Sunday, May 6, 2012

Community Colleges: Who is having this Warhol Moment?

National leaders, in higher education, and these people called "practitioners," where do they come from? Consider, for instance, the following:
“Many of the full-time faculty who created the current levels of success for community colleges are retiring in hordes, with only a few graduate programs to prepare their replacements.”
Wow, not just a dearth of qualified replacements, for this community college version of the “greatest generation,” but also a dearth of grad programs that can bring them up to snuff.  This alarming, but not entirely accurate, news is from a article in a series on “completion rates,” sponsored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and attributed to “national educational leaders and practitioners.”

The specific leader here, who has constructed his views around the idea that community colleges are enjoying their “Andy Warhol fifteen minutes of fame,” is Dr. Terry O’Banion of Walden University, a private for-profit. According to Modern Language Association’s handy site on the academic workforce, Walden employs exactly zero full-time tenure or tenure track faculty among its employees and, among the 1800 faculty reported, only 100 full-timers.

What to make of such an educational leader, then, when he writes  this:
“And as the number of full-time faculty declines, we increasingly rely on adjunct faculty who—dedicated though they might be—are not provided with offices, long-term departmental/institutional training, or basic incentives to provide for students outside the classroom.”
Increasingly? Walden University has “increasingly” relied on cheap adjunct labor? And—zounds!—they are not being provided with offices, long-term departmental/institutional training, or basic incentives? Who would have thought?

Well, if we’ve only got fifteen minutes, we’d better listen up, and it surely will be worth our while. After all, this isn’t just any old leader and practitioner, this is a man who has inspired the establishment of at least two major awards which recognize cutting-edge practitioners: The Terry O’Banion Student Technology Award created by Microsoft,  and the Terry O’Banion Prize for Teaching and Learning created by the Educational Testing Service.

Ok, well, you can't argue with that, can you? It does make me wonder, though, did the AAC&U folks who put this series together think about something they published a year back? Let’s see, it was entitled “Confronting Contingency:
 Faculty Equity and the Goals of Academic Democracy,” by New Faculty Majority's Maria Maisto and Steve Street. Yes, that’s it.

Maybe they need to be invited back, to have, not just a moment, but a permanent position on a currently somewhat incomplete AAC&U list of “national leaders and practitioners” posting regularly to the AAC&U blog, part of its "signature initiative, Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP)"

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