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.

February 20, 2011 - 9:10pm
This actually happened. Probably due to something in the water, we’ve had an outbreak of pregnancies on campus over the past year. In every case, we’ve had to pay replacements to pick up either the classes or the hours of the woman who went out on leave. There’s a budget line for substitutes, but we’ve already blown well past it for the academic year, and it’s only February.The college budget hawk, whom I will simply call Money Guy (MG), dropped by my office to express his concern. This is the actual, I-am-not-making-this-up conversation.
February 17, 2011 - 10:17pm
Fresh off a glorious Super Bowl victory, the state of Wisconsin is apparently looking at rescinding collective bargaining rights for college and university faculty and professional staff. (At this point, only the Democrats’ hiding ability seems to be stopping it. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere...) For blue-collar workers, as I understand it, it’s looking at restricting the range of collective bargaining to base wages; benefits, working conditions, workloads, and procedures would be off the table.
February 16, 2011 - 9:53pm
This confession is really awful for an academic administrator, but it’s true. My brain has run out of space for new acronyms.Acronym proliferation is out of control. It comes from many sources.The most obvious is grant-funded programs. For whatever reason, a few decades ago someone decided that every grant-funded program needed a clever, upbeat acronym. As with many awful ideas, it was probably harmless enough at first. But the good ones went fast, and now each new iteration of a program needs its own spiffy new term.
February 15, 2011 - 10:07pm
Too many management books are written from the perspective of the CEO. Most managers aren’t CEO’s; they’re somewhere in the middle, trying to negotiate between directives from above and facts on the ground below. Reading about Steve Jobs can be fun, but if you’re a regional sales manager, it’s of limited use. He has room to move that you simply don’t.
February 14, 2011 - 9:19pm
The Boy and The Girl attend a pretty good public school district. It’s in a working/middle class suburb, and it punches slightly above its socioeconomic weight in test scores. But it’s hardly rich, and it’s not immune to the recession.Last week the superintendent mentioned at a public meeting (that The Wife attended) that with federal stimulus funds expiring, the district faces a deficit of unprecedented size. She outlined a series of user fees and layoffs that, taken together, might just barely get the job done if things don’t get any worse.
February 13, 2011 - 9:35pm
Last week’s piece in IHE by “Young Philosopher” about replacing first-round conference interviews with Skype interviews has stuck in my craw for the last few days. I’m increasingly convinced that he’s on to something, but with a few key qualifications. (I have no ‘brand loyalty’ on this one. I’ll just refer to Skype because it’s convenient, but any synchronous, interactive web video platform would accomplish the same thing.)
February 10, 2011 - 9:34pm
Achieving the Dream is an initiative sponsored by the Lumina Foundation and spearheaded by one of my personal heroes, Kay McClenney. It’s an attempt to get community colleges across the country to build ‘cultures of evidence’ about student success. It relies heavily on data-driven decisionmaking, with the goal of prodding colleges to move from the ways things have always been done to the ways that things actually succeed. It’s a great idea, and I’m a fan. (For the record, my college is not an ATD school.)
February 9, 2011 - 9:56pm
This one is both a confession and a thank you.Every once in a while, the level of toxicity in this role gets high enough that I have to seek out some colleagues, close the door, and get a pep talk. There’s just no other way to stay sane.The best pep talks manage to combine a view of the big picture with just enough credible observations of strengths to make it seem manageable. They’re about the situation, as seen from a helpful distance.
February 8, 2011 - 9:48pm
I overhear a fair amount of student conversation, just walking the hallways and occasionally eating in the cafeteria. Words I haven’t heard: Egypt, Mubarek, Obama, oil, revolution, war.Words I have heard: class, facebook, job, work, girlfriend, assorted cursingAdmittedly, this is an unscientific sample, and far from comprehensive. Somewhere, someone may be having an earnest, searching discussion of, say, American foreign policy. But I haven’t seen or heard it.
February 7, 2011 - 8:52pm
Actual conversation from last night, at the kitchen table. The Girl is writing out her Valentine’s Day cards, and The Boy is working on a report on Thomas Edison.The Wife: TB, do you have to do valentines?TB: Well, we don’t have to, but we can. If we do, we have to do one for everyone in the class.TW: Do you want to?TB: (shrugging): I guess so.TW: Is there anyone outside of your class you’d like to give one to?(pause)TB (smirking): I choose not to disclose that information.


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