Changing Priorities in Higher Education

Almost a quarter century ago, the program I was hired to chair was riding high, ascendant, and influential. The state had named it a Program of Distinction, and money was pouring into the college’s coffers. The events of 9/11 had made police national heroes and security a national priority; the college offered degrees in both areas of Criminal Justice.

Hordes of students registered for classes that offered them the chance of a career, with no math or language requirements to graduate. The privatization of corrections facilities also drove enrollment in our Corrections degree programs.

The year 2020 arrived and, along with it, a perfect storm developed—toppling the college and promoting its fall from grace. Black Lives Matter led to the vilification of law enforcement; criminal justice reform is attempting to empty out prisons . . .private prisons, by the way, have turned their attention to detaining immigrants at our southern border. A conservative backlash against higher education in general and liberal arts in particular has devastated university budgets. My university tried to cope by appropriating the Program of Distinction funds. The other option was to eliminate programs, lay off faculty and staff, and cut research-driven release time.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic sealed the deal. Students no longer wanted to be on campus. Recently built dorms were unoccupied, the fancy new athletic center was empty, and no one was using the food service. Despite disparaging tweets by the U.S. president, the new American heroes replacing police are doctors and nurses.

I’m retired and out of the day-to-day fray resulting from the attack on higher education and the devolution of the program I once chaired. Nevertheless, the turmoil has not spared me. The course, Ethical Decisions for Police, has been dropped from the curriculum, so I lost my online teaching contract.  I developed the course and taught it for over thirty years. I would teach it free if the university would allow it!

I implored the new chair and curriculum committee to reconsider. At what time in our history have we needed ethics education more than now?

Published by Carole J. Garrison

I’m a conversationalist, an observer, a passionate participant in life. And now, in my later years, I’m a recorder of the lessons of my life through essays, stories, and novels. I live in the fourth moment of life, just outside the normal distribution of most people and it is from this place that I write.

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