EdMedia Commons Archive

Five Questions For … Matt Reed, Newly Revealed as `Confessions of a Community College Dean’ Blogger

Earlier this week the author of the popular – and anonymous – “Confessions of a Community College Dean” blog on Inside Higher Ed revealed his identity. He is Matt Reed, vice president of academic affairs at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, Mass. Reed, who has a forthcoming book based on his online writing, spoke with EWA.  

1. What’s been the response from your colleagues to your coming into the spotlight?

So far it’s been pretty muted. I half-expected people to come in with pitchforks and torches, and so far I haven’t seen that.

Some people on my campus had already figured it out independently. I informed our college president  several months ago. Some of the deans have known for probably two years. In the back of my mind I knew eventually that someone would out me, or I would out myself.  So I’ve been careful not to put anything salacious in the blog. There’s nothing gossipy or catty about anyone.

2. One of your readers commented that he wished you had stayed anonymous, theorizing that your criticism will be more muted now that it’s public. How do you respond to that?

Certainly in the early years it felt very necessary to have the pseudonym in order to be candid. Having said that, I think over the years I’ve evolved enough as a writer to feel more confident in what I want to say, how I want to say it, and the style that works best for me.  It took some time to get there.

3. What helped lead to that point?

Reader feedback was a huge factor. There have been times when I wrote something I thought was obvious, even banal, and people went ballistic. It took me some time to understand where they were coming from, because their response seemed so disconnected from where  I was coming from. Over the years I’ve learned from trial and error that when I say “X” they sometimes hear “Y.” I’ve had to be careful how I construct things. I used to go off on rants a lot more. I do much less of that now. Rants are fun to write but they wind up … you almost feel guilty afterward. In order to put together a theatrically effective rant you usually have to write as if you are dumber than you are. There’s plenty of ranting on the internet already, I don’t have to do it. 

4. Is there are blog post you regret writing?

Several. In the early years there were some that were self-indulgent or were deliberately polemical to stake out a position. That’s not the right voice for me. 

5. What stories are higher education reporters missing?

The cross-pressures on higher education. States and the federal  government are pushing for greater and more innovative use of community colleges at the same time that the U.S. Department of Education is clamping down on anything non-traditional. Even though technology is moving toward being more experimental, and there’s a political push to do that, the feds are cracking down on the operational side. They’re jamming on the brake and the gas at the same time. That makes it difficult to move forward on things we know we should be doing.

President Obama and a lot of the governors have been touting community colleges as job training centers – as places for people to get employable. That’s true, but they also have a transfer function that’s getting lost in the discourse. At the same time, people are talking about how horrible it is that student loan debt is so high. I have yet to hear anyone prominent say the solution to loan debt is for students to do their general education credits at a community college and then transfer. It’s obvious as a solution, but nobody talks about it. We need to make progress and connect those dots.

This post originally appeared on EWA’s now-defunct online community, EdMedia Commons. Old content from EMC will appear in the Ed Beat archives.