(Px © Larry Catá Backer 2018)
One of the most interesting trends of the last decade or so has been the way in which the edifice of robust shared governance has been carved out. What was once a structure vibrant with engagement (although always to some extent asymmetrical) now appears as magnificent as before, though hollowed out of any real content.
One gets areal sense of this not at the university level--where the grand strategies of bureaucratization have already become a normal element of operation, whose premises appear unremarkable even to those most deeply and adversely affected by them. Rather it appears in its most acute forms in the operation of sub-units of the university--colleges and large departments--whose governance structures remain outwardly a shining beacon of shared effort, but which have effectively been hollowed out.
This post includes some thoughts on the nature of that process of hollowing out and its consequences. A future post considers the effects. The view is pessimistic; it is not clear that the antique model on which these structures once operated well can be saved except as echoes of themselves now most useful as a veil behind which real power is exercised through increasingly bureaucratized administrative apparatus with no real connection to faculty other than to understand them as factors in the production data useful to the assessment machinery of the university as a whole. Yet what emerges as well is the certain knowledge that faculties will adjust to changing conditions, at least in order to survive. And they will thrive, if only by changing the meaning and methods of that term. Still, it is worth chronically the transformation of a governance order that once was fully embraced by a dynamic culture and that now is quickly losing even status as a memory. Still, there may be something distasteful in using antique terms, rich in history and practice, to describe the new realities to which they have little functional connection.