Stephen Karlson (shkarlson) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Stephen Karlson

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Book Review No. 22 is Matthew (Dean Dad) Reed's Confessions of a Community College Administrator.  The author is kind enough to acknowledge my influence.  Incentives matter.  I liked the book.

Although my environment is that of the research-ambitious, sports-ambitious, possibly trying to do all things, land grants and mid-majors, there is much about the struggles of a community college to balance the conflicting goals of politicians, students, employers, and employees that generalizes to other institutions.

Administration in an institution that is less conflicted about what it seeks to do is probably more straightforward.  But governmental micromanagement (outcomes assessment, Department of Education mandates, grandstanding politicians) goes on forever.

The concept of deanship might be changing, too.  Dean Dad moved into administration at a young age, in community colleges where many of the senior faculty appear to have gone Galt.  (Most of them would probably bridle at the reference.  Tango Sierra.)  Once upon a time, a college or division dean would be a respected senior scholar (and in the strongest institutions, the duties could be rotated).  That vision is what led to the now departed David Broder and Helen Thomas being referred to as "dean" of opinion columnists or Washington correspondents.

Most intriguing, though, is the book's recommendation that community colleges focus on the liberal arts core!  (Turn to page 134.)  That's not as crazy as it sounds: with articulation agreements in place, a substantial number of Northern Illinois students bring their general education credits with them, and various colleges and divisions have experimented with various certificates or other inducements to get high school graduates to start on campus.  That means, though, allied health programs being allocated among the community colleges (with tweaks to in-county tuitions as applicable) and vocational and technical programs left to the for-profits, or to apprenticeships.  That's likely to produce some resistance.

There's one other dimension of the community college portfolio that is missing, and perhaps that's encouraging.  Dean Dad makes no mention of athletics.  There are strong intercollegiate athletics programs among the community colleges (at least in Illinois and Wisconsin) and more than a few revenue sports eligibility factories out there (perhaps not in Pioneer Valley).  If, however, the comparative advantage is in delivering the core curriculum for transfer, there's no point in adding sports if it's not already there.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Tags: academic, current events

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