City University of New York

As higher education faces a crisis of epic proportions, a group of respected campus leaders from across the nation have called on their peers to proactively address the many issues plaguing universities today, saying in a detailed report that “the failure of higher education governance” has helped create the current debacle.

Problems cited in the report include: a lack of a return-on-investment with college degrees; a tenure system that “adds to cost and compromises quality”; political correctness run amok, “undermining the free exchange of ideas”; never-ending collegiate athletic scandals and binge drinking woes; studies that find grads do not leave college prepared for the real world; curriculum requirements that leave students with a “lack a fundamental understanding of their history and heritage”; tuitions that continue to soar far above inflation; and student debt that today tops $1 trillion.

Ultimately, its authors argue, the buck stops with college trustees, who need to take seriously their oversight roles.

“Too many have seen their role narrowly defined as boosters, cheerleaders, and donors,” states the report, titled Governance for a New Era: A Blueprint for Higher Education Trustees. “They should ask the questions that need to be asked and exercise due diligence.”governance

The report, released Tuesday, was the result of a project led by Benno Schmidt, chairman of the City University of New York Board of Trustees and former president of Yale University. He and 21 others – accomplished and respected college trustees, presidents, chancellors and business leaders – signed on.

One area of concern is academic freedom. The report notes that while teachers have academic freedoms, they often lack accountability, and students’ rights suffer as a result.

“Governing boards should monitor academic freedom and intellectual diversity through campus self-studies, as the University of Colorado has recently done,” the blueprint states. “They should put in place, as has the City University of New York, student grievance policies which allow for students to speak out without fear of reprisal when they believe that the institution is failing to protect the students’ freedom to learn.”

The report’s authors also called on trustees to stop kowtowing to complaints over controversial commencement speakers, and to acknowledge and address the lack of intellectual diversity on campus.

“The public is increasingly concerned that students are failing to receive exposure to a range of disciplines and a range of viewpoints,” the report states, adding trustees should annually ask for a report outlining academic diversity.

“This report can include a list of new hires and tenure and promotion decisions in each department (and their disciplines and fields),” the blueprint suggests. “Does the history department, for example, have  expertise and offer coursework on the Founders, the American Revolution, and the Constitution?”

If a lack of intellectual and academic diversity is identified, trustees must have the courage to demand change, the report advises. Moreover, trustees must demand a strong general education framework, or a core curriculum, and stop allowing students to meet requirements with esoteric and bizarre classes.

“Sometimes these courses will be exotic and narrowly focused, including topics such as zombie movies or similar elements of popular entertainment,” the blueprint states. “Governance for a new era demands that trustees, working with their president and provost, reexamine their general education programs with an eye to ensuring that general education promotes preparation for a major and skills and knowledge for life after graduation.”

Additional suggestions for improvement outlined in the blueprint include: improving the presidential selection process; insisting on evidence of student learning; making decisions based on data; demand transparency in performance and results; and creating strategic plans.

“Both trustees—and those who appoint them—must reject the belief that university trusteeships are sinecures or seats of honor,” the report states, adding that the public must join the cause as well.

“Just as trustees must insist on real and concrete institutional accountability,” the blueprint states, “the public must demand the same of governing boards.”

The report was released in conjunction with the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

Additional signers include: Hank Brown, President emeritus, University of Colorado and former U.S. Senator; José Cabranes, former trustee of Yale, Columbia and Colgate universities; Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University; Peter Hans, immediate past chair of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors; Stephen Smith, trustee emeritus, Dartmouth College; and sociologist Jonathan Cole, the John Mitchell Mason professor Columbia University.

Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix ( Follow Jenn on Twitter: @JenniferKabbany )

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Former general and CIA director David Petraeus is set to become a Harvard Man.

Petraeus has been tapped as a non-resident senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School, and will help lead a new project called “The Coming North America Decades,” with a special focus on energy, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and life sciences revolutions, according to Harvard officials in a statement released Friday. They added the project also will look at potential policy choices that could help or hinder American interests.

Petraeus, who resigned from the CIA in the wake of a humiliating personal scandal, also holds academic positions at the City University of New York as well as at the University of Southern California, but not without controversy.

There has been some backlash at USC over his arrival. Additional controversy erupted after CUNY gave Petraeus a job with an annual salary of $200,000–all for teaching just one course. Later, Petraeus agreed to teach the course for the dramatically reduced salary of just $1. Accordingly, Petraeus’s teaching gig came to be seen as an effort to rehabilitate his public image. Upon his arrival at CUNY, students ambushed him with in-your-face protests.

The Harvard press release does not specify when Petraeus’s fellowship begins, The Harvard Crimson reports.

As an aside, Harvard is the same university that reportedly booted Petraeus’ mistress because her coursework did not meet the university’s standards.

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Via NPR:

Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus has decided to take a huge pay cut. The former commander of the allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan will now make $1 to teach a course at City University of New York’s honors college.

As you might expect, the concession comes after a bit of controversy stirred by Gawker earlier this month. The gossip site filed a Freedom of Information Act request and found out the general was offered $200,000 a year “to work three hours a week.” … professors and politicians expressed outrage and then Petraeus and the university relented …

Petraeus will teach a class called “Are We on the Threshold of the North American Decade.”

Read more.

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The recent election marked the end of “Anglo Saxon” domination over the United States and the beginning of a possible race war between whites and Latinos, said Linda Martín Alcoff, a well-known philosopher from the City University of New York, during a lecture at Columbia University on Wednesday.

Alcoff said the presidential election results prompted the question of “how Angelo Saxon cultural domination is going to survive in the United States” as whiteness begins to “lose its place.”

Winning the Hispanic vote by 44 points over Mitt Romney was seen as the key to President Barack Obama’s reelection last week, and with one in three Americans predicted to be Latino by 2050, it’s forced both Republicans and Democrats to prioritize the major issues concerning the group in an attempt to win over the growing voting bloc, she said.

One of Alcoff’s central claims for why the Latino vote has caused such a stir in the recent election cycle is because its population growth poses a new and unique threat to whites, as the United States is largely surrounded by countries made of up Latinos whose populations could feasibly overtake that of whites.

“No other group can realistically pose a threat of ballooning numbers like we can,” Alcoff said. “It’s not like the Jews in Germany, where they were like 3 percent of the population and there was no real economic threat.”

Alcoff even went so far as to connect an increase in recent gun purchases to whites arming themselves for some sort of possible race war against Latinos.

Since Obama was elected in 2008, for example, the number of radical groups has increased hugely all across the country, while the number of guns sold in the month Obama was elected reached an all time high of 1.5 million, she noted.

While the Associated Press reported last month that rising firearm sales resulted from a fear of increased gun laws, Alcoff said this is instead evidence of the Latino community being targeted.

“These groups are not harmless,” Alcoff said. “The principle target here…is not an unspecified or abstract immigrant population, but generally Latino immigrants from Mexico or Central America.”

In fact, Alcoff is currently lobbying for more recognition of specific instances of Latino racism as hate crimes. Her talk was hosted by The Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, and previewed her forthcoming paper about racism.

It will argue that discrimination against Latinos should be regarded as its own category, much like the notion of anti-black racism, which she says will allow for a clearer identification of racist legislation, politicians and groups.

Obama’s victory has left the Latino population as the “it group” among political pundits, Alcoff said, adding the discussion about the group is “offensive in so many ways…I won’t even go into it.”

Fix contributor Luke Kerr-Dineen is a student at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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