(Pix © 2017 Larry Catá Backer)
For years now I have been speaking to the corporatization of the American university. I have suggested the way that this shifting of the American university model has begun to shape the educational mission as well (e.g.,Made to Market Education and Professionalization in University Education). The university has become a creature of its compliance officials--and as a consequence has sought to inhibit risk taking (e.g.. The Riskless University and the Bureaucratization of Knowledge: From "Indiana Jones" to Central Planning; What is the University?: De-Centering Education in an Age of Risk and Regulatory Management). And it uses the cover of the market to make decisions that substantially change the character of the institution (Economic Determinism and the University--Considering Voluntary "Early Retirement Packages" to Tenured Faculty).
The move toward hierarchy and the autonomy of an administrator class increasingly remote from the production and dissemination of knowledge has changed the nature of shared governance ( "Now THIS is Shared Governance"; "NOW this is shared Governance"; "Now this IS Shared Governance": Embedding Faculty Within the Bureaucratic Machinery of Authoritarian Regimes; Presentation at the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) 2013 Annual Meeting: Shared Governance Under Stress). It has produced incentives toward the de-professionalization of the professoriate (Irony and Incoherence in the "Professionalization" of University Education; ). But de-professionalization and the construction of autonomous and remote administrator cultures make the basic character of enterprise culture easier to realize--the substitution of centralized planning for shared governance, and the shift in the driving force of university organization from the faculty to the financial officers of the university (Central Planning and the University: What is So Bad About Administrative Management of Knowledge Production and Dissemination?).
And, of course, with the move toward a corporate model comes the natural consequences. First there is a tendency to expand the disciplinary authority of administrators and based on an obedience model (The Disciplinary University Factory--Faculty Discipline and De-Professionalization as Officials move to Expand Faculty "Misconduct" and Its Control). Second, there is a move toward the limitation of access to information (Limiting Access to Faculty Organization Archives and Records--When Administrative Gatekeepers Abuse Their Authority and Undermine Shared Governance);Outcome Measures, Transparency and the Failure of Universities to Cultivate Effective Service Missions). Related to this is the development of a host of techniques designed to undermine governance even as they appear to enhance it (At the 2015 AAUP Annual Conference: Remarks, "Undermining Academic Freedom from the Inside: On the Adverse Effects of Administrative Techniques and Neutral Principles" and PowerPoint of Presentation "Developing Social Media Policies for Universities: Best Practices and Pitfalls").
Looming over these changes is the phenomenon of the unionization of the student--the inevitable consequence of the transformation of the university:
Similar changes appear to be coming to universities in the U.K. as well. Ben R. Martin has written a marvelous essay considering the challenges that face U.K. universities: "What’s happening to our universities?", SPRU Working Paper Series (SWPS), 2016-03: 1-26. ISSN 2057-6668. The article appears in Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 34, 2016 - Issue 1In these contexts, unionization seems inevitable: for the graduate student seeking to protect the integrity of her study objectives against exploitation; for the adjunct and contract faculty member seeking to compensate for precarious working conditions in markets where instructors are fungible commodities; and for the student athlete seeking to reduce exploitation and capture some of the value added to the university through sports. Graduate student unionization might well be only a harbinger of the changes in labor relations that senior administrators have effectively brought on themselves. Indeed, the new narrative was built, brick by brick, by a generation or more of administrators whose choices were justified at virtually every step on the basis of the “market,” the “regulator,” the “alumni,” and so on. That the reaction among graduate students and faculty have neither come sooner nor been more aggressively pursued speaks to the extraordinary staying power of the idealized master narrative of the university even in the face of changing realities. (The University in the Age of the Learning Factory: Dueling narratives in the culture war around higher education," Academe (American Association of University Professors (Nov/Dec 2017)))
The article is worth a careful read. The Abstract and introduction follow. The article generated some interesting discussion also well worth reading. Links to those articles also follow.