“Whatever It Is, I’m Against It”
Resistance to Change in Higher Education
In “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It,” president emeritus of Macalester College Brian Rosenberg draws on decades of higher education experience to expose the entrenched structures, practices, and cultures that inhibit meaningful postsecondary reform, even as institutions face serious challenges to their financial and educational models. A lively insider’s account, the book pinpoints factors that hinder the ability of U.S. colleges and universities to be creative and entrepreneurial amid calls to improve affordability, access, and equity for students.
Through pithy personal stories of divisive town hall meetings, multiyear college governance battles, and attempts at curricular reform, Rosenberg illustrates internal and external dynamics that impede institutional evolution. Pressures such as declining enrollment, escalating costs, and an oversupply of PhDs in academia have long signaled a grave need for reform within a profession that, as Rosenberg ruefully acknowledges, lacks organizational flexibility, depends greatly on reputation and ranking, and retains traditions, from the academic calendar to grading systems, that have remained essentially the same for decades.
Rosenberg looks outside the U.S. system to find possible antidotes in innovative higher education models such as student-centered and experiential learning approaches. This thought-provoking work offers ample evidence for presidents, chancellors, deans, provosts, and faculty to consider as they plan their missions to achieve institutional transformation.
“A deeply thoughtful, often funny, more often startling, and utterly compelling examination of American higher education in the twenty-first century. Brian Rosenberg, former president of Macalester College—my alma mater—has written an evidence-driven book that is enlivened by anecdote, sweetened by passion, and has the bite of a lemon sandwich.”
“Brian Rosenberg has given us a ‘tough love’ book that is both hortatory and hopeful. He writes with salutary impatience about how entrenched in their ways academics can be in the face of irresistible change. But he also writes with affection, respect, and humor (including at his own expense) about the often-beleaguered people who work every day to serve students and thereby our collective future. This is a candid and lively guidebook through the daunting landscape in which our colleges and universities find themselves today. Everyone concerned about the future of higher education should read it.”
—Andrew Delbanco, president, Teagle Foundation and Alexander Hamilton Professor of American Studies, Columbia University
“Brian Rosenberg’s book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how we might move from the current university structures, practices, and cultures that protect the status quo to ones that inspire innovation in the service of students and the common good.”
—Michael S. Roth, president, Wesleyan University and author of The Student: A Short History
“Rosenberg channels what sitting presidents think but dare not say. He argues persuasively that much of American higher education is heading to a cliff together. With no incentives for any one college, president, board, or faculty to innovate and serve the public good rather than narrow personal or institutional interests, changing course is problematic. But based on personal experience with one creative institution, he offers hope that change can happen.”
—Catharine Bond Hill, managing director, Ithaka S+R and former president, Vassar College
“In ‘Whatever It Is, I'm Against It,’ Brian Rosenberg explains why many colleges and universities resist change. With admirable candor, he calls on our campuses to become more student-centered, more affordable, and more responsive to today’s economy. An important book from one of higher education’s most clear-sighted leads.”
—Daniel R. Porterfield, president and CEO, Aspen Institute and former president, Franklin & Marshall College
Watch author Brian Rosenberg speak about the book:
Watch Brian Rosenberg in conversation with the Future Trends Forum host, Bryan Alexander:
Listen to Brian Rosenberg on the Education Talk Radio podcast:
Watch Brian Rosenberg on the Student Affairs Now podcast: