The queen sacrifice in education fiction

Upsala

Photo from IHE article. Not sure where this is.

Inside Higher Ed ran a column yesterday on a plan to overhaul a hypothetical small college.  In “The State of St. Bridget’s, July 2017” Aden Hayes describes this plan in detail, including a queen sacrifice move.

These are putatively “fundamental changes”, also known as “streamlining”.  They include a variety of practical steps to save and/or generate money: outsourcing some operations; selling a campus building; entering a purchasing co-op with other campuses; going after adult learners; going after online students; joining a library consortium.  I note the canny shift of overseas attention from Britain to China.

The queen sacrifice, cutting academics, is also here.

We have closed two academic programs that had been underenrolled for years — including the interdisciplinary program in Northeast Studies, which competed directly with a similar program at the nearby state university. Three departments had their majors eliminated — German, anthropology and creative writing — and were merged into one service department providing 100- and 200-level courses to fulfill the college’s general education requirements.

These means axing faculty:

Nine faculty positions were eliminated, and some of these faculty members found other academic jobs outside St. Bridget’s. For six who did not, the college contracted a professional counseling and coaching service specializing in transitions from the academic to the private sector.

But wait, there’s more!  Or less.  Coming up next:

We will be merging all foreign languages into a single department. At least two foreign language majors will be eliminated, and these languages will become service departments. They will take the initiative to partner with stronger departments to add language skills to business, education, psychology, criminal justice and possibly other majors.

That’s classic queen sacrifice, starting with targeting academic programs that enroll too few students (or are perceived as doing so).  These are humanities departments, too, which is fairly typical.  There’s also a shift of resources to expand programs that generate better student numbers.  Criminal justice and business are fairly typical.

Here’s an extra spin, focused on the research-teaching connection:

The provost, the Academic Affairs Committee and I will begin to look at the research interests and production of faculty members, particularly in the humanities, with a view to encouraging these interests to become more closely aligned with teaching duties. We want research to result in more effective teachers, and research at St. Bridget’s should be aimed, first and foremost, at improving instruction on our campus, and these priorities will be taken into consideration in tenure and promotion decisions.

Research and publication will benefit faculty members at other institutions only insofar as their aims, like ours, are laser focused on the highest-quality teaching performance.

This is one trend not widely discussed, a drive to repurpose research as part of teaching.  It also appears as a desire to separate the two.  How many campuses are currently doing something like this?

It’s a fascinating piece.  It’s akin to design fiction, offering a possible template for others to experiment with.  And it further establishes the queen sacrifice as part of the campus leader playbook.  It’s also a work of education fiction; how big is that subfield these days?

I don’t know Hayes’ outfit, the Foundation for Practical Education, so I can’t comment on their background here.

(photo from IHE story)

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6 Responses to The queen sacrifice in education fiction

  1. davidjhinson says:

    Reblogged this on Logorrhea.

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  2. VanessaVaile says:

    The Foundation sounds fictional too.

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  3. I’m pretty sure that’s Upsala College (or what remains of it).
    http://public.fotki.com/borysd/remains_of_upsala/

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  4. Joe Murphy says:

    That’s a really intriguing choice, wrapping a top-down focus on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) into the queen sacrifice. Cynically, I note that SoTL probably appears cheaper to produce than scholarship based on trips to foreign libraries and archives. Whether it’s still cheaper after they pay the consultants on survey design and statistics is left as an exercise for the author of the sequel…

    Practically, I suspect it has to be handled with significantly more finesse than this suggests. Telling faculty members to change their area of research expertise seems like a direct slap at their identity. At a minimum, it will lead to increased requests for faculty development money in the short term, each punctuated with a pained “if you really want this…”. If handled this way, I bet it leads to a vote of no confidence, with an ugly stream of leaked emails finding the pages of IHE and the Chronicle.

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  5. Pingback: The queen sacrifice in schooling fiction | Posts

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