Tuesday, January 29, 2013

No slow news day

This morning's News & Observer featured an article detailing North Carolina's recently-elected GOP Governor Pat McCrory's views on our state's system of higher education. Never mind that his party has done and is doing all that it can to undercut job growth in any meaningful way, never mind that employers almost uniformly profess to wanting students who can think critically, solve problems, and communicate effectively (all skills best instilled at a liberal arts institution), never mind that his comments are short-sighted, misogynistic, and just downright mean...

...to add insult to injury, hours later the President of the UNC system shot back with a halfhearted response that does little to instill confidence in anyone who cares about higher education in this state. His response is itself a paean to high-stakes standardized testing, homogenization of higher ed, and efficiency at the expense of actual erudition. Ross apotheosizes economy and pledges to "work with" McCrory as the latter goes about his task of eviscerating one of the nation's premier university systems.

Angels and ministers of grace, defend us.

Here's Ross's statement, in full:

“The University of North Carolina has partnered with business and government to build the state’s economy.  We pledge to continue to work with the Governor and the General Assembly to ensure North Carolina has the strong talent pool needed to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow, some of which haven’t yet been invented.  Our campuses are committed to academic quality and to graduating students who are adaptable, creative, innovative, and equipped to succeed in the workforce and to conduct the cutting-edge research that enables North Carolina to develop, attract, and retain industry, businesses, and good-paying jobs.

“Of course, we understand that state resources are limited and agree that there must be many pathways to jobs in the modern economy.  We are completing a Strategic Plan that involved business leaders from across the state, the president of the Community College System, and legislators in our efforts to set degree attainment goals for our state that are responsive to the talent needs of the future economy.  UNC is already transitioning from a campus funding model focused solely on enrollment changes to a model that considers campus performance on key measures related to student success and academic and operational efficiencies.  We believe this funding model sets the right direction for our University and our state.

“The University’s value to North Carolina should not be measured by jobs filled alone.  Our three-part mission of teaching, research, and public service requires that we prepare students with the talent and abilities to succeed in the workforce, because talent will be the key to economic growth.  We must also continue to serve the state through our agricultural and industrial extension programs, our Small Business and Technology Development Centers, our Area Health Education Centers, and through the many other ways our faculty and students are engaged in our communities.  Higher education plays a key role in ensuring a higher quality of life for all North Carolinians. 

“North Carolina’s economy is in transition, and we must position the state to compete nationally and internationally in the years ahead.  We look forward to working with Governor McCrory to develop the well educated and skilled talent pool that North Carolina will need to compete and win.” 

Buckle up, folks. It's gonna be a rough ride.

CLARIFICATION: additional information for those out-of-the-loop on the Strategic Plan (o, venerable capitals!) Ross mentions: said plan is the one whose draft calls for reliance on a single assessment instrument (the CLA, College Learning Assessment) to determine "value added" over the course of a student's college career, the one whose draft calls for homogenization of campus-level curricula to the point that permission would have to be sought from general administration to modify core courses or propose new ones, the one whose draft has had pretty much the entirety of the UNC system's faculty up in arms over the past few weeks. Yeah, that plan.


Swales said...

I had higher hopes for McCrory than this. I might not have voted for him, but he seemed like he had a good head on his shoulders... but now? Oh man.

I'm happy to report that my liberal arts education has furnished me with a job in my field, but I liked the opportunity to take womens' studies classes alongside my statistics courses. It wouldn't be fair if the only girls who get to study their gender's place in history are those who are rich enough to afford private colleges. (And I know that womens' studies isn't the only issue at stake here, but it's the one McCrory used as an example, so I'll use it too.)

Becky Baylor said...

I agree...it is highly upsetting to hear him devalue a liberal arts education like that. My gender studies course at UNCA opened so many doors for me and helped me realize what I really want to do with the rest of my life, starting with changing my major to sociology. I really hope that McCrory doesn't get away with this.