Failing the Future:
A Dean Looks at Higher Education in the Twenty-first Century
by Annette Kolodny

Group Précis: Regina Masiello & Melanie Cortese

Chapter 5, Creating the Family Friendly Campus

According to Kolodny, universities have not changed family care services to accommodate the modern American family or the high percentages of women, single parents, and student parents in the academy. Kolodny believes that universities "urgently" need to reform campus services, thereby creating the "family-friendly campus," and that they must start such reform with a reconceptualization of the term family in general. Kolodny frames the chapter with a sense of hope; indeed she begins the chapter recounting the improvements the University of Arizona made during her time as dean and proclaims her firm belief that real solutions (such as flex-time, redesigned schedules, shelters, delay of the "tenure clock") can be found to child care and elder care problems experienced by faculty members and students alike. Kolodny continues her feminist project in chapter five. She believes that current university child care and elder care services reinforce notions that women are the primary care-givers and that these services are heteronormative. Kolodny calls for new services which actually "invite" as well as enable male faculty members to assume more of the care-giving responsibilities in their families, thus working to aid faculty and students while reshaping conceptions of the relation between care and gender.

Important Passages

137-8 the "family-friendly campus" and "reconceptualizing" the term family
140 Recognizing the family care needs of a changing student population
142 Kolodny refers to the campus as a "rare protected space"
143 accommodating the needs of modern students will generate funds
144 the campus as a "refuge" from violence
145-7 financial fallout Kolodny's reforms might incur
152 Kolodny restates her belief that universities have a societal responsibility
153 the role of child care initiatives in a capital campaign
158 how the troubling state of family care "signifies"
269-71 Appendix 2: A list of practical solutions and reforms


Questions to Consider


-Kolodny is concerned not only with making the campus a practical place to work, but with making it welcoming, and in some cases even comforting to its students. Does she assume that universities offer the "solace" we have been discussing in class?
-What kinds of family-friendly programs does Rutgers have in place? How many people actually utilize these services, and what does it cost the University?

Chapter 6, Teaching and Learning in a World of Cognitive Diversity

Chapter 6 is a call to improve and update our teaching methods given what we know about learning styles. Kolodny terms the differences in student learning processes as "cognitive diversity," and this chapter's closing sentence summarizes her goal: "The next generation of Ph.D.s, in short, must be prepared to teach a more inclusive everyone, and they must be prepared to teach everyone well." She takes this chapter to discuss the changes necessary in teaching to accommodate what we now know as differences between genders (p 166) and ethnicities (p 162) BUT, she is very careful to start the chapter with an "anti-Bell Curve" disclaimer. Kolodny explores the possibility of technology in "designing new instructional formats," and most importantly she mentions the inclusion of graduate students in these efforts. One of the questions this chapter raises is HOW do we better prepare our teachers, both present and future. Points to consider are the lack of incentive and support for current faculty to respond to cognitive diversity (p 168), and the training (or lack of) that current graduate students receive (p 171). On p 170 Kolodny details her beginning of the semester survey which lays the groundwork for how she will teach her class (taking into account subject experience, ethnicity, and learning styles) . While this is a useful practice, when teaching is secondary to a junior faculty member's research, is there enough time to work on course prep during the semester? Note her counter to Kennedy's assertion that the sciences are a group-oriented discipline on p 167.

Chapter 7, Setting an Agenda for Change

In Kolodny's words this chapter "constructed as a loosely organized meditation on change." (p 175). The first section lists changes Kolodny made as a dean, and then she focuses on crucial areas in need of change. This is an important chapter that explains Kolodny's actions and stance on the future, so while it's long, it is vital to the book. With that, I list a quote from each section that gives a sense of her position on each topic.
(Kolodny's actions)
1. Restructure of curriculum with a focus on "cross-cultural literacy." "Cross-cultural literacy should nurture our students' capacities to understand and respond to important differences in social customs, verbal cues, rhetorical patterns, aesthetic norms, and intellectual paradigms and traditions across cultures and across human history." (p 178)
2. Building of community (this section covers a lot of Kolodny's implementations that is hard to summarize, so I quote from a faculty member remarking on her accomplishments - if that doesn't inspire you to read her ideas nothing will) "Before this dean came aboard, this was just an office building; now it's a community." (p 179)
3. Faculty responsibility (a preface to #5) "Staff, students, and faculty must become full and knowledgeable partners in making these decisions. They must own the solutions, or there will be no real solutions." (p 192).
(Kolodny's suggestions)
4. Better graduate training. "Clearly, we need to develop opportunities for training graduate students … to understand not only their fields of expertise and the skills of teaching for cultural and cognitive diversity but also to understand university budgets, institutional goals, and the different governance models available within academe." (p 192)
5. Shared governance at the university. "The inclusive team is thus the seedbed for generating an integrated institutional vision and a campus-wide sense of institutional participation." (p199)
6. More involved and aware Regents. "I want regents … to participate in campus-based decision-making teams, so that they can see, firsthand, the devastating consequences of the timing and nature of the [ir] fiscal decisions …" (p 202)
7. Better student advising from faculty. "Everyone's ultimate shared common goal is to help the students to succeed." (p 203)
8. A new role for unions. "A savvy administration and governing board will be seeking partnerships everywhere and inviting the unions in." (p 210).
9. The need for more rewards and incentives (really a follow-up to #5). "Faculty and staff are capable of exercising great ingenuity and creativity in restructuring and consolidating services and programs - but only when they know that they will have a secure place in the new order of things…" (p 211)

Questions to Consider

-In chapters 6 and 7 Kolodny refers to graduate student preparation regarding teaching and their future responsibilities as faculty members. Since her recommendations put into action would result in this class, would it be possible for Ph.D. programs to require all graduate students to complete a course such as ours? Who would teach it and what would the student reaction be to a mandatory course outside of the chosen field of study?
-Similarly, Kolodny emphasizes community and shared governance on campus. She refers to a committee that took two years to produce a report (p 198) and her buddy system requires senior faculty to "guide their junior colleagues through the first three years," as well as introduce them to friends and colleagues and get them acquainted to the area. Are these unreasonable time requests to make on faculty, or is it a veiled attempt to encourage retention by getting faculty (and staff) invested in the university BEYOND their teaching?

Chapter 8, Failing the Future; or, How to Commit National Suicide at the End of the Twentieth Century

Kolodny believes that no look at higher education would be complete without also attending to public primary and secondary schools which feed universities. She envisions primary and secondary schooling along with higher education as part of a continuum, and sees the public schools as deeply entrenched in a system of the haves and have-nots (a similar story to universities across the country). Kolodny paints a grim picture in this chapter; with shrinking budgets, public schools hold overcrowded classes in hallways and can't afford to hire enough teachers. Even worse, teachers in the schools are underpaid and overworked, and many of the most devoted instructors leave after burning out. Funding public schools would decrease the costs of higher education Kolodny argues, as better quality high schools would mean fewer remedial college courses. Kolodny's overriding suggestions are that Americans must "recommit" to educational spending and that the Japanese model of education should be an inspiration for reform. With an aging population that feels distant from education though, these changes seem unlikely. Reflecting on the past is not helpful in Kolodny's eyes, as notions about the fifties are often wrong, and the educational segregation of the past is to blame for our current state of affairs. This chapter does not offer the same sense of hope earlier chapters do; the problems she outlines are systemic and the solutions few and clearly hard to employ.

Important Passages

217 the educational continuum
219 claims peer groups "distrust excellence as subversive and creativity as un-American"
223 concise summary of the disparity between wealthy and poor school districts
226 arguing for a "national recommitment" to all educational funding
230-4 Kolodny deals with nostalgia for schools of the past
234-5 fewer extracurricular activities in public schools create family-care problems
239 higher education, primary and secondary education, and legislators working together
241-7 Kolodny lists her four "initiatives" in reforming the educational system

Questions to Consider

-The question that seems to plague this class should be reiterated here: how do we define or describe the function of the humanities? As budgets shrink in primary and secondary schools, language courses and humanities oriented activities are the first to go. Is it important that these be maintained? If so, how to we justify that to people trying to move classes out of hallways?
-What role can academics play in changing what seems to be an immense problem? Do community outreach programs figure here? Should we consider our jobs done if we teach remedial courses and train primary and secondary educators in the classrooms? How many "academics" really do this anyway?

A Closing Refrain: Reflections at a Graduation

Here, Kolodny simply wraps up the book the way she began, with a personal story about her experiences at Brooklyn College in the late 1950s early 1960s related to the university environment today. She notes the changes (the end of free tuition, the more ethnically diverse student body, etc.) and the constants (students choose Brooklyn College for its financial accessibility, the liberating feeling of an education) and explores the public view of higher education over the years. On pgs 253-254 she discusses cost as provoking the public's loudest discussion about higher education, and the misconceptions that go along with that. She notes the increase in faculty workload and low salaries in relation to other jobs that require less advanced degrees. Kolodny wraps it up by recognizing that higher education should be used to "help sustain a democracy when its citizenry is becoming more and more ethnically, culturally, and racially diverse with every passing year." Her last page suggests that we speak without outrage and find solutions to protect academic freedom, and in case you didn't catch it in Chapter 2, she lets you know one more time where she stands politically.





 
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