In a bid to to raise tuition revenues, the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill lowered admissions and retention standards to admit unqualified applicants who had little hope of graduating, according to a lawsuit filed by a former dean. (Disclosure: I served as a SUNY Trustee for 12 years.)
According to Inside Higher Ed, Thomas J. Hickey, who filed the suit, claims he was fired as dean in retaliation for querying financially-motivated academic policies instituted by top administrators -- policies which condemned students to failure at the campus.
In an extraordinary communication cited in the suit, Thomas Cronin, a physics professor, ringingly denounced the practices:
“The list of academically and morally corrupt practices that ensue from our inability to adhere to our own standards is rather long. One of our worst offenses is that we admit, and re-admit students absolutely unqualified and absolutely incapable of achieving a college degree. Many go into debt or cause their families to go into debt into [sic] order to attempt a college degree. This is an absolutely corrupt practice and it may be criminal. If we have done this to even one student, then we are guilty of a low form of corruption."
That some campuses may engage in such practices would come as no surprise to seasoned observers of higher education. But what is remarkable, even shocking -- and encouraging in this age of general cowardice on the part of so much of the education status quo -- is the rare willingness of a professor and former administrator so boldly and publicly to take up the cause of restoring high academic standards.