The Forum | Trusteeship

This Week in Higher Ed 11/30

November 30, 2018

University of Maryland—College Park Still Under Review By Accreditor

The University of Maryland’s (UMD) accreditation is under review following last month’s turmoil. The oversight agency responsible is seeking information about the University’s leadership in particular. In response to an apparent power struggle between the president and the board of regents following the death of a UMD football player, the commission requested a “supplemental information report” that would “[provide] evidence of a clearly articulated and transparent governance structure that outlines roles, responsibilities, and accountability for decision making by each constituency.” While Maryland’s leadership made egregious errors, accreditation should focus on its primary goal—safeguarding academic quality—rather than treading into governance issues that should be the responsibility of each respective institution or university system.

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The History Major in Decline

The American Historical Association (AHA) has released a saddening report which found that history has seen the sharpest decline of all majors since 2008. The number of history degrees conferred dropped from 34,642 in 2008 to 24,266 in 2017, placing history degrees below their previous all-time low in the 1980’s. Other humanities and qualitative social sciences are losing majors as well: religion, political science, philosophy, and literature have all experienced significant losses, while exercise science, computer science, and nursing have seen the biggest gains. The author of the report, Professor Benjamin Schmidt of Northeastern University, credits the decline largely to the perceived higher returns of other degrees. According to Professor Schmidt, “the long-term state of the discipline will rest on how it adapts to a cohort of students—and their parents—who are much less receptive to arguments for the liberal arts than previous generations have been.” Historical knowledge is essential for our students and historians hold an important role as informers of public opinion—higher education must get back on track.

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UC–Berkeley Amends Free Speech Policies

After a tumultuous 2016–17 academic year that was rife with free speech controversies, the University of California–Berkeley has made promising steps toward improving the culture of free expression on campus. The University is working to welcome guest speakers and has designated an area on campus that will be open to large-scale protests at any time, exempt from the institution’s policy which requires advance notice and other stipulations to plan events. Conservative speakers, including author Heather Mac Donald and Charlie Kirk of TurningPoint USA, have given lectures on campus with little incident. While these efforts are a step in the right direction, UC–Berkeley must ensure that its entire campus provides an environment for freedom of expression.

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Check here every Friday for the most important higher education news. Using over 23 years of expertise, ACTA will provide commentary on the pressing issues facing our nation’s colleges and universities.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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