• 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

Hunger, teaching, an American car and Prince.

April 29, 2016

Sara Goldrick-Rab, Katharine Broton, and Emily Brunjes Colo have published a report arguing for expanding the school lunch program to higher education.

It would be an awkward fit, but in general, it’s a great idea.

At a basic level, it would help students who don’t have the money for consistent meals. That’s no small thing; it’s hard to focus on academics when you’re hungry and you don’t know when or how you’ll eat next. The hierarchy of needs is real.  

But it does more than that. At commuter colleges, it would encourage students to come to campus and stick around. That kind of engagement is difficult for students who are barely scraping by. Students who stick around are likelier to get involved in discussions and activities, and we know that students who get involved more perform better academically.  

The fit is slightly more awkward at many colleges than at the K-12 level, because here, it’s common to have multiple and/or outsourced providers. It would probably have to be some sort of cash voucher. That’s not a deal-breaker, by any means; it’s just a little more complicated than a prix fixe single provider cafeteria.

Still, this is the kind of idea that could change lives. Major kudos.


Rebecca Schuman gets a lot right in this column.  I remember being told in grad school to spend as little time as possible on my teaching, so I could focus on my research.  I couldn’t bring myself; the students in front of me seemed too important.  In fact, they were.

Now that I’m on the hiring side, I can attest personally that Schuman is right.  Research is great, and in some rarefied settings, it wins the day.  But at most colleges, it’s all about teaching. And I’ll happily and eagerly hire the lightly-published but excellent teacher over the well-published but middling teacher.  

Fwiw, if you aren’t on the “research superstar” track, immerse yourself in teaching. Not just in volume, but in technique.  Learn about universal design, scaffolding, outcomes assessment, and, yes, online pedagogy.  No guarantees in this market, but the odds will be a lot better.  And at least you’ll have a clear conscience when you look your students in the eyes.


After an adult lifetime of buying Japanese cars, last year I decided to roll the dice and buy a Ford. I mention that because with fewer than 10,000 miles on it, I’ve already had to take it back to the shop four times. In that time, TW’s seven-year-old Honda hasn’t had a single issue.

Lesson learned.  I won’t make that mistake again.


Actual, verbatim, I-am-not-making-this-up quote from my mother-in-law: “Have you heard of this Prince guy?”

There must have been something in the water in Minneapolis in the early/mid 1980’s. “Purple Rain” came out the same year that The Replacements issued “Let It Be.”  Not bad.

I’m old enough now that my kids consider my cultural markers prehistoric, just as I did with my parents’.  (Anne Murray?  Geez, Dad…)  The musicians and actors who captured my attention mostly belonged to a specific time, and that time has passed.  The Boy has a sense of my musical tastes, and once recommended a new song to me because “you’d like it -- you can hear all of the instruments.”  Apparently that’s a genre now.

Prince played all the instruments, and wrote songs that still hold up thirty-plus years later.  At the time, he seemed special; now, there’s just no dispute.

Yes, I’ve heard of him. A tip o’ the cap to a real artist.  


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