The wages of fighting campus complacency… and of campus complacency itself

The Washington Examiner has published a piece by our friend Anne Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, about Dartmouth College’s deplorable decision to sack Todd Zywicki from its board of trustees. Anne ties this move to similar, though less drastic measures taken against trustees at other colleges — she names Princeton and the University of California system — when they have questioned the status quo. She writes:

Perhaps the surfeit of complacent trustees isn’t surprising when you consider what happens to those who think independently. Their questions provoke outrage, and they’re labeled threats to institutional autonomy and academic freedom by those who tend to view themselves as the only stakeholders on campus–namely, the faculty and administrators.

The consequences of the resulting complacency are what one would expect.

Higher education’s costs have outpaced even those of health care. And at least in health care, one can look back at recent decades and see an increase in quality. Not so in the academy. Among college graduates, historical, economic, and scientific illiteracy are widespread. Employers complain about graduates who can’t write a coherent paragraph or correctly crunch numbers. Students are not satisfied –almost 50 percent in a recent poll–and neither are taxpayers, nearly half of whom say their state’s public higher education system should be fundamentally overhauled.

I have written about the decline of important aspects of education at Dartmouth, here for example, and expect to do so again before long.


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