Higher Education

“Whatever It Is, I’m Against It” with Brian Rosenberg

In this episode of Trending in Education, we talk with Brian Rosenberg, author of the new book Whatever It Is, I’m Against It: Resistance to Change in Higher Education. Rosenberg is the President Emeritus of Macalester College and a Visiting Professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

We discuss the paradox of why higher education, which often speaks of transformation, is actually highly resistant to change. Rosenberg outlines the stark economic realities facing many colleges today, with unsustainably high tuition discount rates and declining demographics. He argues we’ve reached an untenable situation of economic unsustainability and unacceptable outcomes, especially for underrepresented students.

Powerful campus stakeholders like administrators and tenured faculty have little motivation to push for dramatic reforms that could threaten their positions. Meanwhile, marginalized groups like non-tenure track faculty and students lack power, despite having the greatest desire for change. Rosenberg calls for small experiments and building innovation centers as “green fields” within existing institutions.

We explore innovative models like the African Leadership University, focused on empowering self-directed learners. Rosenberg believes solutions will emerge from scrappy startups and developing world contexts, not elite U.S. institutions. He urges those who care about higher education to take on the challenge of doing the “hard things” needed to build a more equitable and financially sustainable future.

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Episode References