PPDGJ: Chapter 7 LEADERSHIP AS SERVICE A New Model for Higher Education in a New Century KENT A. FARNSWORTH

Chapter 7
Renewing the Social Contract
The central focus of their “teaching mission,” community colleges must have remained much more actively engaged in finding and applying effective tools for undergraduate instruction. A new tuition revenue is not committed to improving undergraduate teaching and learning. Freshman classes remain large and impersonal with limited rigor, while new revenue is committed to elaborate buildings, research agendas, and salaries to attract distinguished faculty who contribute little or nothing to the undergraduate experience.
The role of the new leader in higher education must therefore become one of restoring the primacy and rigor of the undergraduate learning experience. The greatest commitment of service must be to our social, cultural, and economic future—to revitalizing and reenergizing undergraduate education—with service to students, the public, and to faculty shaped to achieve that end.
We must create, again, a large pool of undergraduates with broad-based, liberal educations that provide a grasp of issues that are shaping our time, the historical and intellectual context for those issues, and the analytical skills to formulate direction and solutions for the future. To provide this service, leaders must themselves understand and acknowledge the historical currents that carried us to this state of disconnection, and must craft strategies to redirect those currents.

Undergraduate education as a priority was further eroded by the implementation of the Carnegie classification system of 1970, creating a hierarchy that moved beyond designating “type,” but served to codify “status.” By placing the Research I universities at the top, and moving down through Research II to the also-rans, faculty were also awarded status, with some of the finest teaching institutions included among the also-rans. Though recently redefined, the classifications are still ordered primarily by research involvement, with the lists topped by those with “very high research activity” and moving downward.  The more recent phenomenon of media rating systems has done little to realign these priorities. Unable to credibly determine the quality of student learning, the ranking systems yielded to more easily quantifiable measures such as ratios of applications to admissions and quantifiable indicators of faculty scholarship. Through these collective developments, teaching and learning gradually became a casualty of the national research agenda of the Cold War.

As a result, leaders in education now find themselves wrestling with three sets of expectations—two somewhat in harmony, and one in apparent conflict. Society wants universal access to an undergraduate system of higher education that produces academically astute, socially responsible, and economically productive citizens. Students want an affordable, convenient, applicable, and rigorous college education. Faculty, particularly in universities, want minimal course loads, arranged at times convenient to them, with maximum opportunity to work on their scholarly interests Three compelling factors indicate that students and the public must determine the agenda for higher education, and faculty interests must be redirected. The first, and most urgent, is that these stated student and public interests are in line with what our best minds tells us we must do to survive as a viable social, economic, and cultural entity—develop a broad based, liberally and critically educated population. Secondly, the students and public—whether taxpayers, tuition payers, or donors—are supporting the enterprise. The third factor is closely related. The market will drive change.

How does the leader, then, begin to address this critical difference?

The first step is to refuse to see it as insurmountable—as an irreconcilable difference. To determine how to make that friction work to our mutual advantage—to serve the interests of all concerned, we return again to another of the central Follett principles, the Law of the Situation. According to Follett, the conflict exists because primary goals of participants have become incompatible. But in this case, they are not irreconcilable. The able leader in education must be able to assess all of these desires and place them in balance—neither subordinating the wishes of students or the general public to the prestige interests of the institution or the scholarly goals of faculty, nor minimizing the importance of the latter. The leader must find ways to present each of these constituent priorities openly and publicly, with an infectious conviction that, if all can view the situation in its entirety and have free and candid input into its resolution, an integrated solution lies within it. Given the current state of higher education, there must be a redistribution of power to put college and university presidents back into a position where they can insist that students and the public be heard and that their needs and interests are acknowledged and met. In many institutions, that power has been either lost or seriously diminished, and must be restored if the academy, particularly in the public sector, is to continue to be socially and economically relevant.


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