Over the weekend, The Boston Globe broke a story about how, in the wake of a cheating scandal at Harvard College, email accounts of resident deans were surreptitiously opened by the central administration. A dean had, without permission, forwarded an apparently innocuous email to one or two student athletes, and that email was leaked to the Harvard Crimson. On the surface, a small event — a single email passed on from dean to student. Yet in this seemingly isolated incident lurk important issues about what it means to be an educational community and, more broadly, about the way in which American colleges and universities are likely to be regarded in the future.
It’s no secret that institutions of higher learning feel beleaguered. While they are admired and emulated in much of the world, many question their value here in the U.S. The huge annual fees for post-secondary education, the rise of MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses), and the hyper-professional orientation of students (will this degree get me a job?) threaten the traditional focus on the disciplines of liberal arts and sciences, and the one-time appeal of a broad general education.
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