John O. Harney: Atlantis in New England and other topics

Athanasius Kircher   's map of Atlantis, placing it in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, from  Mundus Subterraneus  (1669), published in Amsterdam. The map is oriented with    south at the top   .

Athanasius Kircher's map of Atlantis, placing it in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, from Mundus Subterraneus (1669), published in Amsterdam. The map is oriented with south at the top.

Ruminations from John O. Harney, executive editor of The New England Journal of Higher Education, a service of The New England Board of Higher Education (nebhe.org)

Unvites. I recently enjoyed a fascinating panel discussion on Protesting the Podium: Campus Disinvitations sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center. The panelists were former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, Harvard professor Harvey C. Mansfield, Middlebury College professor Matthew J. Dickinson and Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth. They all had some kind of run-in with once-again radioactive speech issues on campus … and they were all smart as whips. Dickinson said he prefaces his classes now by telling students they are not in a “safe space,” but rather in a place where issues will be discussed using intellectual debate and that all students must be heard, especially marginalized students. Kerrey, also former president of the New School, worried that amidst the clamor of so much social media, people have to resort to insult to be heard. Roth, who acknowledges a certain “affirmative action” for conservative ideas, noted that students are suspicious of free speech to advance certain agendas, particularly when it is “weaponized” by money and technology.

Diversifying study-abroad. Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) enroll over 25% of all U.S. college students, but accounted for just 11% of all U.S. study-abroad students in the 2016-17 academic year, according to a report by the Center for Minority Serving Institutions and the Council on International Educational Exchange. The report focuses on the obstacles that discourage students from studying abroad, including barriers of cost, culture and curriculum, which may be worse at MSIs. A small step forward: The report highlights the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship created by the two organizations to cover costs for 10 outstanding MSI students to participate in a four-week study-abroad program focused on intercultural communication and leadership.

Batten down the hatches. The U.S faces more than $400 billion in costs over the next 20 years to defend coastal communities from inevitable sea-level rise, according to a study done by the Center for Climate Integrity in partnership with the engineering firm, Resilient Analytics. The study looked at thousands of miles of coastline to determine areas that are at risk of being at least 15% underwater by 2040 due to rising seas and land-based ice melts. In New England, the study forecast that seawalls needed by 2040 would cost about $19 billion for Massachusetts, $11 billion for Maine, $5 billion for Connecticut, $3 billion for Rhode Island and $1 billion for New Hampshire. What does this have to do with higher ed? Of course, climate change has to do with everything. But more specifically, see NEJHE’s A Modest Proposal to Save the Planet.

Watched pot. Clark University in Worcester, Mass., this fall will launch America’s first Certificate in Regulatory Affairs for Cannabis Control, a three-course online graduate certificate program designed to help professionals, ranging from police to pot vendors, to understand the complications, opportunities and risks associated with the industry. Worcester will also be the future headquarters of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission—and incidentally, the new home of the Pawtucket Red Sox, Exhibit A (along with GE) in the building case of New England’s not-quite team spirit in site planning.

Benefits. A MAVY poll on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs asked “young adult job seekers” to name the employees benefits that would most help them achieve their financial goals. The top choices were: 1) health insurance, 2) paid time off, 3) student loan forgiveness and 4) working remotely. The CPA group played up the high ranking of student loan debt, and indeed, 2020 presidential candidates are energized by the issue. MAVY polls are developed by the University of Florida and partners and focused on millennials. This one defined “young adult job seekers” as millennials who graduated from college in the past 24 months or will graduate in the next 12 months and are currently looking for employment.

John O. Harney is executive editor of The New England Journal of Higher Education.