#2019ARC: Remarks from WSCUC President Jamienne Studley

WSCUC President Jamienne Studley offered the following remarks during the opening plenary for the 2019 Academic Resource Conference, "Provocative Questions, Courageous Answers": 

Once upon a time provocative questions on campus sounded like this: “Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe?” “What is beauty?” “What if the South had won the Civil War?” 

When I was in college our idea of a provocative question was: “If we take over Lowe Library can we end the war?” or “Why don’t Yale and Williams admit women?” 

And much of our effort today is shaped by the brave souls in higher education who finally asked this provocative question: “Do we know if they’re learning what we’re teaching?” 

Thank you for accepting WSCUC’s standing invitation to promote student success and institution effectiveness, this week and throughout the year. 

On the road to ARC we heard many provocative and urgent questions. The public is asking fundamental questions about the value of higher education. We can answer those questions by understanding whether educational engagement across WSCUC yields the learning and core competencies promised by the institution. And then we must do better at making those learning outcomes and core competencies, and the post graduate value of higher education, widely understandable.   

Here’s a provocative question of the moment: Is college for everyone? Actually, I have a quick answer to that one: if you aspire to college for your children, or value your own education, then the opportunity for college is for everyone. Not everyone will choose it, and that’s fine as long as it’s not distributed according to ZIP code or disability or wealth or gender.

Recently Congress, the US Department of Education, and the White House are raising some long-standing questions that can be summarized this way: 

  • How can we balance innovation and accountability, supporting new ways of delivering and organizing learning without opening floodgates to waves of fraud and empty offerings? 
  • Would more choices and competition among accrediting agencies help education become stronger, more responsive to student and workplace needs, and more affordable? 
  • Can we more effectively protect students when schools close, and can we spot closure coming sooner? 

And it has to be said: the indictment of a few amoral families and greedy coaches, far too many of them here in California, have shattered the illusion of meritocracy.

Former Secretary Arne Duncan said it well: this is an “acute manifestation of privilege,” but it pervades education at every level, starting with early childhood education. Others have described it as “dreamhoarding” by the “new aristocracy.” 

These indictments have created a profound moment of recognition and self-analysis. Do we stand for prestige, selectivity, and status, or for opportunity, egalitarian access, and excellence? It’s been said that a crisis is too important to waste. Let’s not waste this moment of examination and the sense of urgency it has engendered.   

This is a time for WSCUC to stand firmly on our assets and vision:

  • Rock solid commitment to equitable student success
  • Insistence on institutional integrity in board governance, financial dealings and accurate representation of institutional condition, conflicts of interest, responsible recruiting and admissions, handling of complaints including violence or harassment, and academic policy 
  • Scores of volunteers willing and able to help us apply the judgment and experience necessary to understand institutional mission, effectiveness, stability, and responsibility
  • Willingness to be reflective, even self-critical, in the interests of students and institutions
  • To be a leader in innovation and transparency

Read the rest of Jamienne Studley's remarks. 

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