How to be an effective acting director, chair or dean — Part II (essay)

Last week, Inside Higher Ed published an essay of mine describing my experience as an interim dean. It covered several practical, task-oriented topics: identifying one’s core mission for the interim period, allaying colleagues’ fears, acquiring reliable information and triaging the issues that land in your inbox. But leading a college that includes a department of theater helped me recognize …

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The Eyes of Texas

 The Eyes of Texas Sorry for the blogging interruption. I’m at the annual AAU (Association of American Universities) meeting of Senior Research Officers in Austin, Texas. UT Austin has a beautiful clock tower just up the street from our hotel. As pretty as it is I couldn’t help but think about the 1966 tower sniper (45 …

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Increase

The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) is gathering steam for a new push around food and agriculture when the new administration is installed next January. The exact nature of their initiative is still in flux at this writing, so pardon me while I take a few sentences to situate this whole mess …

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$1.2 trillion college loan bubble?

See also When everyone goes to college: a lesson from S. Korea. Returns to a “college education” are highly dependent on the intrinsic cognitive ability and work ethic of the individual. WSJ: College Loan Glut Worries Policy Makers The U.S. government over the last 15 years made a trillion-dollar investment to improve the nation’s workforce, …

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University quality and global rankings

University quality and global rankings The paper below is one of the best I’ve seen on university rankings. Yes, there is a univariate factor one might characterize as “university quality” that correlates across multiple measures. As I have long suspected, the THE (Times Higher Education) and QS rankings, which are partially survey/reputation based, are biased …

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Harvard Overseer Election

Harvard Overseer ballots have been mailed. Please vote for the Free Harvard, Fair Harvard ticket! Earlier posts here. Below is my candidate statement. Stephen Hsu is Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He oversees roughly $600 million in annual research expenditures on a campus of 50,000 …

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Elite schools, birthright, and credentials

In mixing together the truly talented with the rich and powerful, elite US universities perform a useful service to both groups. Khan is discussing themes related to his book Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School. See also Credentialism and elite employment , Credentialism and elite performance, and Defining Merit. Bloomberg View: Save …

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Free Harvard, Fair Harvard: Harvard Magazine and CNN coverage

We are rapidly approaching the February 1 deadline for petition signatures supporting our Free Harvard, Fair Harvard (FHFH) campaign. Two articles just appeared concerning the campaign. Harvard Magazine’s Overseers Petitioners Challenge Harvard Policies contains a thorough and lengthy review of the issues. After a quick read, I have two specific comments. 1. The author seems unaware …

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John McWhorter: the truth about mismatch

I’m shocked that CNN published Columbia professor John McWhorter’s editorial on Scalia’s mismatch comments. His remarks challenge the mainstream media narrative, and require some thought from the reader. CNN: Those who consider themselves on black people’s side are having a field day dismissing Justice Antonin Scalia as a racist. His sin was suggesting that black …

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Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers

Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, by Tom Wolfe. First appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine, April 1971. (The Sixties lasted well into the Seventies!) Collected, together with Radical Chic, in this Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition (2009). Tom Wolfe understands the human animal like no sociologist around. He tweaks his reader’s every buried thought and prejudice. He sees through …

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Struggles at Yale

I used to eat at Silliman College (one of Yale’s residential colleges) with other physics professors, mainly because it was the closest cafeteria where we could get a free lunch. The free lunches were meant to encourage us to mingle with undergraduates at the college. But I was one of few professors that actually enjoyed …

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Lackeys of the plutocracy?

This essay is an entertaining read, if somewhat wrong headed. See here for an earlier post that discusses Steve Pinker’s response to Deresiewicz’s earlier article Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League. The Neoliberal Arts (Harpers): … Now that the customer-service mentality has conquered academia, colleges are falling all over themselves to give their students …

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The “End of College”? Not so fast

A recently-published book, The End of college: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere, by New American educational analyst Kevin Carey, has received a lot of media attention.  Carey predicts that most colleges as we know them today will likely disappear, and be replaced by online courses that will be widely and …

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Educational background of US elites

Jonathan Wai writes in Quartz about returns to elite education in the US. Wai also notes that more than ten percent of all Senators, billionaires, Federal judges, and Fortune 500 CEOs hold Harvard degrees of some kind. See also Credentialism and elite performance, and further links therein. Blue = attended elite undergraduate college or graduate school (no …

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Rigorous inequalities

  The Effects of an Anti-grade-Inflation Policy at Wellesley College Journal of Economic Perspectives, 28(3): 189-204 (2014) DOI: 10.1257/jep.28.3.189 Average grades in colleges and universities have risen markedly since the 1960s. Critics express concern that grade inflation erodes incentives for students to learn; gives students, employers, and graduate schools poor information on absolute and relative …

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Inclusive Conversations

In a previous column, I described spending a year learning about academic leadership as an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow.  One of the best parts of the experience was talking extensively and honestly with new and experienced administrators from a wide variety of backgrounds, disciplines and institutions. It was fascinating to hear their viewpoints …

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What Are Universities For?

Stefan Collini, professor of Intellectual History and English Literature at Cambridge offers some considerations in his 2012 book of the same title. His erudite, yet conversational style made for a quick and enjoyable, yet thought provoking read. The last third of the book are previously written essays in response to major reports emanating from efforts …

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Excellent Sheep and Chinese Americans

Two recent podcasts I recommend. I disagree with Deresiewicz on many points (see my comments on Steve Pinker’s response here and here), but the discussion is worth a listen. Do the Best Colleges Produce the Worst Students? As schools shift focus from the humanities to “practical” subjects like economics and computer science, students are losing the ability to think …

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Harvard admissions and meritocracy

Motivated by Steve Pinker’s recent article The Trouble With Harvard (see my comments here), Ephblog drills down on Harvard admissions. The question is just how far Harvard deviates from Pinker’s ideal of selecting the entire class based on intellectual ability. Others raised similar questions, as evidenced by, e.g., the very first comment that appeared on …

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The Soul of the Research University

Basic research, whose applications may be decades in the future, is an uncertain investment for any single entity (e.g., corporation), even if it is an essential public good for the long term advancement of civilization. Consequently, basic research is mostly done at universities and government labs. Indeed, the vast majority of research in the US is led …

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