Book by Martin Kramer
Review by John J. Solazzo III
Housing and Residential Education
University of South Florida
Each day, personnel within colleges and universities attempt to forge new paths in various fields, invent new concepts, and educate the populace, all as a way to leave an educational legacy. Some consider change a great thing because change can equate to progress and development. However, real institutional change may not come from the next great idea. Sometimes, those of us within an institution must adapt and change because of outside forces. When this type of change occurs, the transition is not always smooth and people may be resistant. In The Stress of Change: Testing the Resilience of Institutions, Martin Kramer compiles an edited collection of essays written by students enrolled in a graduate seminar class taught by Judith Block McLaughlin. In each essay, a student attempts to address a form of change faced by those of us in today’s colleges.
The editor hoped to address institutional change through the use of specific examples. Such issues included dealing with health crisis management, support of government entities, loss of accreditation, financial crisis, niche institutions, and new presidential leadership. In reflecting on the mistakes and problems, the essay authors sought to shed light on the issues each school faced, how the problems were resolved, or why the issues went unresolved. Essentially, the essays attempted to benchmark and set an example. The examples were to illustrate ways readers could determine a starting point to solve the issues at their own institutions.
Editor Kramer prefaces this book by stating that the topics arose from the students rather than predetermined themes. Additionally, he acknowledged that because students wrote the chapters, their research provided new ideas and were not biased by institutional agendas, as would be the case if each example had been written by a faculty member (p. 4). Still, after reading the book, I felt that most of the essays had a background agenda. For instance, in the chapter “The Loss of Accreditation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” the content was supposed to address accreditation of a niche institution in higher education; instead, the content seemed to focus more on racism. However, the evidence provided clearly showed that the president was at fault and loss of accreditation was not due to racism. The essay author then concluded by giving specific recommendations without providing supporting evidence. Sadly, chapters like this, and those that lacked fluent incorporation of data, tainted the book. However, the essays that discussed issues surrounding the change of presidents, institutional culture change, economic hardship, and health crises provided good insight on institutional reaction to these and other associated issues.
Overall, it was evident that the articles included in this text were written by students as much of the writing lacked development. Additionally, there was no connection between chapters within the book beyond that all events involved a major institutional change. As a whole, the book felt like a detailed news report of past incidents. While the topics were interesting, the book is best suited to those interested in institutional management or those wanting to know more about how finances and culture can affect the administrative decisions. For advisors, this is really just a fun read.
The stress of change: Testing the resilience of institutions (New directions for higher education #151). (2010). Book by Martin Kramer. Review by John J. Solazzo III. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 122 pp. $29.00, ISBN # 978-0-470-92433-4