Interviews conducted. Notes taken. Research under way. Thoughts gathered began to gel. This week’s posting was meant to explain the complicated relationship between higher education and state and federal government—the lack of understanding, appreciation and compromise on both sides. Then, my father died on April 21, and it became impossible to concentrate on writing the piece I intended. I needed to write something else.
Many people have stories of inspiration and influence, conflict and resolution with parents and mentors, and life experiences that compel decisions and pathways. I’ll try to describe my father, how he influenced me, and point to why I write this column. However, my story today will not be a saccharine-laced opine nor contain the predictable trappings of a Hallmark Channel movie. Maybe. I promise I’ll try.
Even without the reckoning of my father’s decline and ultimate passing, I’ve wondered why I or anyone would choose to work in higher education. Quite frankly, it feels like every aspect of the sector is in disarray, a shit show, as it were—declining enrollments, broken financial models, corruption, discrimination, poor pay and working conditions, unsustainable student debt, a student mental health crisis, and hostility from some in government and the public at large. Then there’s the enormity of dealing with COVID. Working in higher education is fraught, but I’ll try to explain why I’m here.