Robert Zemsky writing in the Chronicle of Higher Ed offers some lessons about higher ed reform:
For true reform, we need a process that will change most, if not all, institutions simultaneously...
- Strong rhetoric changes nothing—not even a clear indictment, based on what the reformers believe is overwhelming evidence, will shame the academy into changing.
- Demand for reform must be internal. Faculty members do not necessarily have to want to reform, but they do have to see in the proposed reform a means to a desirable end.
- Like outside reformers, state agencies cannot prescribe change (unless they are prepared for a long, exhausting battle) but must create the conditions that make change possible. Money can't in itself secure the changes reformers want, but unwillingness to invest new money almost guarantees that change won't be forthcoming—especially given higher education's practice of hunkering down when appropriations are cut.
- It is best to focus on truly systemic change. The nature of the academy sucks the air out of piecemeal reforms. People lose interest, and old ways win out. Individual institutions can—and do—change, but their successes tend to pale with time because of the inertia in the system.