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Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Jon Krakauer’s book on the epidemic of sexual assaults on American college campuses is hard to put down, both because it is incredibly well-written and engaging, but also because it is so alarming. For the faculty member who is already aware of the problem (either from a statistical vantage point or from hearing the experiences of survivors on her or his own campus), some of the information presented is not surprising. The scope of the issue is quite shocking, however: Missoula, home of the University of Montana, is the focus of Krakauer’s case study and one gets the sense that this college town is especially unsafe. Towards the end of the book, however, Krakauer demonstrate that Missoula’s rape statistics are actually typical – perhaps even lower than the national average. Even though the problem presented is horrifying, Missoula is not even the worse case scenario.
Through interviews and legal testimony, Krakauer narrates the stories of several college-aged women who were sexually assaulted while they were students. Most of the accused rapists were members of the football team, so part of the story concerns the untouchable status of campus athletic teams (or, at least, certain high-profile athletic teams). But sports are not the only unjust system implicated here: Krakauer looks unflinchingly at the ways that administrators protect colleges from litigation, often at the expense of victims. He similarly criticizes the legal system for re-traumatizing victims and for consistently doubting women’s testimony when they come forward.
Krakauer’s accessible explanations of technical matters are very helpful: for example, he explains the different burdens of proof that apply on- and off-campus. A college or university is required by the U.S. Department of Education to use a “preponderance of evidence” standard as its burden of proof when adjudicating sexual assault accusations, while the criminal justice system uses the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard (179). Thus, a rapist may be found guilty in an on-campus case and expelled, even while the same evidence might not have resulted in a guilty verdict or prison time in the state’s criminal justice system. As another example, Krakauer uses psychiatrist Judith Herman’s foundational work to explain that traumatized people often act in bewildering ways that do not make sense to the outside world (perhaps by contacting the perpetrator or by continuing to attend class after experiencing violent trauma; moreover, the memories of a traumatic experience can be confusing and non-linear). Although these behaviors seem to indicate to others that “nothing happened” or “the experience must not have been that bad,” Krakauer (via Herman) shows that these are utterly typical behaviors of a traumatized person. Trauma so reorients a person that the behaviors a person displays in the aftermath can be counterintuitive to what non-traumatized people expect.
This book should be required reading for faculty and especially for administrators who adjudicate sexual assault cases on college campuses; it would probably be useful for those in law enforcement, too. Missoula would also be excellent for campuses that have required first-year or campus-wide reading programs, as it forces us to consider the realities that victims face on campus and to realize that judicial systems, both on- and off-campus, can and must do better.
Theological school deans are not just theological leaders for their institution, they must be EDUCATIONAL leaders. That is, they must implement sound educational practices related to curriculum, instruction, supervision, assessment, and administration. There is a variety of ways to assess the effectiveness of the curriculum, and there are several levels ...
The Department Chair as Transformative Diversity Leader: Building Inclusive Learning Environments in Higher Education
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Edna Chun and Alvin Evans’ work on the department chair and diversity fills a gap in the literature on academic leadership. They argue that the academic chair is the pivot for diversity in higher education, particularly as increasing numbers of minoritized students enter the academy. Student diversity contrasts with the overwhelming white maleness of academic administrators, including 90 percent of chairs. Nevertheless, chairs are poised to enhance both the student experience of diversity and diverse faculty diversity development.
The authors used an online survey and interviewed chairs across the nation to assess the current level of progress in diversity, to address barriers to diversity, to understand environmental factors that can promote or impede diversity, and to articulate strategies for developing diversity. They were particularly interested in talking with minoritized chairs and in the impact of diversity on student learning. By diversity, they mean race and ethnicity as well as gender and sexual orientation. Chun and Evans recognize that department chairs face many limitations in doing diversity work. Changing upper administrations, maintaining harmony in departments, and other issues take up much chair attention.
The work begins with an overview of inequality in America, arguing that the role of higher education is to address this social landscape. They examine the challenges in higher education itself, from the impact of MOOCs to globalization and how department and institutional politics can block chairs’ diversity efforts. Serving students is key: Since minoritized students are at-risk for non-completion, campus climate, including diverse faculty and curriculum, can make a difference in those students’ lives. They also argue, in chapter 6, that interactional diversity is an essential dimension among high-impact college experiences for all student growth.
Chairs, who occupy a double role as administrator and faculty, span boundaries and are potential bridge-builders. As both buffers and connections between faculty and administration, skilled chairs have the capacity to reflect on and transform these boundaries to mobilize the various stakeholders towards action. Chairs report to deans (analyzed in chapter 4), and trust in that that relationship is crucial for developing diversity, though the “revolving door” of administration in some institutions poses problems.
The discussion of issues that minoritized chairs face and the voices of these persons is an important contribution of this book. These chairs are always proving their competence and may be taken less seriously than their white counterparts. A minority chair may be the only departmental voice for diversity. In terms of sexual orientation, some chairs are limited by institutions’ unwillingness to appoint or policies against appointment of LGBTQI chairs. Like minority faculty, minority chairs face lower student evaluations (see chapter 5), may be isolated and vulnerable, and are under great stress.
Another key contribution is strategies, offered by chairs and the authors. Each chapter ends with strategies a chair may implement to address diversity. The final chapters offer suggestions for developing diversity plans, including helpful examples, and additional strategies for overcoming limitations. The description of higher education today, the voices of the chairs, and the multiple strategies offered create a rich study, insightful and practical, for aiding chairs to become leaders for a diverse academy in a global context.
Leadership for Change in Teacher Education: Voices of Canadian Deans of Education
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
This book contains fourteen essays written by deans of teacher education programs in Canada who are leading change initiatives in the midst of turbulent times in North-American post-secondary education. The book examines reforms in programs designed to prepare effective teachers of the future and address the challenges that deans face in leading these initiatives.
A number of the essays emphasize the need for attention to diversity in teacher preparation programs. Although one essay describes diversity in language acquisition programs (25-30), more frequently authors emphasize the need to add Indigenous perspectives to curricula. One chapter examines a program designed to increase the numbers of Indigenous teachers and the awareness of Indigenous culture among non-Native students in teacher training programs, but also raises more fundamental questions about the ways that hegemonic discourses about ethnicity and gender are reproduced in education systems at large (7-12). Another chapter discusses the way that teacher education reforms need to come to grips with white privilege and racism: “Beyond ‘content’ we ask students to ask ‘what is knowledge, how is it privileged, and who does it benefit and why?’” (75). On a different front, one dean grapples with the need to add instructional technology amidst financial constraints (43-48), though another chapter promotes advances in technology use: “relational technology” for building effective bonds between teachers and learners; “cultural technology” which help students overcome the “ethnocentric monoculturalism” of education in the West; and “assessment technologies” that measure student engagement, learning attitudes, and learning strategies (55-60).
Other essays focus on the dean’s role in leading effective change. One chapter describes deans as middle managers who walk a tightrope between university executives on the one hand and faculty on the other, in a context where key external constituents doubt that faculty can be trusted to change on their own initiative (61-66). Lack of good decanal leadership negatively affects faculty productivity and damages organization culture, while rapid turnover at this level is associated with increased faculty cynicism about change (31-32). Several authors note the importance of collaborative, democratic decision-making in building a common vision for reform.
Some of the strategies described include restructuring departments and committees to maximize faculty participation in decision-making; appointing a faculty steering committee in order to foster widespread engagement; and maximizing faculty choice and autonomy by choosing to change an area that faculty either identify as needing reform or is widely perceived as non-threatening. One author stresses the need to establish a good case for change and the timing of the change (88), while another emphasizes collaborative scanning of the environment (34), a practice identified elsewhere as a crucial factor in building an agile organizational culture. The dean of a faith-based teacher education program advises deans to nurture the quality of their inner life during seasons of change by practicing mindfulness, humility, stillness and attentiveness, and a reorienting gratitude that focuses on abundance versus scarcity (37-42).
According to these deans, greater attention to diversity in curricula, relationship-centered pedagogies, and participative, collaborative faculty-led decision-making are the mainstays of successful innovation in teacher education programs. My own experience in leading a large-scale change initiative in a seminary suggests that these same ingredients can be successfully applied in other educational contexts.
The Urgency of Now: Equity and Excellence
Date Reviewed: June 16, 2016
All of higher education, with community colleges leading the way, must sense and respond to the need to evolve to serve a new and increasingly diverse student body. We live in an era where students will increasingly require myriad new approaches to higher education in order for every student to realize their potential (8). That is the central thesis of The Urgency of Now: Equity and Excellence, one volume in a series sponsored by the Association of Community College Trustees.
Chapter one sets forth key arguments in favor of the need to transform community colleges in response to changing student demographics. Chapter two is concerned with the shifting role of accreditation in higher education. In chapter three, the authors address the current system’s reliance upon the credit hour as a time-based model for allocating academic course credit and implore administrators to transition to competency-based models. Chapter four offers a comprehensive blueprint for creating an innovative community college-wide outcomes assessment system. Finally, chapter five targets the critical need for administrators to engage faculty in new and meaningful ways in order to successfully implement positive change that will result in improving instructor teaching and student learning.
Today there are increasing demands from public and private sector stakeholders for greater accountability and transparency by colleges and universities (19-20). Thus, “to insure equity in the form of economic opportunity for current and future generations” and to “provide demonstrable learning outcomes that position students for success,” there is an urgent need for new models. At the heart of this call for transformation is the notion that higher education must become a student-centered system rather than defaulting to the traditional faculty-centered model. Community colleges must be at the epicenter of determining what the essential ingredients of such a system should be (113).
The Urgency of Now argues that higher education must not simply react to changing demographics in America but it must embrace this phenomenon. The priority for the twenty-first century community college must be student needs and student learning (113). This will require that faculty abandon the function of serving primarily as “fountains of knowledge” and instead embrace a new role as “curators of content” and “tour guides of information” (115).
Understanding context is critical. America currently finds itself in the midst of the 2016 United States presidential election cycle. College affordability, rising student debt, and declining funding for public colleges and universities are issues now under debate by candidates for the nations\' highest political office. The election comes at a time when the gulf that exists between those students and families who lack the economic resources needed to pay college tuition versus those who can readily afford the cost of higher education continues to rise.
The Urgency of Now adds to the political discussion by identifying some of the efforts championed by U.S. president Barack Obama to increase community college enrollment and strengthen public-private partnerships that will improve employment opportunities for those who complete a certificate or degree program (5-6). One must acknowledge that, in the face of opposition from his political adversaries, Barack Obama has advanced the goal of achieving equal access to college for all Americans regardless of race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. Readers will find that this book offers a timely contribution to public discourse on these topics of concern to many among the American electorate.
An average book informs but an outstanding book sparks self-reflection and may even compel the reader to act in new and bold ways. The Urgency of Now: Equity and Excellence is an outstanding read that is recommended for anyone concerned with the plight of higher education. This book presents reasoned arguments which support the goal of reforming community colleges chiefly as a matter of sound public policy and implicitly to further the Judeo-Christian imperative which calls for social justice.