Published by The Chronicle of Higher Education
David Strauss, who works on institutional strategy as a principal for the Art & Science Group, a higher-ed research and consulting firm, believes the question is larger than just athletics or scandals. It’s about the overall student experience, and the misdeeds of a few high-profile administrators probably won’t alter that experience. The “enduring appeals” of the institution — academic experience, social life, campus climate — aren’t likely to change because of a scandal, he said.
As horrifying as the actions of Nassar, Sandusky, and Baylor football players were — not to mention the inadequate response by those in charge — most students assume they’ll never be victims of such abuse.
“Young people deciding where to apply are looking at what they think the experience is going to be like for them,” added Craig Goebel, another Art & Science Group principal.
Strauss cited an example from a few years back, when the firm was working with a university that had seen two murders on its campus. Administrators worried the killings might derail the institution’s appeal, that prospective students would avoid applying because of them.
“What we found,” Strauss said, “was that those two murders didn’t even register in the minds of prospective students and those who advised them. It’s an example of the fact that things that come up in a moment, and may look huge within the life of the institution or even in the media, don’t necessarily register on external constituencies the way one might expect.”
But there’s one instance in which that changes: if a scandal exacerbates or publicizes an already-existing institutional problem — an institution known for lax academics that becomes embroiled in a cheating scandal, for example.
Said Strauss, “If it’s reinforcing of a problem the school already has, watch out.”