To the Editor:
I found Dan Lundquist’s “When Trying Harder Doesn’t Work” (The Chronicle, December 3) to be a much-needed call to action for all of us who are passionate about higher education and, most importantly, our students. Just as promising, however, was the wide range of reactions in the comments section. The opinions and ideas presented by those commenting display one common bond: passion. Though some comments were short on unique perspective or factual evidence, even the frustration, cynicism, and generalities presented in the most negative responses were firmly grounded in a passion for the entire industry and the students that we serve.
I was educated at a private liberal-arts institution, have served as a professor in several interdisciplinary courses, and am currently transitioning into a role as an administrator at a public university. Is systemic change in some fashion needed in order to combat critical issues of access and affordability facing students? Absolutely. Has any individual or institution found the silver bullet to eliminate these issues altogether? Not to my knowledge.
Certainly the fears addressed—that liberal-arts institutions will fade into the background, that MOOCs and online for-profits will dominate the landscape, or that college will eliminate the important social education that can be earned through residential and extracurricular offers—are simplistic at best. Instead, I believe that passionate conversations that are careful to include various perspectives from throughout higher education are the foundation upon which positive student-centered change can be reached. As many who commented have pointed out, this will not be an easy solution. While we all may have heard similar calls for innovation before, I applaud Mr. Lundquist for continuing to push the conversation along and provide a forum for these crucial conversations to take place.
The path forward requires the passion that is displayed throughout all of the responses to Mr. Lundquist’s article. Passion alone, however, will only take us so far. Collaboration, collegiality, and a focus—first and foremost—on students, will help to guide this passion in a constructive manner toward, I truly believe, positive and sustainable change in higher education.
Andrew B. Palumbo