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Thursday, September 05, 2019

Seventeen Questions Every College Should Be Asking | Ideas - The Atlantic

Ben Sasse, United States senator from Nebraska. Previously, he served for five years as president of Midland University reports, We need a serious conversation about the future of America’s universities.

Photo: Whitney Hayward / Getty Images
Our oldest kid is a senior in high school, so like a lot of American households, our whole family is visiting campuses and comparing colleges. One of the striking aspects of this process is how similarly many schools seek to present themselves—and how few make any clear promises about how our daughter would be changed, improved, better habituated, or made more thoughtful by investing four of her most valuable years in their care.

As a former college president, I am well aware that every university is a complicated ecosystem, not a linear widget factory. An institution of higher education is a partnership among students and alumni, faculty and administrators, donors and trustees, neighborhoods and more, to build a community—and a culture. From the first-year students’ fall orientation to the board’s annual budget-approval meeting, everything a healthy college does requires a shared sense of mission.

Here’s the problem: Higher education is in the middle of multiple, massive disruptions—and it isn’t clear that the leaders of the sector grasp the magnitude of the waves of change breaking on their ivy-covered gates...

There are many more questions, from old ones (such as how universities should balance the vocational need to train a next-generation workforce against the civic need to cultivate the values necessary to sustain a free society) to new ones (such as how to keep the openness and excellence that make our model the envy of the world in an era when China, especially, is seeking to exploit U.S. universities for espionage purposes). But the questions above would at least move presidential-search committees away from the false safety of hiring candidates who can keep them on their present, often unsustainable paths, and toward finding leaders who can actually help their universities tackle the challenges they will face. And then they might actually be in a position to answer the questions they ought to have started with: What is our mission? Whom do we exist to serve?
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Source: The Atlantic