Edited by David W. Breneman and Paul J. Yakoboski
Chapter 4: Beyond the ‘New Normal’ in American Higher Education: Toward Perpetual Innovation
4. Beyond the “new normal” in American higher education: toward perpetual innovation Michael M. Crow As the United States negotiates its recovery from the near meltdown of global economic markets, most institutions of higher education are engaged in some form of damage control and reassessment. Confronted by continuing fallout from the repercussions of the fiscal crisis, many colleges and universities are retrenching as if under siege while others are focused on restoring equilibrium. Still others are determined to seize the moment as an opportunity to restructure their academic organization or administrative mechanisms, generally with the intent of becoming more “efficient.” Much of the discussion surrounding the implications of the downturn for the academy has been couched in terms of a desire to attain to some condition of “new normalcy” in higher education. I would maintain that any intent to seek a new normalcy in higher education is inherently misguided because such an objective suggests that conditions were tenable prior to their disruption by the economic dislocation. Indeed, I would argue that we must strike the notion of “normal” from the lexicon of American higher education because for decades the status quo has been characterized by progressive ossification and disinvestment. In my usage of the term, “ossification” refers to the lack of innovation in the organization and practices of our colleges and universities, and “disinvestment” refers to the progressive decline in investment, particularly from the public sector, in the infrastructure of higher education. It is the lack of innovation, however, even...
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