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.