The Executive Power in Us All
Truth be told, our country’s president doesn’t do a whole lot that directly affects higher education. The president can’t solely dictate federal funding levels. Decisions related to access and equity are more often made on campuses, in governing board conference rooms and places other than the White House.
The U.S. president’s real influence lies in his or her ability to put forth a national agenda and set the tone on matters pertinent to students, faculty and administrators of color in higher education.
The president’s sphere of influence is boundless, for sure. But each one of us has our own. And when we use it — whether or not we go to the polls — we cast our own votes every day.
We create all this national furor and energy over electing a chief executive without pausing to realize the executive power in each of us. Our spheres may be bound by campus grounds or classroom walls. But if we all realize the full potential of our influence, who leads the free world starts to matter less.
Our own worlds call for some executive decision-making.
A vote for Gore may mean one thing and a vote for Bush another. But a vote for ensuring higher student performance means that every teacher puts in a little extra to help mold a young achiever. A vote for establishing more opportunities for under-served populations means that every policy maker cooks up creative approaches to expanding education’s reach. My own vote for making sure this magazine provides its readers with the information they want and need means staying current on the issues, hearing out all sides and in general, keeping an ear to the ground.
That said, America’s next president no doubt will have some major decisions to make. The Supreme Court nominees to come in the next several years, for one thing, could alter the course of this country’s policy on affirmative action. And we’ve seen recently — in Florida and Georgia — that when affirmative action is put to the courts, the outcome generally does not favor students of color and the university administrators who try so desperately to welcome more of them to their institutions.
But those with determination and a full understanding of their power to influence will get the job done no matter who’s in the top seat. A Colorado faculty member took matters into his own hand when he noticed the minority Ph.D. shortage in science, math and engineering (see pg. 15). And officials at Tennessee State University are taking their own crack at bridging the digital divide by hosting a conference to empower and enlighten Black college administrators (see pg. 42).
The academy is full of plenty more enterprising professors, presidents, other administrators and policy makers who will make this world a better place — one student, one course or one conference at a time.
A vote for self-empowered action is a veto for any executive decision that stands in our way.
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