I share Gary King and Maya Sen's view that applying the knowledge, approaches, and tools of the social and policy sciences might help us be more intelligent about shaping the future of the American system of higher education and its component parts. I have even been surprised, in turning from the scholarly field of my training and academic field to a professional preoccupation with higher education, to search in vain for sessions at APSA meetings in which my fellow political scientists might focus their analytical eyes on our own sector and institutions. Taking more systematic analytical approaches might certainly be a good alternative to riding the most recent serious source of anxiety—and there have been many in recent decades—or mining a particular strand of data in search of indicators that might serve as tea leaves or life rafts, also known in the trade as “benchmarks.”
Virginia Sapiro is dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and professor of political science at Boston University. Before arriving at Boston University in 2007 she was the Sophonisba P. Breckinridge Professor of Political Science and Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she was a member of the faculty for 31 years. She also served as vice provost for teaching and learning and as acting provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. Her teaching and research focused on political psychology, political behavior, and gender politics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.