Jun 18 2013
Professor Benjamin Ginsberg of Johns Hopkins, a Dartblog favorite, has long been on a crusade against administrative bloat and associated sillinesses like strategic plans. Sound familiar? In a recent piece in Minding the College, he suggests that we centralize college administrations on a national level via MOOAs (his acronym) because college administrations do little more than copy each other:
As colleges begin using massive open online courses (MOOC) to reduce faculty costs, a Johns Hopkins University professor has announced plans for MOOA (massive open online administrations). Dr. Benjamin Ginsberg, author of The Fall of the Faculty, says that many colleges and universities face the same administrative issues every day. By having one experienced group of administrators make decisions for hundreds of campuses simultaneously, MOOA would help address these problems expeditiously and economically. Since MOOA would allow colleges to dispense with most of their own administrators, it would generate substantial cost savings in higher education...
Asked if this "one size fits all" administrative concept was realistic given the diversity of problems faced by thousands of schools, Ginsberg noted that a "best practices" philosophy already leads administrators to blindly follow one another's leads in such realms as planning, staffing, personnel issues, campus diversity, branding and, curriculum planning. The MOOA, said Ginsberg, would take "best practices" a step further and utilize it to realize substantial cost savings.
Ginsberg pointed to the realm of strategic planning. He said that thanks to to the best practices concept, hundreds of schools currently use virtually identical strategic plans. Despite the similarities, however, these plans cost each school hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to develop. The MOOA would formalize the already extant cooperation by developing one plan that could be used by all colleges...
According to Ginsberg, another place where the MOOA concept is immediately relevant is "branding." Following contemporary business models, hundreds of schools pay consulting firms hundreds of thousands of dollars to help them improve their "brand" identities. The results of these expensive individual efforts often seem quite similar.
Ginsberg has named his MOOA "Administeria," and plans to begin operations in early 2014. He admits that widespread use of MOOAs could result in substantial unemployment among college bureaucrats. However, he noted that their skill sets make them qualified for work in such burgeoning industries as retail sales, hospitality, food services, event planning, and horticultural design.
Ginsberg's tongue-in-cheek piece would be funny if he weren't accurately describing the waste of many millions of dollars that could have been spent on students' education.
Jun 17 2013
At the recent Alumni Council meeting, a Councillor reported that an important curricular change was mentioned:
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Mike Mastanduno outlined a number of curricular changes approved by the Faculty. First, based on the principle that every academic credit is precious, transfer terms (which are not part of Dartmouth's Off Campus Programs) are being closely scrutinized, and before embarking on a term at another university, a student must apply for approval, and then, only five students can participate during any term on such program (thereby ending most of the "Semesters at Sea").
It's not hard to see what is going on here. Students are having trouble getting into certain LSAs and FSPs, and they have discovered that other schools' programs are a fair bit cheaper than Dartmouth's offerings. Places like Portland State offer language quarters than can save students $7-8 thousand in tuition alone, and these programs are flexible enough that whole groups of Dartmouth students can join together for a trip (the above photo shows a happy bunch of Dartmouth '14 football players in Spain with Portland State). The end result (horror of horrors): the College loses money.
This trend has been on an upswing: while the total number of Dartmouth students participating in off-campus programs has remained roughly stable at 58%-63% since 2008, the number of students enrolling in foreign programs with other schools has jumped from 4% of undergrads in 2008 to 10% in 2012 -- leaving only 48% of Dartmouth students in the College's own programs:
The entire decline in the number of students on Dartmouth's foreign programs has occurred in Language Study Abroad quarters:
How did the administration respond to these changes? First, the Dean's Office transfer fee for non-College programs went from $25 to $1,250. And now groups of more than five students are banned from joining together to participate in programs run by other schools.
A more thoughtful set of academic leaders (this means you, Phil) would respond differently. Don't try to stop students from doing what they want to do; get them to do something better. The simple solution to all of these problems lies in making participation in a Dartmouth off-campus program obligatory for all students.
This idea works on every level: all students will then graduate with international experience, a modern-world necessity; we can ensure that they participate in quality Dartmouth programs, not credit-mill, college-lite affairs; programs can be scheduled for fall and spring to relieve peak-term housing pressure on campus (making the reinstitution of dorm continuity that much easier); and, happy surprise, the College will make money on the whole shebang.
Of course, we'll need greater participation from professors in the new programs, but there is a lot of support for greater foreign study, at least from parts of the faculty. And while they're at it, everyone involved can ramp up the rigor of language programs. Let's have LSA -- not LSPLAY. This positive change to the College's academic life could be implemented; all we need is a leader.
Jun 16 2013
Even as New York City debates the merits of the new Citibikes, the Vélib has become a central part of Paris urban life. Two big problems (to mimic the old Yiddish joke): the bikes are unreliable, and there are not enough of them.
But when they are to be found, everyone uses them, from Dartmouth alumni to stylish women of a certain age. This Parisienne, with her elegantly relaxed haircut, carries a leather hobo bag, and she is wearing an informal top with a hood, stylish jeans and ballet flats (according to my wife). The lady wasn't making very good time, though; my daughter and I whizzed right by her.
Of course, like everyone here, she is not wearing a helmet (according to a NYT story, "The European Cyclists' Federation says that bicyclists in its domain have the same risk of serious injury as pedestrians per mile traveled."), though unlike everyone, she was chatting on her iPhone while riding. Bienvenue en France.