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 23, 2011 - 10:17pm
A thoughtful correspondent wrote last week to express concern about what she perceived as a growing rift between faculty and professional staff on her campus. 
October 20, 2011 - 10:16pm
A new correspondent writes: I'm a new hire in my second year at a large community college in the Mid-Atlantic region. During my first year I largely kept my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut as I adjusted to a new workplace with its own culture, policies, and personnel. Tenure reviews from my committee and student evaluations were glowing, and overall, everyone seems pretty glad they hired me. During that first year and more recently I've seen a few things going on that I don't agree with or have strong opinions about. Some are issues at the district level, some at the college level, and some are within my own division. This year I've started speaking up in division meetings and in conferences, trying to offer solutions and different points of view rather than point fingers. The feedback from fellow faculty has been positive - they like that I'm speaking up, even if they don't necessarily agree with me all the time. Various members of the administration, however, have taken notice as well and the feedback from them hasn't been as positive. I suspect they prefer the 'company guy' they saw in my first year rather than this new guy with his opinions (which on occasion are diametrically opposed to those of administration). Do you have any tips on how to navigate tenure while still maintaining my self respect? I can't abide muzzling myself for another two years, but I don't want to get pegged as a troublesome faculty member by administration and risk not getting tenure either.
October 20, 2011 - 3:00am
A returning correspondent writes: I teach history in the major university in my area. Every year I get 3-4 emails from high school students who want help with their papers. They often describe their topic with a phrase that sounds suspiciously like a high school essay question. High school instructors seem to feel that students are showing "initiative" by asking somebody else to do their work for them. With time, my initial sense of outrage over the laziness of students has given way to resignation.
October 19, 2011 - 4:33am
A regular reader writes:I teach at an open admission, 4 year college. Unlike community colleges, we actually pull our students from [several states].I was having a conversation with another faculty member about our students, many of whom aren't particularly interested or engaged in school. She suggested that we should try to improve our student base, and that we could do that while keeping our open admission policy.
October 17, 2011 - 10:18pm
This piece in the Washington Post -- sent along by a few alert readers -- inadvertently draws attention to one of the consistent dilemmas of established colleges trying to make change.
October 16, 2011 - 9:46pm
Sometimes I take questions from readers, but today I have a question for you.My college will bring its first full-time Instructional Designer on board soon.For those of who have worked with instructional designers on your campuses, what should we try to encourage? What should we be extra careful to avoid?
October 13, 2011 - 8:56pm
Earlier this week, The Girl and I did a grocery run. The following exchange occurred in the ice cream aisle.TG (sighing): It must be nice to be in charge.DD: What?TG: It must be nice to be in charge! You get to decide what everyone will do!DD: Well, sometimes it can be nice. But sometimes it’s not.TG: Why not?DD: Because sometimes you have to make a decision that people don’t like, and then they get mad at you.TG: Just let them vote on it!DD (suppressing a laugh): That’s not always an option.TG: Why not?(pause)
October 12, 2011 - 10:14pm
The recent silliness in Florida, in which the governor is questioning the need for more anthropologists, got me to thinking about the whole idea of market demand for degrees. When we speak of market demand for certain disciplines, which market do we mean?There’s the market for B.A. grads (or A.A. grads, or A.S. grads) in private industry. Looking solely at that, you’d conclude that a field like psychology is pretty much DOA.Then there’s the market for Ph.D. grads in a given discipline. There, psychology looks stronger, but English isn’t looking too hot.
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?

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