The Damaged Soul Of A University
Written By: Robyn Shulman
The damaged soul of a university may be temporarily scarred. However, those who have built the physical structure have the power to move forward. It is with great sorrow that I write this post, however, I feel compelled to do so. Watching a beloved university fall apart is no easy task.
There is a quiet collapse taking place in many institutions due to low enrollment levels, conflicting administrative decisions, and the rapid demands of technology that many institutions were and are still not prepared to meet. It is my belief that every university must continue to hold onto the core beliefs, reasons and understandings of what makes a good institution great. There is a special connection that bond people together who work at universities, and the feelings of this connection pass directly to the students. Why? Because we all give off energy, both negative and positive. When a university is struggling, the students can sense something is off. Professors are worried, staff is anxious, and the ties that hold the college together quickly loosen.
Here are 5 important reminders that we should never forget about higher education:
1. Responsibility: Institutions have a responsibility to properly educate the student body for the real world. “Critical Pedagogy” as noted by Paulo Freire, is more important now than ever. High-level thinking, problem-solving, self-reflection, reasoning, asking and debating are real life skills that must be demonstrated throughout the course of a program. These skills apply to learning and applying knowledge, while also preparing a student for employment. Students must come first; as they are the reason the university exists. Universities must be committed to properly educating their students to the very best of their ability, academically and holistically. Higher education is a gift for many, and it must be respected and used wisely.
2. Culture: Many universities have a culture. This culture is one that lives within the relationships formed between colleagues. There are many bonds created between professors that hold the university up and keep students coming back for more. Professors write books together, create classes, write curriculum, and they make magic for their students. They share many professional goals. Culture and connections must be respected, honored and appreciated. When a dent is placed within a culture (such as a mass layoff of teachers), the institution cries, and the students feel the sorrow. They too, quickly realize a great change has taken place.
3. Change: Change is the only constant. Institutions and teachers must keep up with the rapid demands of technology in education. If teachers are reluctant or scared to face the changes in technology (or any changes in the current education movement), they will quickly fall behind. As role models, teachers must embrace the change to move with the way of the world. Regardless of opinion, technology is here here to stay, and teachers must be open to training and learning new ways to utilize technology. Technology is a tool, not a replacement for teachers.
4. Roots: Many institutions have great history and amazing stories to tell. They should always stay grounded and remember their purpose. Social justice, making a difference, and helping communities are some examples of staying within the original heritage of the college. Someone started a school for a reason, and that reason should live on forever. The university should respect the roots and basics of the beginning, by holding onto purpose and meaning.
5. People: Those working in institutions should remember that everyone must work together in an open and transparent manner. They should treat each other with the greatest amount of compassion and respect. Shared governance should be used appropriately. The constitution of a university must be followed, used and respected. Everyone working in a university plays an important role that keep the wheels in motion. Administration should listen to those working in the field so they can work together to make the university a better place for everyone.
When changes take place so quickly, there is no time to truly mentally prepare. Many universities have lost life-long, amazing and dedicated professors. There is a quiet, damaged soul living in many places where hard work, dedication and the honor and fight for social justice have been silenced. For all of those whose lives have been forever changed due to the various reasons mentioned, I want you to know you have made an impact and a great difference in the lives of the many students you have touched (especially mine).