Higher education’s balancing act

Apr 22, 2017 by

ON THURSDAY, the members of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors will take their seats in the school’s historic Rotunda and consider a proposal to hike tuition by 3.5 percent.

It’s become more than a little challenging to oversee a state university these days. You have a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of the institution. You have to match resources to costs and do some careful balancing. You have to make tough decisions.

You also have to watch your back.

Because sitting at home, scanning the horizon for populist buttons to push, will be that collection of personalities — some in public office, some not — ready to attack, ready to carp, ready to condemn the institution and its leadership, all for the sake of scoring a political point or two.

It’s a rotten business, but fully representative of our times. These days we argue less on substance in favor of exchanging simplistic pot-shots. Thought gets subordinated to anger — and anger produces, what? Surely not constructive forward movement.

State colleges and universities ought not regard themselves as being singled out. Large semi-public or public institutions of any kind — hospitals, public utilities, government-in-general — are all vulnerable to nonchalant, unsupported, drive-by criticism.

It’s not that these institutions should be free from analysis, even the pointed variety. Far from it. These are large, important, costly organizations that should be held accountable to ensure their continued vitality.

But there is a sensible way to go about criticism, which starts by being genuinely informed on the subject.

Source: Editorial: Higher education’s balancing act | Editorial | pilotonline.com

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