Saturday, December 23, 2017

Word Violence and the Weaponization of Narrative-A view From Cuba on the Violernce of Words and the Control of Narrative; Thoughts on "Ni 'gusanos' ni disidentes: respuesta a una publicación católica cubana"

(Pix credit: By Michael Linnenbach - first upload in de wikipedia on 09:58, 16. Feb 2005 by Michael Linnenbach, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Americans have their foibles; especially those that emerge from out of the Academy.  But this is not one of them.  I am speaking of the eruption (again) of national discussion about the use of words and their presentation before audiences (willing or not)--the encouragement of free speech and the suppression of words and speakers in the name of the protection of the innocent from the violence of words.

As I have noted elsewhere, it is not words that are at the center of the controversy--it is the narratives to which these words may be deployed ("The University in the Age of the Learning Factory: Dueling narratives in the culture war around higher education,"). This becomes clearer when one stops for a moment indulging a hyper focus on the national discussion within a peculiar segment of American society and considers the issue in a different national and political context.

This short essay considers the current battles over the control of the narratives to which words are deploys, suppressed and managed--but from the context of Cuba, a nation where one might take state control of those battles for granted but within which even there, the state appears merely as one of several actors  in the battle for control of the way orthodoxy is constructed and protected through the deployment of words. My purpose here is neither to take a position on the opinions of others (on every side of this issue here and elsewhere) but merely to note the difficulty of speaking to these issues outside of politics. Perhaps there is no "higher law" of free speech--there is merely the recognition that the ideology of speech is itself an expression of the orthodoxies that ideology is meant to protect.

An additionla  POSTSCRIPT, a March 2018 letter from Jaime Leygonier directed to the Father Superior of the Jesuit Order in Cuba on the same themee  (Carta 2da. a Superior Jesuitas de Cuba: Sancione subordinado libelista según Derecho Canónico)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

From Academy to Enterprise; the Transformation of the University, the View From the U.K.: Ben R Martin, "What’s happening to our universities?"

(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:
 In 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)))
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 1

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.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Two Exciting PhD Opportunities at Alliance Manchester Business School UK

I am happy to pass along two exciting opportunities for students interested in a business and human rights focused PhD. Both are offered through the University of Manchester, Alliance Manchester Business School. These provide the chance to work with some of the most innovative researchers and forward looking institutions around. 

PhD Scholarship: “Modern-day Slavery: Accountability in Supply Chains and Procurement Processes The University of Manchester - Alliance Manchester Business School

 PhD Scholarship: “How Multinationals Manage Human Rights The University of Manchester

Information about both follows below.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Final Report: Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville Virginia

There has been a lot of coverage about the recent disturbances around Charlottesville, the home of the University of Virginia.  These disturbances had a fatal result--both as to loss of innocent life and as to our innocence in this contemporary age. 
In 2017, a series of events in Charlottesville made this community a flashpoint in a larger American discussion about race, history, and the challenges of free speech. When our City Council voted to remove two statues of generals who fought for the confederacy during the Civil War, the action triggered a series of events that brought hatred, violence, and despair to our community. Three people lost their lives, and numerous other lives were dramatically and unalterably changed by what happened in our community. (Nunton & Williams, Final Report: Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville Virginia (Nov. 2017))
Indeed, as has been much of the case this century in this Republic, we continue to reap the seeds sown  since the time that international ascendancy won through war thrust this Republic into a political-cultural space our capacity for which  was uncertain. 

This Post includes the Preface and Executive Summary of the Final Report: Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville Virginia (Nov. 2017) (including its recommendations). Its conclusions I leave to readers. It is posted to this blog because of its importance to the way in which the Academy may well have to face its own approaches to the management of discourse in a context which, like that of the larger political arena, must balance robust principles of open discourse (even with respect to ideas abhorrent to contemporary majorities) while maintaining the peace and safety of the spaces under the care of the institution. This Report has less to say about the views of the protagonists and more to the the larger issues of preserving enough order in the discursive spaces of our Republic to protect discourse and the core premises of the Republic--until, at least such time as its people choose a different way of approaching each.  And that later point, is of course, very much on the table today, in politics and in the academy.