job of helping displaced workers reintegrate themselves into the economy. Given adequate funding, the system of higher education is capable of playing a greater role in helping them retain their dignity and contribute to the future.

Economists are in near-unanimous agreement that both free trade and technological change have raised the average income in the United States by shifting resources, including labor, from low-productivity industries into higher-productivity -- and therefore higher-wage -- industries and jobs. History shows that, over the long run, this movement of resources from agriculture to manufacturing and then to services has resulted in the gains in productivity that have led to higher living standards.

Writing for The New York Times, Javier Solana and Strobe Talbott also argue that international trade has been a major force in stabilizing world political systems since the end of World War II. To preserve this stability, they call for a restoration of “public support for free and fair trade … through better safety nets as well as ambitious and effective retraining opportunities.”

But the transition toward a more efficient use of world resources has seldom been a smooth one. It is certainly easier to divert steel from the production of tanks to the production of bridges than it is to convert coal miners into computer programmers. From the riots of the Luddites in 19th-century England to Brexit and the American election, it is clear that the increases in income and efficiency have produced both winners and losers. Those left behind are moving the political climate in Europe, and especially in the United States, into an antiglobalism environment.

In a special report on the declining support for internationalism, The Economist provides a spirited defense for the benefits of free trade but it also admits that globalism is on the run “because too little effort and money has been expended on taking care of those who have been hurt by the opening up of markets,” especially in America.

The Compensation Principle

If mainstream economics provides an argument for free trade, it also provides an argument for shifting some of the gains from trade from the winners to the losers. This argument is imbedded in the compensation principle.

That principle is drawn from the theoretical literature in economics that is concerned with advancing the overall well-being of society. It recognizes that the gains from any transaction can have both winners and losers. Improving societal well-being requires the winners to compensate the losers in some mutually agreeable way. The winners can have their gains, or at least most of them, as long as they are willing to support the losers in a way that leaves them the feeling that they are no worse off than when they started. These are people with dreams for their children and mortgages to pay, who have given up their jobs to market forces beyond their control.

That does not necessarily mean that all displaced workers would be restored to their former level of income. Some will not reach that level. Others might be willing to substitute leisure for income or take a less stressful job. And, yes, a few might even welcome the chance to study philosophy or art as they near retirement. For most, however, returning to the labor market will be of prime importance.

The principles laid down by the compensation theory only work if the winners and the losers have equal bargaining power. Since the winners would come out on top if bargaining were left to private markets or the courts, only the government has the ability to insist on a package of compensation that will adequately satisfy the losers. Using its power to tax and regulate, it can, and does, develop policies that transfer income from the winners to the losers.

That said, however, the volume of this transfer is inadequate in the United States, and a more equitable policy would involve a greater use of the higher education system. Not doing more to compensate those left on the sidelines by international trade risks a backlash that threatens our open economic and political systems.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recently produced a comparative analysis of the “active labor market policies” of 31 mostly rich countries in its group. Analysis of the impact of these policies showed some success, particularly with younger and more recently unemployed workers. Examples of active policies included job-search assistance, education and training, public sector job creation, relocation allowances, and subsidized employment in the private sector. Each country was ranked according to the percentage of its GDP spent on policies that were designed to get people off benefits and back to work.

At the top of the list was Denmark, which spent 1.8 percent of its GDP in 2013 on active labor market policies, followed by Sweden and Finland. America was third from the bottom with 0.1 percent, ahead of only Chile and Mexico. Getting the United States to the middle of the pack would require us to make six times our current effort. That would place us equal to the effort found in Spain, a much poorer country.

Reaching the middle of the OECD pack, let alone the leaders, would come up against impossible political resistance in the United States. But if benefits were concentrated among those displaced by trade, there might be wider support. America took a stab at this with the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program enacted in 2002 and amended in 2009. But compared with the European effort, it was a small program with a limited reach. It should be expanded and more generously funded with a greater emphasis on education and training -- and involve a greater use of the higher education system.

Needed: Increased Education and Training

We have learned a lot from TAA and have found that workers benefited more when they sought out the education and training paid for by the program. Community colleges were the biggest providers of this education, and dislocated workers who participated in their programs achieved better employment outcomes than did those participating in other programs.

If America were to invest more in education and training, community colleges might be expected to carry a good deal of this load. But other possibilities exist. The range of possible training sites could be enlarged to include private and public employers. Wage insurance and other income subsidies to both private and public employers could help compensate displaced workers. Displaced workers could be given vouchers, much like Pell Grants, to use at approved training sites. Private employers might pick these up and develop on-site training and apprenticeship programs.

Including the private sector would contribute to the political support for such a program. For workers, the grants would allow a larger range of possibilities and could be used for an extended period to compensate for the gap between the higher-wage jobs lost in manufacturing and the lower wages common in many service jobs. In any program, particular attention needs to be paid to the participation of men in retraining, lest the social and monetary costs of incarceration, drug addiction, poor health and the deterioration of skills drag them and the society down.

None of this need increase the national deficit if we have the political will to transfer more of the gains of free trade from the winners to the losers. Doing anything less will threaten the gains already made and tear at our economic and political fabric.

Richard M. Romano is an economist and director of the Institute for Community College Research at SUNY Broome. He is also an affiliated faculty member at the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute at Cornell University.

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Hampshire College Resumes Flying U.S. Flag

Hampshire College announced Friday morning that it has resumed flying the U.S. flag from a main flagpole on campus. The flag will fly at full staff.

The college has faced intense criticism -- and a protest by veterans last weekend -- since it announced last month that it would stop flying the U.S. flag (or any flag) after debate on the campus over the issue. During some of the period of debate, which followed the election of Donald Trump as president, the flag was flown at half-staff. On the night before Veterans Day, unidentified people burned the college's U.S. flag.

The photo above right was shot by the college Friday.

The following is the full statement of Jonathan Lash, president of the college, on the decision to resume flying the flag:

This morning we raised the United States flag to full staff at Hampshire College after a two-week discussion period about what the flag means to members of the Hampshire community. College leadership, including the Board of Trustees, had decided on Nov. 18 to lower the flag for a time to encourage uninhibited expression of deeply held viewpoints.

We are alarmed by the overt hate and threats, especially toward people in marginalized communities, which have escalated in recent weeks. We did not lower the flag to make a political statement. Nor did we intend to cause offense to veterans, military families or others for whom the flag represents service and sacrifice. We acted solely to facilitate much-needed dialogue on our campus about how to dismantle the bigotry that is prevalent in our society. We understand that many who hold the flag as a powerful symbol of national ideals and their highest aspirations for the country -- including members of our own community -- felt hurt by our decisions, and that we deeply regret.

The dialogue we have experienced so far is the first step of a process. Hampshire staff and faculty have led facilitated discussions, I have held multiple focus group sessions, and all of our students, faculty and staff have been invited to contribute their opinions, questions and perspectives about the U.S. flag. This is what free speech looks like. We believe in it, we will continue this work on campus and we will look for ways to engage with our neighbors in the wider community. We raise the flag now as a symbol of that freedom, and in hopes for justice and fairness for all.

At Hampshire, we are committed to living up to these principles:

  • To insist on diversity, inclusion and equity from our leaders and in our communities, and the right to think critically and to speak openly about the historical tensions that exist throughout the country.
  • To constructively and peacefully resist those who are opposing these values.
  • To actively and passionately work toward justice and positive change on our campus and in the world.

No less should be expected of any institution of higher learning.

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College Completion Rates Recover After Slide

Overall national college completion rates are rising after a two-year slide, according to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks 97 percent of all college enrollments.

For college students who first enrolled in 2010, the overall six-year graduation rate was 54.8 percent, an increase of 1.9 percentage points from the previous year's students. The new rate is similar to that of students who first enrolled in 2008, but is lower than the 56.1 percent rate for the pre-recession 2007 group.

“We can expect this nationwide recovery in college completion rates to continue in upcoming years,” said Doug Shapiro, the center's executive director.

The recession led to a nationwide surge in college enrollments, the center said, particularly among adult and part-time students. That bump was followed by declining completion rates, which have now partially reversed.

"Dramatic increases in enrollments appear to have leveled off and completion rates are recovering some ground," the report said. "For two-year institutions that could point to overcrowded classrooms to help explain lower completion rates in the previous years, the higher rates for this year’s smaller cohort were perhaps to be expected. For four-year public and nonprofit institutions, however, the rebounding completions rates accomplished with continuing increases in enrollment are a surprising result."

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Penn Provost Named Next President of Duke

Duke University announced Friday that Vincent Price (right) has been named its next president. Since 2009, Price has been provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

At Penn, Price is also the Steven H. Chaffee Professor of Communication in the Annenberg School for Communication and professor of political science in the School of Arts and Sciences. As a scholar, he is known for Public Opinion (Sage, 1992), a book that has been published in six languages and taught in courses around the world.

While introducing the 2016 commencement speaker at Penn wasn't Price's most important duty as provost, it attracted considerable attention. The speaker was Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of the Broadway musical Hamilton. Price, not normally known for his rap, used rhymes and wordplay to welcome Miranda.

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Q&A with author of book on universities' intellectual property practices

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New book highlights intellectual property practices that the author says are dangerous for the public's interest in higher ed.

Ohio State administrator faces calls for her dismissal after she calls for compassion for student who stabbed others

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Ohio State administrator criticized those who were celebrating the death of student who was killed as he was stabbing others.

Q&A with authors of new book on balancing home and work life as an academic scientist

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New book about balancing work and home life as an academic scientist warns that failure to address the challenge will cost institutions and science as a whole.

Salem State reopens exhibit closed due to criticism of art about KKK, with drapes around the piece

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Salem State reopens exhibit that was shuttered based on student criticisms but places most controversial piece behind drapes. Maryland Institute College of Art involves students in displaying piece on the KKK.

Colorado Heights University Will Close

Colorado Heights University, a private nonprofit institution located in Denver, will shut down next year, The Denver Post reported. The small university enrolls mostly international students. University officials cited declining enrollment and the uncertain future of Colorado Heights' accreditor, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, as reasons for the university's closure.

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