Higher Education Webinars

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.

October 12, 2011 - 4:20am
The word “occupation” has been getting a workout lately.The Occupy Wall Street movement, which seems to have gone viral around the country, is emerging as a welcome and badly-needed counterweight to the Tea Party. It has given rise to an Occupy College movement, in which students protest excessive tuition increases, student loan burdens, and, implicitly, the lack of well-paying jobs available upon graduation.And then there are occupations, as in jobs. The lack of occupations is causing occupations.
October 11, 2011 - 4:24am
This kind of situation gives administrators fits, since there’s no easy answer.Let’s say a student is so disruptive in class that he’s making it impossible to teach. The professor exercises the prerogative to kick the student out of class. The professor files disciplinary charges, but it will be a week or more before the charges can be heard (and the student can give his side of the story). The class will meet at least twice, if not more than that, before the hearing can be held.Should the student be allowed back in class, pending the hearing?
October 5, 2011 - 10:40pm
October 5, 2011 - 4:29am
“That’s stupid.”As a professor, I gritted my teeth every time I heard a student say that. It was an attempt to shut down discussion of something that didn’t lend itself to an easy answer. Since then, I’ve seen it applied to all manner of things, from gadgets that don’t behave to other people’s motives.It’s an expression of frustration at the inability to read a situation. If I’m confronted by something I don’t understand, either I’m at fault for not understanding it, or the thing itself defeats understanding. Calling it stupid is a way of blaming the thing.
October 3, 2011 - 10:00pm
What if you could predict with confidence which prospective students would succeed in college and which wouldn’t?
October 2, 2011 - 9:40pm
Though I’m a confessed agnostic on the subject of learning styles, I enjoyed this essay quite a bit. It suggests the danger of mismatching a style of teaching to a subject matter, so that the folks who do well in the course as taught are not necessarily the folks who actually have the best sense of the subject. An easy example might be a public speaking class in which the grade is based entirely on multiple choice exams.
September 29, 2011 - 9:32pm
-- This week a student reminded me of a side of college I sometimes forget. He’s openly gay, and his mannerisms fit the stereotype pretty conspicuously. He mentioned that high school -- just last year -- was sheer hell for him, with his always being subjected to, as he put it, “faggot this and faggot that.” Having been here for a year, he said that he never hears that here. Now that he feels safe, he’s able to stop always looking over his shoulder, and his grades have improved dramatically.
September 28, 2011 - 9:35pm
Could community colleges attract more funding by attracting more white kids?
September 28, 2011 - 4:34am
I’ll preface by saying that I work on the academic side of the college, as opposed to admissions. So there’s a fundamental ignorance underlying this. I hope that commenters who know this stuff better than I do will be kind...My college’s enrollments, like many others, are coming down slightly from the recession-induced spike of 2009. By itself, that’s easy enough to explain: some folks find jobs, unemployment benefits expire, high school graduation numbers are down a bit. I’m not happy about it, but I’m not mystified, either.
September 26, 2011 - 10:16pm
Last week I had a discussion that’s still echoing in my head.It was with some people who work at four-year colleges in the area. We were discussing various measures we had taken to improve student success and retention rates: different approaches to academic advising, tweaks to new student orientation, early warning systems, that sort of thing. At which point one of them, from a tuition-driven college, said:“And of course, you have to identify upfront the students who no amount of help will save. Target the resources where they’ll actually make a difference.”Oooof.


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