Friday, April 28, 2017

"Insulting or Defaming Religion" and the University--A Story of Christus Ranae

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

One of the more interesting trends in the management by universities of the spaces within which discourse and engagement is supposed to occur, are issues revolving around religion.  That management, of course, is always subject to whatever is fashionable among the managerial classes at the university and those they serve.  Yet universities also serve, when it suits, the ideals they are constantly invoking in their efforts to compete effectively in the market for student (as input commodities to generate revenue) and output markets (enterprises willing to hire the commodities produced. In the U.K. many universities appear to have moved the line of management from expression to the protection not just of sensibilities but of the integrity of the belief systems of religious institutions themselves. (See, e.g., here "London South Bank University's Code of Practice for Freedom of Speech, which warns students that one definition of an 'unlawful meeting' is one "at which there is a likelihood that the speaker(s) may… commit blasphemy"").  How might that be approached in the United States (e.g., here and here)?

This post provides a brief discussion that frames the issue and an example of the sort of mundane events that may trigger more profound discussion.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Call for Papers: Dickinson Law School--"Balancing the First Amendment With Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education"


I am happy to pass along a call for papers to what looks like an exciting conference in the works at Penn State's Dickinson Law School.  Please consider attending and, better yet, submitting a proposal, whatever your views on the subject. The issues are current and quite contentious; the solutions will tend to shape the way we understand ourselves as a nation of people guided by fair  norms expressed through law.

The Conference concept note and proposal submission information follows:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

How Faculty Undermine Shared Governance--A Set of Perverse Lessons





I have been writing about the way that change sin the institutional mission and cultures of universities has produced greater fissures between faculties and their managers (Deans, chancellors, etc.) and the way that manifests in a set of perverse "lessons" (How Not to be a Dean--A Set of Perverse Lessons).

Yet faculty are not innocent bystanders in these great transformations and the resulting reshaping of academic governance cultures. Indeed, in some sense, faculty may themselves be the most important drivers of changes that increasingly see them shut out of governance except in episodic and well controlled ways. They are their own worst enemies when it comes to the protection of shared governance--and their cultivation of cultural bad behaviors will contribute greatly to the passing of shared governance int he coming decades.
Faculty, like academic middle managers increasingly find themselves in a bind. But unlike the bind that traps academic middle managers--torn between the academic culture of the professorate and the corporate cultures of senior management--faculty are torn between two quite distinct trends that produce bad behavior. On the one hand, faculty see themselves increasingly threatened on a personal level where advancement is viewed as a zero sum gain within a faculty (that is a faculty member can rise only by an equal downward movement by one or more colleagues). That sets up hyper competitive cultures that erode both cooperation and civility. Second, faculty collectively see themselves threatened by productivity cultures grounded in assessment. To the extent that "stars" drive baselines for productivity, it becomes collectively rationale to enforce (informally) a set of norms that compel all faculty to produce toward the average. These contradictions in academic culture for personal and collective action, in turn, require the cultivation of sensibilities that draw faculty into increasingly adversarial relationships with each other, but also necessarily into more opportunistically servile relationships with middle managers.

Like their middle managers, most faculties navigate this contradiction in time honored fashion. They develop a rhetorics of solidarity among themselves seek personal advantage in a culture that one cannot win without another losing. These contradictions, of course, are heightened in a "mixed" faculty, with tenured and fixed tern faculty sharing governance responsibilities. As a consequence, the modern university is witnessing an interesting trend--fracture among the faculty where cultures of "you eat what you kill" are increasingly cultivated, and growing solidarity among managers who increasingly share a distinct but coherent culture and its quite distinct approach to the management of the production of students through a transnational web of knowledge dissemination and production.

What contradiction produces, of course, is another trend--as faculty solidarity dissipates, so too does effective participation on shared governance. The incentives grow for individual faculty members to sacrifice shared obligation in the protection of individual interest--not against administration but against their own colleagues. And to the extent that collective action is still feasible, the trend produces both inertia and conservatism--a drive toward the average that then shifts innovation (and effective governance) from faculty to the administrators.

In that context, it may be necessary to begin to think about the ways that these fissures show up in the techniques of faculty (self and shared) governance. This post considers some of the most interesting and telling examples of the perhaps inevitable bad behaviors that faculty might fall into as incentives induce behaviors that ultimately contribute to the transformation of faculty from an active participant in the operation of the university to a passive factor in the production of exploitable value to the university. It is put together as a set of lessons for the young faculty member on the emerging rules of navigating faculty interaction in governance, the effects of which are likely to be the opposite of what is intended.

Let folly reign again!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

AAUP Releases its "2016-17 Faculty Compensation Survey"



Universities, and faculty organizations like the American Association of University Professors and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT), have published variations of faculty salary surveys for some time now.   I have been writing about faculty compensation and the underlying ideologies and management strategies (conscious and unconscious) for the presentation of "facts" (harvesting of data) and the extraction of inferences from the data (here, here, and here).  I have also suggested how these exercises do as much to veil "data" and avoid "inference" as it aid in their development and exposure (for a more theoretical discussion HERE).
These are meant to serve a useful purpose--as an important contribution to informational transparency.  This transparency, in turn is meant to paint a picture of the state of faculty earning that can be used, as an authoritative data set, to further  positions and negotiating strategies,  of university administrators, faculty, legislators and the like.  It is also a valuable mechanism for managing public opinion about the state of the university and the privilege (or lack thereof) of a key university stakeholder.

All of this is well and good, and fair game, in the context of the politics of university administration, public policy development, and the operation of wage labor markets for university faculty labor talent.  Yet, data is a relational as well as an objective measure.  For policymakers, and especially for engagement, the choice of relational elements--the way data is packaged and the choice of data types to place in relationship to each other--will have a profound impact on the way on which the data is read and understood. More importantly, if done with some calculation, the careful presentation of relationships among data (including some excluding others) can be used to manage conclusions as well. This no doubt is usually inadvertent, but perhaps not always so. (HERE)
With that in mind it is worth considering the AAUP's recent release of its 2016-17 Faculty Compensation Survey.  It provides data that supports what is becoming too obvious to ignore as the fundamental character of the academy changes: (1) part time employment continues to grow as the profession builds a segmented workforce with growing blue collar and seasonal segments; (2) cost cutting on the labor force side appears to have the inverse effect on administrative salaries that continue to grow (also here); and (3) the state has lost its taste for funding education. Still, the AAUP does try to put the best face of the data.  But you can decide for yourself. In any case there is one great value to this data--the more obvious it becomes that faculty are reduced to a mere fungible labor force the stronger the case for unionization.  The irony is, of course, that it will be the administration of the university, and its embrace of the new logic of university operation that more than anyone will be responsible for this movement.

The press Release with links follows.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Without Comment: Judge Grants Mike McQueary's lawyers $1.7 million; had awarded McQueary nearly $5 million in November






(Pix credit HERE)


There is little need for comment here. . . . other than to remind people that sometimes the most important morality plays tend to unfold at the margins of larger events. And there is a great moral here, and perhaps substantial fodder for considering ethics over passion within university administrations, when large institutions facing events that pose substantial challenges.