Most universities are struggling to maintain enrollments, endowments, and educational quality. Meanwhile, student applications, sources of revenue, and credibility among constituents are all in a steady decline. We are told that the very survival of the academy will depend on our ability to change, but divisions and conflicts get in the way. This admonition is made so often that it begins to lose its kick at some point, but it is nevertheless a real threat.
Division between opposing elements in the academy creates conflict, inefficiency, and ultimately becomes an obstacle to change. These dichotomies seem intractable, which is alarming considering the clear need for new models in higher education. The limits imposed by competing traditions, values, expectations, and stakeholder interests make it difficult for the most ambitious and creative among us to move forward.
Yet the need for change remains obvious. Although private institutions would seem in the most advantageous position for creative change, many have powerful constituencies and customs that can make change difficult. Public institutions face increasing pressures to be accountable to the legislature and to the public, which can sometimes discourage innovation. Contracts and agreements become barriers to change even as they preserve reasonable wages and working conditions. <Read more.>