Earlier this week, the President and Board of Sweet Briar College announced that their institution would be shutting down following this semester. Though SBC’s financial problems were no secret, the announcement apparently came as a shock to students and faculty and to the larger academic world. The Sweet Briar closure caps what has, so far, been a terrible year for higher education. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to dramatically defund his state’s superb public university system and to scrap the “Wisconsin Idea,” the guiding principles that made the University of Wisconsin one of the nation’s leading state institutions of higher learning, has dismayed faculty not only in Wisconsin, but also around the country. Governors in other states, like Louisiana and Arizona, have also recently proposed draconian cuts in higher education. The state of South Carolina is considering temporarily closing South Carolina State University, the state’s only public historically black college or university. Last Friday, in an action critics accuse of being wholly political, the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors voted to eliminate three research centers: a center on poverty at Chapel Hill, one on biodiversity at East Carolina University, and a center devoted to civic engagement and social change at North Carolina Central University.
What’s happening here? And what can be done about it? Continue reading