5 stories you should read this April

Sweet Briar closes; presidents want more say in hiring; what makes a teacher great

April 14, 2015

As college professors, you are among the most well-read people on the planet. But you’re also among the busiest, which means that you can’t possibly have time to find all the most interesting and relevant higher-education news that’s worth reading. That’s where we come in. In each issue of Extra Credit, we’ll curate a few insightful articles that we think you’ll find useful. From the implications of the closing of Sweet Briar College to a thought-provoking book on the end of academia, here are the articles that should be on your radar this month.

Need help saying “no” to requests? Here’s how.
Whether it’s a student who wants a recommendation letter—tomorrow—or a department chair who needs someone to serve on a committee, faculty often have trouble saying “no” to requests. Yet there are ways to prevent yourself from agreeing to too many demands, including taking time to assess whether a task is doable—or even interesting—before saying “yes.” It’s also helpful to block off time for research and grading on your calendar, and then turn down any requests that would interfere with them.
Inside Higher Ed, March 13, 2015

Is Sweet Briar the canary in the coal mine for small colleges?
The recent announcement that Sweet Briar College will be closing at the end of this school year, despite its $84 million endowment, raises questions about the fate of similar schools. Though the full details of Sweet Briar’s finances have yet to be made public, factors such as its tiny enrollment, high faculty-to-student ratio, high tuition-discount rate, and heavy investment losses may have made its situation more precarious than most. College financing expert Kent John Chabotar says as many as 250 small, private, liberal-arts colleges in the U.S. are vulnerable to closure, though he stresses the fact that we won’t see a “wave” of school closings but rather a gradual attrition.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 5, 2015

College presidents want more say in hiring and tenure decisions, survey says
Two-thirds of college presidents want more input into which professors receive tenure, while 55% want to take a more active role in hiring, Inside Higher Ed’s annual survey found. College presidents say that they can act as backstops for crucial decisions such as who to hire, and that speaking with job candidates lets them persuade candidates to work for their schools. However, some faculty oppose too much administrative involvement in tenure and hiring decisions, stating that college presidents don’t have the subject matter expertise to assess candidates.
Inside Higher Ed, March 13, 2015

The 4 secrets of great teachers
Even if you weren’t born a great teacher, you can develop the traits of one, says professor Rob Jenkins, who has been teaching for almost 30 years. According to Jenkins, the four qualities that characterize an excellent teacher are: an approachable personality combined with high expectations of students; a compelling classroom presence; deep subject matter knowledge and meticulous preparation for each class; and passion for both your students and subject matter. Faculty can cultivate these traits by staying present and engaged in class and continually renewing their knowledge and revising their teaching methods.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 16, 2015

How technology will change higher education
Is higher education in its “last days of decadence”? Kevin Carey, director of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation, believes so. In his new book, “The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere,” he critiques the U.S. higher education system as both too costly and too focused on research at the expense of teaching. Based on his interviews with educators and entrepreneurs, he predicts a future in which innovations like online learning make higher education cheaper, more accessible, and more individualized.
The New York Times, March 10, 2015

Courtney L. Vien is an associate editor with the AICPA.