There’s no underselling how important professors are in our society. We rely on them to shape the next generation and instill the knowledge students need as they prepare to head into the workforce. However, it’s becoming clear that when they’re not careful, their personal biases can overshadow the education their institutions had promised and create a toxic environment for students.
Millions are talking about a professor and administrator at Duke University who recently sent an email asking students not to speak Chinese. The incident, circulated by Bloomberg, The New York Times, and the BBC, has spurred discussions worldwide around bias in higher education. It has left people wondering what colleges are doing to protect students from individual bias and harassment, and just how much a professor or administrator can damage their institution’s brand through the things they say.
Duke will likely withstand this PR incident. However, many institutions see much larger repercussions when a scandal breaks loose. A paper from Harvard Business School shows that colleges that receive long-form news coverage about a high-profile scandal can experience a 10% drop in applications for over two consecutive years. This is equivalent to losing 10 ranks in the U.S. News and World Report college rankings. As a college or university, your reputation impacts both the quality and quantity of donations, enrollment, and funding. Though your school’s overall reputation is made up of many components, it hinges largely upon the administrators and faculty members you hire to build your image.