Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Now Available Vol 107(2) of the AAUP's Academe Magazine and its Vision for an Academic "New Deal"



Spring 2021 | Vol. 107, No. 2

Times of crisis always seem to bring out that fundamental and powerful human response of looking back toward a golden age, whose re-establishment in contemporary form is thought to be essential for successfully overcoming crisis. The darker the present, the more powerful the urge to look to the past for the ideal that the future is tasked to recapture.

Al societies appear to have a golden age somewhere in their cultural back pocket--and sometimes elements of society, important social actors, have very specific eddies of "gold" that they can mine within these rapidly receding times that look better and better as they move farther and farther from out experiences. 

So it is with the world of the American academic community.  In the face of a crisis, and the likley end of a century of more of less stable ideals of university education, a crisis with respect to which  there is more than enough complicity to go around involving all of the academy's major stakeholders, even the complicit can look back and seek to replicate in modern form the essence of a past age which in retrospect now looks so appealing. 

To that end, the American academy has sought solace in the Great Depression, and in the transformative changes that occurred then (judged in the rear view mirror of time of course) --now transposed in ways that are acceptable to modern sensibilities, to the contemporary age and its contemporary problems.   Thus Academe's marvelously valuable Vol. 107(2).  Whether or not one is open to the vision that its many essays develop, the volume itself serves as an extraordinary testimony not just to the times, but also to the passing of an age.  And it is in the shadow of the hope that these essays advance, that one might see the darker forms of what actually lies ahead for the American academy. Links to the articles follow below.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Transformation of University Governance and the Triumph of a Peculiar Ideology of Fiscalization in the American University



The American Association of University Professor (AAUP) has just announced publication of a set of quite interesting article in the Spring issue of its Academe Magazine..

The spring issue, which will be published in full in May, focuses on the campaign for a New Deal for Higher Education and builds on the work of Scholars for a New Deal for Higher Education, a group founded last year by Jennifer Mittelstadt. Follow the links below or visit https://www.aaup.org/academe to read more about the Scholars for a New Deal and the work of the faculty activists who are mapping out a new vision for the future of higher education.

Of particular interest is the "better late than never" observations of Michael Bérubé and Michael DeCesare in their Column: State of the Profession: Twin Crises. They offer a "blunt assessment as cochairs of the AAUP committee that investigated departures from AAUP-recommended standards of governance at eight institutions." From this they weave a set of observations of trends they deplore that combine the trajectories of fiscal stewardship and protection of health into a potent cocktail spiced by the principles (so current in contemporary administrative ideology) of nimble leadership and of the migration of stewardship and responsibility from a decentralized model built around engagement by university professionals and overseen by its administrators, to one in which the professionalization of administration has itself served as the basis for drawing all authority into the now separable administrative class governing the university. Far too late (the professorate is itself trapped by the logic of its own pretensions as firmly as administrators are trapped in the logic of their own caste)  they have come to realize the extent to which ideologies of governance to which they have been indifferent now serve as a powerful baseline for authenticating and legitimating decisions that effectively reduce faculty to factors in the production of goods (graduates and outside income) who are both fungible and whose employment is a function of institutional profitability as such things are measured by university administrators and driven by their boards. A de-professionalized faculty is one that is vulnerable to attack on its professional prerogatives. And yet over the course of a generation, faculty has done little to resist the incremental gnawing away of both its status and its prerogatives

Still, this lamentation is worth a careful read, if only for a glimpse at the state of affairs in university governance. But the time for lamentation has passed.  And that is the great pity and the great failing of this effort. University stakeholders are not in need of keening; they are in need of the organization of response, or a consensus that response is now impossible if the goal is to preserve the imaginary of an academic life world that is quickly receding into historical fantasy. It is in that context that the issue theme assumes its ironic character.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Now Available Winter 2021 Issue of Academe


This issue of Academe examines several “preexisting conditions” within higher education that the pandemic has thrown into sharp relief. These long-standing problems—blind spots, inequities, deficiencies in policies and practices—have been exacerbated during the present crisis, but they require more than short-term fixes.

Follow the links in the table of contents below or read the entire issue at https://www.aaup.org/issue/winter-2021. Please consider supporting our work by joiningthe AAUP. AAUP members have access to full-issue PDFs of Academe, can opt to receive the magazine by mail, and enjoy a range of other benefits.