The Chronicle of Higher Education asked me to write a column about President-elect Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, focusing on what impact she would have on higher education across the nation. DeVos, who has a long track record as a Republican activist and supporter of charter schools and school vouchers in Michigan, was a surprise choice to many. While she has paid much less of her attention to higher education, in the column I suggested a few areas on which she may focus as Secretary.
During the presidential campaign I wrote about the higher education proposals of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Since the election last week there has been so much that has happened in our country that I almost wouldn’t know where to start to comment. However, one thing that has been very disturbing has been the outbreak of racist, nationalist, misogynist, anti-immigrant, and other bigoted actions across the nation. This morning’s San Francisco Chronicle has an op-ed I authored calling on President-elect Trump to take quick action to stop them.
I did not read another Donald E. Westlake novel after I graduated from high school and left Madison, even though he published many more volumes before he died in 2008. I discovered other writers and topics that garnered my attention, both through my studies in college and graduate school as well as outside of those topics. But I have maintained my love of reading throughout the subsequent years.
When I finished my doctoral studies and had a few months free between graduation and when I started my first job as an assistant professor, I bought myself the present of a copy of the John Updike book, Rabbit Angstrom: A Tetralogy. The volume, published a couple of years earlier, was a compilation of Updike’s four Rabbit novels, each of which I had read in sequence over a period of about 20 years earlier in my life. For me, it was an indulgence to be able to sit and reread all four of these books, which were among my favorites of all time (ranking right up there with Westlake, of course), and which chronicled the life of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom from high school through the end of his life.
I was on vacation back east last week, not far from the small town in Connecticut in which I grew up. I lived there from birth until I graduated from high school and went off to college. Madison was small, at least by the standards of the eight other places I have lived since then, all of which dwarf Madison in size. The population when I left in 1977 was somewhere in the ballpark of 10,000 people; the most recent census data show that the town has grown somewhat since then, but as of last year the population was still only about 18,000.
There were not a lot of diversions for an adolescent the town back then. There was no arcade; in fact, I don’t think there was even any public place that had a pinball machine. There was no fast food; the closest was the soda counter at Jolly’s, one of two drug stores in the town. Television was limited to over-the-air channels, which consisted of the three major networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS; public broadcasting; and three independent stations from New York City – WOR, WNEW, and WPIX – which I recall broadcast mostly reruns and professional sports.
There has been a good amount of discussion on the presidential campaign trail about the issue of college affordability and student loan debt. I have written in previous blog posts about some of Hillary Clinton’s proposals, as well as those of Martin O’Malley. This week, I wrote a column for the website The Conversation, where I described why any discussion of college affordability needs to start with the role of Pell Grants, the foundation of the federal government’s student aid programs.
This week, the Washington Post is running a series titled, “Do we need to remodel our university system?” The Post invited me to contribute an essay to the series in which I argue that one of the strengths of our system is the many forms of postsecondary educational institutions we have, and that it provides students with many options. I invite you to read my essay as well as the others in the series.
Last Sunday my family and I had the opportunity to march in San Francisco’s Pride Parade with members and supporters of the university’s LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning) Caucus. It was a beautiful summer day in San Francisco, which means, I am finding out as a new resident, it was sunny and about 70 degrees on Market Street in the city.
There were over 200 participants in our group, which included faculty, staff, and students; young and old(er); and members of the LGBT community and those who are supporters of it. Everyone appeared to be having a wonderful time, and it was great to see all the enthusiastic supporters of the university along the parade route. San Francisco has long been known as being welcoming to the LGBTQ community, and this was demonstrated throughout the entire parade route.
The Washington Post asked me to write a commentary in response to yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas, in which the court upheld the university’s use of race-based affirmative action. This was a historic decision for the Supreme Court, and an important one for higher education institutions across the country. As someone who has done research over the last two decades on college access and success for underrepresented students, I was extremely pleased to see the court affirm the importance of allowing colleges and universities to use the tools they need to create a diverse class of students.
In 2014 the White House launched a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign to help combat sexual assault at the nation’s colleges and universities. Titled “It’s On Us,” the campaign uses celebrities to help raise awareness about the problem – what some are calling an epidemic – of sexual assault and rape in higher education.
This issue has received much attention from policymakers as well as the media over the last few years. The U.S. Department of Education, through its enforcement of Title IX of the Higher Education Act of 1965, has stepped up its oversight of how colleges adjudicate reports of sexual harassment and assault. The recent case of Brock Turner, a Stanford University student athlete convicted of sexually assaulting a woman while she was unconscious – and who received only a 6-month prison sentence for the act – has brought the issue to the forefront of the news once again.
Welcome to the relaunch of my blog, which I first started in my previous position as Dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University. I have brought over some of my favorite posts from there, and in the coming weeks I will begin adding more from my experience as Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the University of San Francisco.
Since joining the university on January 25, it’s been a whirlwind semester which just wrapped up the week before last with the commencement ceremonies for our four schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. The semester flew by as I did my best to learn about all of our academic programs, got out to meet people across campus, visit each of our five branch campuses in the bay area and in Southern California, and experience the many cultural, athletic, and spiritual events at USF.
As I’ve been meeting people across campus, I am often asked, “How are you doing juggling the many things you have to do as provost?” I generally respond by saying that juggling is perhaps not the best metaphor for my job. Instead, or at least if they are old enough to remember the Ed Sullivan show, I suggest that a better metaphor is Erich Benn, the plate spinner who often appeared on that show (you can watch a video of him).