Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Presentation: "Institutionalization of Faculty Role in Shared Governance: The Faculty Senate at Penn State University"

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)

Last week I was pleased to have been invited to speak to Chinese and Japanese academics about the concept of shared governance from its origins, through its golden age to the challenges that have emerged in recent years (for more see, here, here, here, here, here, and here). The focus of the study was the organization, operation and challenges of the University Faculty Senate at Pennsylvania State University.

The group of administrators and graduate students was organized by Hideto Fukudome, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education, The University of Tokyo. More about the group here.

A transcript of the presentation follows:

AAUP Reports on Four Cases of Investigations on Academic Freedom and Tenure: Mass Terminations, Tenure, and Social Media

The Association of American University Professors (AAUP) has recently announced publication of four (4) of its Academic Freedom and Tenure Investigative Reports:
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Felician College (New Jersey)
University of Southern Maine

One of the cases, that of Professor Salaita is quite well know.  (See here and here). 

Another (Southern Maine) deserves substantially more attention than it has gotten--the increasing use of mass layoffs through program closures as an effective means of short circuiting the traditional protections designed into the "financial exigency" standards that had served as a common basis of action for several generations.  What had started after Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana Universities (see, e.g., here) now looks to have evolved into a mechanism for relatively easy faculty terminations.  Effectively, the movement seems to be to a standard in which the financial deficiencies of a single program now appear enough to trigger university financial exigency sufficient to support the termination of faculty in the targeted program. For universities, this is a way around the protections of tenure at a time when universities are moving to a very different model for delivering education "product", one in which faculty protected by tenure are increasingly painted as "in the way."  

The other two follow--in a world in which faculty are increasingly viewed, like copy paper, as consumables in the manufacture of education products, tenure is increasingly viewed as an impediment to efficient production.  Its only value, increasingly limited, is as a means of revenue raising (by grant funded faculty) and in the competition within prestige markets that, it is believed, increases the quality of students harvested for income production and consumption of education. For universities this presents a problem, and the two cases suggest current experimentation: is there a way of retaining the revenue raising and prestige enhancing benefits of tenure without actually providing the security that makes such objectives attainable?   

Links to the reports and summaries follow:

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"We Abhor Retaliation But Expect Loyalty to Our Decisions" -- Techniques that Undermine University Shared Governance, the Honorable Mentions and the Deeper Issues they Reveal

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)

I have posted thought on my list of the top ten techniques that administrations currently have deployed to undermine shared governance ("You Don't Have the Authority": Counting Down the Top Ten Techniques that Undermine University Shared Governance).  I should add that these techniques were not necessarily developed nor are now utilized solely to undermine shared governance.  My sense is that these techniques are useful in a variety of situations, including when faculties and traditional forms of shared governance seem to get in the way of an evolving sense of administrative prerogative within the "business" of running a university. 

That the techniques are not necessarily developed to subvert shared governance for its own sake hardly absolves an administration that on the one hand heralds its embrace of shared governance and on the other engages in radical industry transforming actions that  enhance structures in which faculty become "knowledge workers" on an assembly line the principal purpose of which seems to be the "production" of units (students) ready fr insertion in labor markets at a level commensurate with the reputation of the university itself.

This post is dedicated to listing the honorable mentions, those techniques that undermine shared governance but that did not make the original top ten list.  If there are others you find useful to share, please send them in (and in the spirit of honorable Mention No. 1 below) via personal email from a non-university computer using non-university provided internet service.  

Saturday, July 25, 2015

"You Don't Have the Authority": Counting Down the Top Ten Techniques that Undermine University Shared Governance

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)

It is well understood by now that the societal context in which issues of shared governance are discussed, and its character shaped, have been changing dramatically. Much of this change  is tied to changes in the way that faculty at universities are characterized--from professionals and knowledge leaders to employees in learning factories who require the discipline of administrators. Some "critics long have pointed to the skewed power tenured professors and other employees have in decision-making, at an ever-rising cost to taxpayers." Courtney Mullen, Lawmakers: We won’t be swayed by University of Wisconsin System president’s threats, WisconsonWatchdog,org. 

Much of the attention has been on politically ambitious members of the political class who have sought to transform shared governance as a formal matter.  Among the leaders of this movement is the current Governor of Wisconsin, an individual with presidential ambitions.   Wisconsin has recently removed statutory protections for tenure in its university system and shared governance (the faculty's "primary responsibility" for academic and educational activities and personnel matters). See, e.g., here.

But university administrators have a host of techniques that can be deployed to undermine shared governance without the politically costly effort to mandate the transformation of the professorate into production line workers, whose job is to obey and not engage in the production and dissemination of knowledge (the sources and content of which are critically dependent on their habits, culture and autonomy).     

This post includes my "top ten" administrative techniques that administrators may be using to effectively undermine shared governance:

1.  "You don't have the authority."

2.  "We can't share that information."

3. "Let's form a Task Force"

4. "This is a technical issue that requires administrative expertise"

5. "You have a conflict of interest"

6. "Let us define the premises for you"

7. "We consulted faculty; we reached out to specific faculty directly who we thought had expertise"

8. "We consulted. . .we showed you the final draft shortly before roll out and asked your opinion"

9. "You take too long. . we need to do this now."
10. "An outside agency is making us do this."

 Each is briefly discussed below. If you have other ploys you have discovered, please share!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

From Scholars at Risk; "Free to Think: Report of the Scholars at Risk Academic Freedom Monitoring Project"

It is true enough that the attacks, especially by vanguard elements of the political class, have been seeking to  eliminate  the substantive elements of academic freedom as they have come to be understood  and applied in developed States.  The United States provides an important battleground, for example in the recent actions of the political sector in Wisconsin (e.g., here).

But these battles pale in comparison to attacks on academic freedom in other parts of the world, some of which can make things quite dangerous, physically as well as professionally, for faculty. These are monitored by the folks at Academic Freedom Monitor. It is maintained by Scholars at Risk, an international network of institutions and individuals working to promote academic freedom and to protect higher education communities worldwide.

For those interested I have included links to a new report produced by the Scholars at Risk Academic Freedom Monitoring Project, Free to Think  (June 2015; ISBN 978-0-692-45867-9). The Release Statement noted:
The report calls on all stakeholders, including the international community, states, the higher education sector, civil society and the public at large to undertake concrete actions to increase protection for higher education communities, including documenting and investigating attacks, and holding perpetrators accountable.

SAR invites you to download and share the report with your networks over social media. Use the hashtag #Free2Think and join the conversation!

The Press Release, Forward and Table of Contents follow:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

New Paper Posted: Backer and Haddad "Philanthropy and the Character of the Public Research University—The Intersections of Private Giving, Institutional Autonomy, and Shared Governance"


(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)
I have been considering issues of shared governance at the university for some time (e.g., here, here, here, and here). With my former student Nabih Haddad (M.I.A. Penn State), now a Ph.D. student at Michigan State University, we have been exploring the issue of the effects of more targeted philanthropy by powerful and ideologically committed donors on universities. Increasingly, powerful donors have sought to use their wealth to increase their influence in the provision of education and the operations of the university. This has caused controversy (e.g., here,here, here and here).

We have posted our examination of some of the issues involved in a just completed manuscript: " Philanthropy and the Character of the Public Research University—The Intersections of Private Giving, Institutional Autonomy, and Shared Governance." We expect that it will appear as chapter 3 in Facilitating Higher Education Growth through Fundraising and Philanthropy (H. C. Alphin Jr., J. Lavine, S. E. Stark & A.Hocke, eds., Hershey, PA: IGI Global, forthcoming 2015).

The abstract may be accessed via SSRN HERE.

The manuscript may be accessed here.

Comments and discussion welcome.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Jerry G. Gaff, Senior Scholar, Association of American Colleges and Universities: Is it Time to Revisit the 1940 Statement of Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure?

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)

I have written about the very useful program presented at the annual conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) (see here, and here). For this post I wanted to consider the very powerful presentation made at the conference by Jerry G. Gaff, Senior Scholar at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). Dr. Gaff received a Ph.D. in psychology from Syracuse University. He served on the faculties of five institutions and was dean of the College of Liberal Arts and acting president of Hamline University. He authored numerous books including Toward Faculty Renewal (1975), General Education Today (1983), and New Life for the College Curriculum (1991) and co-edited the Handbook of the Undergraduate Curriculum.

His remarks, presented June 12, 2015 and entitled, "Academic Freedom for a New Age," suggests that the great changes that have engulfed higher education since the last great set of glosses to of the last third of the 20th century now have set the stage for a necessary reconsideration of one of the great foundational document of modern university education--the 1940 Statement of Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure. This post considers his argument (all citations are to Dr. Gaff's remarks).

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Speaking Past Each Other About Retaliation at Universities--The Example of Penn State

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2014)

I have considered the issue of retaliation within the context of shared governance at large universities (see, e.g., here, here, and here). The problem is especially acute where, as at Penn State, employees, including faculty, are increasingly encouraged to serve administrators through whistle blowing mechanisms (see, e.g., here) that themselves tend to be traps for the unwary (see, e.g., here). 

This post considers the difficulty of speaking to issues of retaliation at U.S. universities.  It suggests that at its core, the difficulty lies in the inability of administrators and faculty to communicate effectively.  And it further suggests that this inability arises not merely because people speak but don't listen, but also because key terms have acquired substantially distinct meanings and because administrators and faculty/staff approach the issues from quite distinct perspectives. The issues are illustrated with a pair of letters reflecting on the poor state of discourse at Penn State University.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

On the Practice of Town Hall Meetings in Shared Governance--Populist Technocracy and Engagement at Penn State

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)

 So-called "town hall meetings" have their origins in efforts to practice direct democracy (but not its binding forms) reflecting the style that echos the informal New England town meetings, generally open to all townspeople (now stakeholders) and held at the town hall (now virtually any venue) and in which the attendees were given an opportunity to present ideas, voice opinions, and ask questions of local public officials. This form of engagement has become an increasingly important feature of governance in both public and private sectors, including universities (see, e.g., here).  Indeed, many organizations now offer "tips" for managing these events (see, e.g., here, here, here, here, and here).

But town hall meetings are now deployed as much to manage stakeholders to to serve as a means of listening to stakeholder ideas, opinions, criticisms and the like. 
For most large-enterprise organizations, the company all-hands or town hall meeting is one of the most important events in a corporate communications strategy. The company town hall is typically an annual or quarterly meeting, attended by every employee, that allows the CEO and/or management to present company goals, awards and recognition; engage in planning sessions; and provide inspiration for the work ahead. (ON24, Town Hall Meetings)
No longer a means of engagement, they appear to have become a technique of control and socialization of productive sectors of institutional communities, as a means of harvesting data to better achieve those ends, and as a form, of socializing productive forces through interaction with high officials who use the opportunity of a town meeting more to speak than to listen.   

I have suggested how university administrations have sought to weaken traditional structures of faculty representation by embracing a populist-technocratic model of governance. And in that context examined a recent example in the form of the announcement of a town hall meeting at Penn State (Practicing Mass Democracy at Penn State: The New Populist-Technocratic Model of University Governance, Socialization, Stakeholder Management and Benefits). 

The Penn State administrative Town Hall Meeting was held as scheduled.  This post considers the way that such town hall meetings effectively convey a very precise set of optics--messages about the ordering of universities, the hierarchies of authority and the socialization of inferior classes within the new governance orders so that shared governance, in its new more deferential form, may be practiced better among appropriately socialized faculty and staff. This analysis is hardly peculiar to Penn State; it reflects instead a trend that is likely to affect the way in which shared governance is coming to be performed in modern U.S. universities.  And it suggests the way that the current principles of tenure and shared governance are increasingly less relevant to the practice of university governance in this century (e.g., here).  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Links to Remarks and Information from the AAUP 2015 Conference


For those interested in additional resources from the recently concluded 2015 Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Julie Schmid, AAUP Executive Director has provided updates and links to remarks from the Conference.  These follow.