Monday, May 09, 2022

Higher Education Leadership Opening

Note: The opening paragraphs here are adapted from recent communication from my faculty union to the membership. I include them to provide context for my own comments below and also by way of inviting others who might wish to communicate with DHE about this search.


The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) is currently preparing a search for a new Commissioner which will formally launch the week of May 16th. The Commissioner is the leader “responsible for providing overall direction to public higher education in Massachusetts and helping shape state-level policies that maximize the benefits of higher education to the Commonwealth and its citizens."


Those with an interest in higher education -- which truly should be everybody in Massachusetts --has been invited to participate in a public forum (that date passed before I got this posted) and in the following ways:


  • Provide feedback on the experiences, characteristics, and priorities for the next commissioner: The search committee is asking for stakeholders to weigh in on the values and vision they hope to see in the next Commissioner. You can add your thoughts here.
  • Recommend or nominate a candidate: Do you know someone who would make a great leader of public higher education in Massachusetts? Submit their name here and the search committee will reach out.

I took the first part of this request seriously and have decided to make my responses to the survey public, because I think that too often "input" about critical matters in education is collected quietly to avoid any real discussion happening publicly. 

When I arrived in 1997, I was shocked to see how poorly Massachusetts treats its public colleges and universities. 

The photo above -- note my complete lack of grey hair -- is from a 2005 speech at the State House. The situation has become less favorable since I delivered Public Higher Education is a Public Good, as part of an earlier effort to encourage the Commonwealth to recognize the inherent value of what we do in our colleges and universities.

Since then, the situation has worsened, though educators and students alike continue to give our all to the education enterprise. I hope we can find "leaders" willing to do the same.



Herewith, the current (May 2022) survey questions and my responses.
  1. Your primary affiliation:
    MA Public College/University Faculty

  2. What prior experiences should the next Commissioner have?
    At a minimum, the Commissioner should have served at as a tenured professor or librarian in a public university. All other qualifications are extra, but this is the only way the Commissioner can value the "secret sauce" of a higher education system that was once the envy of the world.

  3. What are the attributes, characteristics, and values that you would like to see in the next Commissioner?
    The commissioner needs to value academic freedom -- in a very real sense -- and to understand how this serves students in the long run.
    An emphasis on short-term "workforce" goals is, ironically, what leads to a poorly prepared workforce.

  4. What experience in leading, developing and/or supporting DEI programming should the next Commissioner have?
    Experience with programming and buzzwords counts for nothing in my estimation. Experience respecting and working with educators and students from many backgrounds is what counts.

  5. Given the challenges and opportunities facing higher education and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, what do you think is the most critical work to be done by the next Commissioner in the coming decade?
    Educating the Legislature about the perils of continuing to shift the costs of higher education to students and their families. Most politicians are still old enough to have benefited from public higher ed that was public not only in name but in financing. They have allowed the 80/20 funding ratio to be flipped, and it is killing our chances of inclusive and effective education.

  6. What are some of the attractive features of working to advance higher education in Massachusetts that would be appealing to potential candidates for the Commissioner position?
    Several thousand of the most creative, resilient and compassionate educators in the country are working in public higher education in Massachusetts. Simply enabling them to do to their work is the single best way to contribute to the social and economic revival of this vibrant Commonwealth.

  7. Other comments:
    I am delighted to have a chance to provide input to this process. In the cradle of democracy and public higher education, those who do the teaching have been marginalized.
    Please, please choose someone who values academic freedom, the time our faculty, librarians, and staff members commit to the education endeavor, and the time our students need to commit to learning. Every $10 shifted to student fees is an hour each student spends NOT studying.
    And faculty and librarians should not be humiliated and bullied at the bargaining table for simply trying to hold on to living wages and standards of academic freedom.


1 comment:

  1. Caveat: Many people contribute meaningfully to higher education in Massachusetts without being tenured. But recent experience has shown that when those who never earned tenure manage higher education, they have tended to dismiss its importance.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your comment and your interest in my blog. I will approve your comment as soon as possible. I had to activate comment moderation because of commercial spam; I welcome debate of any ideas I present, but this will not be a platform for dubious commercial messages.

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