Last week both the President and the Provost of our College announced that they were leaving, one to be President of a university in Philadelphia, the other to be Chancellor at another in Washington State. Quite a lot for a small state college to hear in one week and quite a lot of chatter about “what’s gonna happen?” There have even been more than a fair share of “Al Haig…who’s in charge?” jokes and general confusion about who’s making decisions around here.
Lots of folks have been asking me “what’s going on? Why did the President and Provost take off? Who’s taking over those positions? Will things fall apart?”
The funny part is that of course things are not falling apart. And if you walked our campus today, you would see students walking to class, Professors teaching and meeting with students in their offices, lacrosse players heading to the sports fields for a scheduled match. In truth, everyone knows how to do their jobs despite a kind of power vacuum at the top. Admissions staff work on admissions, Campus safety officers patrol the campus, lab assistants prepare labs, and college life continues.
When asked by local press about my thoughts about our President and Provost I had positive things to say. One working hard to support changes in college curriculum and help bring positive attention to our campus from across the country, the other taking an active role to integrate new technologies and teaching and research. All good!
There is something else, though, that should be said. And here is where “personal” becomes “political.” And that is that our departing President and Provost were struggling to maintain high standards in a state that has shown little interest in supporting higher education. The NH legislature has made draconian cutbacks to its colleges and universities…nearly 45% which is by far the largest slashing of higher education than any other state in the country. Put simply, NH ranks last in the United States in supporting public college education. We are the worst.
In truth, I love this College and our staff and faculty and students. We do a lot with what we’ve got, and I admire my colleagues who work hard to provide excellent service to our students. But let’s be honest, the continued assault by the state must have exhausted these fine folks. Their jobs must have become a bit depressing.
And in the end, the people who are hurt the most are our students. The kids we care about who are forced to pay higher and higher tuition and take on the largest debt of any students in any state because of the lack of support of our citizenry. I know my friends and colleagues here at the College will keep our noses to the grind stone, continue to teach and bring in research funds to pay our students to collaborate in our studies so that they can publish and move on to do great things themselves. But this is wearing thin and it’s time for those of us in the trenches to speak up so that the college kids we care so much about have a running chance in a tough world.