• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


Friday Fragments

Recruitment, selection effects revisited and situational tachycardia.

October 30, 2020

Earlier this week, I asked if anyone had seen effective college recruitment during COVID.

Nobody had.

That’s both heartening and devastating.


The piece about self-selection and online classes elicited some thought-provoking responses. One was from a professor whose experience was precisely the opposite: he saw student performance lagging across the board, including among students he had taught before. Another was from a researcher who suggested that self-selection at the section level has been replaced by self-selection in terms of showing up to college at all. He noted, correctly, that the students most able to keep showing up tend to be the students with economic means. To the extent that the pandemic has disproportionately forced low-income students and students of color out of college altogether, any improvement in pass rates is more appropriately read as a sign of exclusion.

Both strike me as plausible, but also as empirical. They could be largely settled through large-scale empirical study. I don’t personally have the resources to do that -- what with the day job and all -- but I know some people do.

Here’s hoping some enterprising researchers take up the issue. The answers matter.


The Girl has started driving.

Nothing helps you appreciate life more than a sudden reminder of its fragility.

The following is a brief transcript of what I said as she negotiated a left turn into a parking lot. For context, it was a busy-ish road, she had been going about 45 miles per hour, she took the turn wide and the edges of the entrance had curbs.

“Turn harder. Harder. Harder. Brake! Brake brake brake brake brake braaaaaaaake!”

Somehow -- and I don’t know how this is possible -- she managed not to jump the curb.

My heartbeat will eventually return to normal, right?


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