Review by: Regan Baker
Missouri State University
If asked, most staff and faculty at institutions of higher education could list off the ways that changes in society have impactied their colleges and universities: helicopter parents, cuts in funding, and increased focus on career paths are just the beginning of that list. Higher Education and Society aims to examine how institutions impact society and conversely, how society impacts institutions through 14 essays on ways that this is happening today.
These essays cover a broad range of topics that combine theory with current issues. Most are familiar topics in the realm of higher education like shifts in the considered value of a liberal education, academic freedom, the impact of athletics, and town and gown relationships. A few, like the impact of high school counselors, may provide new ways of viewing society’s contributions to the higher education experience.
While the book successfully introduces a broad array of topics with historical overviews and contemporary research, many of the essays cover only one side of the topic (the book clearly opposes neo-liberal ideology’s influence on education). One memorable essay argues against the loss of faculty power that has resulted from “replacing faculty governance with cadres of professional administrators” (Margolis & Soldatenko, p. 238). In writing a review predominantly for staff who are or may become part of this body of professional administrators, it would be neglectful not to mention that there are many sides of the arguments covered in each essay that are not given a voice in this work.
The variety of essays means that each topic is only given a brief overview; given the hefty nature of many of these topics, that means that the authors are only able to skim the surface of each issue. This also means that many of the essays may not be pertinent to every reader. It is not entirely clear who the intended audience is. For instance, higher education professionals, who seem to be the most likely target audience, are unlikely to need a list of recommendations for high school counselors. Higher Education and Society provides a framework for why each essay is included through the themes of the relationship between higher education and society, but the framework is so large that it is difficult to connect all the pieces together. Why each essay topic individually was included is not explicitly stated, and some of the topics feel less pertinent than others, for example one piece on technology in higher education.
In conclusion, this book succinctly covers many of the larger influencing factors connecting higher education and society, but provides little new information to the conversation of higher education literature. It falls short in adequately addressing the multitudes of information and opinions associated with each topic because of the brevity of the essays. While advisors could find value in the piece as a starting point for learning about each of these issues, many of the topics would not feel relevant to their work and would require further reading for a full depth of information.
BkRev 1712. Higher education and society. (2016). Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso (Eds.), Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.. 310 pp., $40.95, (Paperback), ISBN #978-1-4331-2870-7, https://www.peterlang.com/.