Laundering Coercion: Restart Planning, “Pandemic Task Forces,” and the Dismantling of Shared Governance

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In this chapter, we show how an already severely weakened commitment to academic shared governance was further undermined during COVID-19 through the workings of “pandemic task forces” established on campuses around the country that often served as vehicles to carry management agendas under the guise of “faculty consultation.” We examine a disturbing set of illustrations of both the implicit and also explicit allocation of COVID response team authority to campus executives in student affairs and athletics, as opposed to faculty-supported leaders in academic affairs. We explore the various manifestations of these exercises in the manufacture of consent, including those that are entangled with local and state officials. We discuss the consequences for faculty power, control over curriculum, and the conditions of teaching and learning.KeywordsPandemic task forcesCOVID-19 restart planningCurriculum controlControl of teaching and learningDismantling of shared governance

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Drawing from resource dependence theory, this study explores the extent to which international student enrollment related to institutional decisions to shift to in-person instructional strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic. We focus our study particularly on July 2020, a time during which tensions around international students' legal status in the US were especially high. Our results suggest that leaders at private not-for-profit institutions were significantly more likely to shift instructional strategies to include more in-person instruction, thus allowing more international students to enroll but also placing at risk the health of individuals on their campuses and in their local communities. A similar result was not found for public institutions. These results speak to the extent to which private institutions in the US have become financially dependent on international students' tuition and have clear implications for the financial futures of US higher education institutions. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10734-021-00768-7.
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Institutional responses to COVID-19 are a topic of much concern. Emergent research has suggested that politics and polarization was more strongly linked, than was COVID-19, to institutions engaging in-person instruction for Fall 2020. This study used Structural Equation Modeling to test this trend. Based upon political polarization and dependency, we used data from the College Crisis Initiative (C2i), to test how state and county sociopolitical features, state and county COVID-19 rates, and state revenue losses influenced in-person instruction by September 9th, 2020. The accepted overall model, developed using the full sample, suggested that County Sociopolitical Features (r=.13) were the stronger influence on the decision, followed by Pandemic Severity (r=-.10) and State Sociopolitical Features (r=.09). In recognizing that institutional subsectors may be uniquely sensitive to these factors we tested our models using the following subgroups: 4-year public, 4-year private, and 2-year public institutions. State Sociopolitical Features (r=.17) were the only significant influence on 4-year public institutions. Whereas, 4-year private and 2-year public institution decisions were influenced by both State- and County-Sociopolitical Features – these features were respectively 2x and 3x stronger than were state features. Finally, Pandemic Severity (r=-.09) only influenced 4-year private institutional decisions to engage in-person instruction but to a weaker degree than both levels of sociopolitical features. Overall, models suggest that COVID-19 was not a consistently strong factor for institutions when deciding in-person instruction and that sociopolitical features were more influential, including for 4-year private institutions – which illustrates a propensity towards remaining in favor with sociopolitical “in-groups.”
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When coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) became a major impediment to face-to-face college instruction in spring 2020, most teaching went online. Over the summer, colleges had to make difficult decisions about whether to return to in-person instruction. Although opening campuses could pose a major health risk, keeping instruction online could dissuade students from enrolling. Taking an ecological approach, the authors use mixed modeling techniques and data from 87 percent of two- and four-year public and four-year private U.S. colleges to assess the factors that shaped decisions about fall 2020 instructional modality. Most notably, the authors find that reopening decisions about whether to return to in-person instruction were unrelated to cumulative COVID-19 infection and mortality rates. Politics and budget concerns played the most important roles. Colleges that derived more of their revenue from tuition were more likely to return to classroom instruction, as were institutions in states and counties that supported Donald Trump for president in 2016.
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This brief represents a big step in the growth of the College Crisis Initiative (C2i). What began as a group of three undergraduate research assistants and their professor is now a team consisting of over 30 students, four Davidson college faculty leaders, and a growing number of research affiliates at think tanks, universities, and firms on two continents. C2i has collected mode of instruction data for over 3,000 institutions in 92 countries. Given our growth and data collection efforts since May, made possible by a generous grant from the ECMC Foundation, we thought it was time for us to begin releasing brief reports that take a first look at the descriptive trends surrounding college campus reopening plans. This report will be the first of many. It asks an important question –“What’d we miss?”
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A recent survey of 146 postsecondary institutions found that 55% formed change task forces in the past 5 years. This article presents a detailed case of one private college that utilized task forces as a key strategy during a comprehensive change effort. Analysis describes the promise and peril of these innovative decision-making structures. Unburdened by day-today operational issues, the task forces focused on the change agenda, provided a “change friendly” environment, and became powerful change coalitions. The case shows how parallel governance structures devolve into “shadow” governance structures. Included are factors that determine how task forces enhance or compromise shared governance.
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