The University Business Podcast: Dissecting mistrust in higher education with Lynn Pasquerella

Pasquerella: The recent FAFSA fiasco and high-profile Congressional hearings on campus antisemitism have fueled public skepticism.

Lawmakers are exacerbating mistrust in higher education, and it’s up to our leaders to boldly protect the sector from political overreach, Lynn Pasquerella, president of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), says on the second episode of The University Business Podcast.

“We need to stand up and defend the principles that caused us to enter leadership roles in the first place,” she says. “It’s not easy, and it might be that you need to resign, but we must defend this.”

Longstanding issues around high tuition costs and affordability are legitimate concerns around higher education, Pasquerella notes, and the recent FAFSA fiasco and high-profile Congressional hearings on campus antisemitism have only fueled the public’s skepticism. Pasquerella accused some Republicans, in particular, of propagating errant narratives, the most prominent of which is that institutions are “brainwashing the next generation of snowflakes.”

“That conflation is really damaging,” she adds, “and I think it runs the risk of perpetuating the growing economic and racial segregation in higher education by dissuading those who are most skeptical from going to college.”

Cautious leaders who submit to the external pressure around them have the most to lose. “We are seeing a rise in moral distress from campus leaders where they feel like they’re being coerced into making decisions that they believe are unethical but feel as if they have no choice,” she says. “That continual erosion of their moral compass and principles can lead to moral injury.”

If leaders fail to defend the sanctity of an independently operated U.S. higher education system, the progress toward creating an inclusive postsecondary environment faces extinction. “We need to reset and talk about what’s at stake if we allow the erosion of academic freedom and institutional autonomy and if we allow our academy to be controlled by the political whims of whoever is in power at the time,” she says.

Note: This episode was recorded on May 21, two days before the third round of Congress’ antisemitism hearings featuring college and university presidents.

You can listen to this episode at any time on Spotify, Podbean, Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts or down below.

Listen to our previous episode: Why STEM needs the humanities—and vice versa

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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