CounterCurrent: Week of 6/14
The National Association of Scholars released Critical Care on April 18, a report detailing our recommendations for the federal response to the present financial crisis faced by higher education. Many American colleges and universities will need additional bailout funds in order to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. But what conditions, if any, should be attached to this aid?
NAS believes that further federal support should only go to schools that prioritize institutional reform, including cutting administrative bloat, putting students first, pursuing intellectual freedom and diversity, and protecting the American national interest. For far too long, colleges and universities have guzzled from the well of taxpayer money while simultaneously hurtling towards a cliff of financial insolvency and supplanting traditional education with activist training. To use a tired yet fitting phrase: enough is enough.
Critical Care has received praise from some and criticism from others, who argue that its recommendations are wishful thinking in light of the realities of higher education leadership. If college presidents were racing toward the cliff before, why would they stop now? Many have already announced plans for even more social justice programs in response to the killing of George Floyd. One anonymous professor working in the southern Appalachian mountains says “It seems that a day has indeed come when the courage of men failed, and we have forsaken our friends and broke all bonds of fellowship. You know what comes next? ‘An hour of wolves and shattered shields…’ It is here,” a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King.
These concerns are legitimate. Most college presidents have shown themselves to be inept leaders, hell-bent on conforming to progressive orthodoxy at the expense of their institutions and students. But will their boards of trustees be as willing to follow them off the cliff? Will they allow academic departments to be cut in order to preserve offices of diversity and multicultural affairs? Or will they take a stand for educational reform, both for the sake of their colleges’ survival and for the betterment of their students?
In this week’s featured article, NAS President Peter Wood gives his forecast for the immediate future of higher education. He writes:
Trading in whole academic departments and cashiering full-time faculty in order to save the sinking boat, while doubling down on diversity programs, has little chance of working. Our college presidents and other administrators will want to do this. Some will want desperately to do this, in order to be "the right side of history." But they also have a strong desire to save their own skins. Running the college into the ground is not a good career path.
If college presidents won’t right the ship, we hope that those to whom they are accountable will. These decisions are not a matter of leadership preference or philosophy. They will determine the long-term health or sickness of higher education, and now, for many schools, short-term survival or death. Yes, the wolves are coming, but can they be defanged?
Until next week.
CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by Communications & Administrative Associate John David. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.