Over the past couple of years, I’ve had a growing interest in higher education policy and history. Most of this stems from my close attention to a series of budget cuts here at the University of North Dakota and my general dissatisfaction with the deluge of publications on the history and policy in higher education. Most of these seem to be either technocratic or variations on the jeremiad which presupposes a crisis in order to hand-wring (at worst) or to justify radical or reactionary changes in the practice and policies in higher education.
While I was fretting about this, I decided to offer a “pop up class” in our honors program on the UND budget with the idea that it would be useful to learn how students view both higher education, in general, and UND in particular. It would also give me a chance to “think out loud” about the constant state of flux at UND and the prevailing sense of crisis. Some of those “out loud” thoughts have become part of an essay that I’m writing for a special issue of North Dakota Quarterly (part 1, part 2, part 3).
My thinking over the past year or so has shaped the course’s four goals:
- To become more familiar with the complexities of the modern university and UND, in particular.
- To encourage critical thinking about the institutional structure of higher education in the U.S. in a historical context and local context.
- To understand the relationship between the institutional organization and the purpose of the university.
- To produce a short guide to the UND budget for students that allows them to be more critical consumers and participants in university life.
The main books that I’m using are Christopher Newfields, The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them (2016), which I blogged about here, and David Labaree’s A Perfect Mess: The Unlikely Ascendency of American Higher Education (2017) which I’ve blogged about here.
I’ll do my best to keep folks up dated on my class. In the meantime, do check out my syllabus which I’ve posted here.