Friday Fragments | Confessions of a Community College Dean



Hat-tip to Akil Bello for highlighting on Twitter this week that the New York Times makes over 100,000 more references to Yale than it does to all 1,100 community colleges in the US combined.  


Knowing it viscerally is one thing, but the numbers really bring it home.


Yes, Yale has some loquacious people around, but it doesn’t have a monopoly on them.  In the Times’ defense, wherever could they find someone with deep experience in the community college sector and a track record of regular column writing?  Does such a person even exist?





The post about the Parent Coordinator at UMD generated quite a bit of feedback, not least from the Parent Coordinator himself, Brian Watkins.  He gently took issue with my choice of verbs, suggesting that to say he “deals with” parents is perhaps a bit harsher than to say he “partners with” them.  Most likely, both can be true.


Having had a few more days to reflect on it, I’m even more convinced that a Parent Coordinator is a good idea.  Colleges are set up to work with students, as opposed to parents.  Colleges’ systems are based on the assumption that students will speak for themselves and take care of their own business.  I’ve heard it said that this model is culturally white, to the extent that some other cultures assume the centrality of the family in college decisions.  It certainly assumes significant social capital on the part of the students. 


In addition to the more cynical interpretations, a Parent Coordinator could help families without college experience navigate and make sense of the rules of the higher ed game.  To the extent that the entire family weighs in on decisions, that’s all the more important.  Verb choice aside, there’s potential here.  



A few folks responded to the post about ending meetings.  In answer to my suggestion (for scheduled meetings) to start with a few relatively uncontroversial items to generate momentum, Chad Orzel noted that some people use that strategy deliberately to starve other topics of airtime.  It’s a fair point.


Jeff Melanson suggested putting “next steps” as the final item on prepared agendas, to ensure that there’s enough time devoted to moving from discussion to action.  


In terms of impromptu meetings, Brandon Muramatsu suggested either posing a question that requires a followup meeting, or watching body language closely to see when someone is starting to fidget.  Those are both great, though the first one may require some quick thinking, and the second assumes that the other person is the one who wants the conversation to end.  The tougher case is when you’ve been cornered by someone with a much longer time horizon than you’re prepared to engage.


Greg Britton had my favorite response.  How to end meetings?  “Usually by slamming my laptop shut and swearing.”  What it lacks in polish it makes up in clarity.



At a statewide meeting on Wednesday, my phone buzzed with a text from The Girl.  That almost never happens when I’m at work, so I assumed it must be an emergency.  I discreetly opened it to see if something horrible had happened.


“Dad, what’s the Hulu password?”


“Emergency” is a relative term.



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