Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Ruminations on University Presidency: The University's Voice


The second part of the Introduction to A Free and Ordered Space, Ruminations on University Presidency moves from a  beautifully crafted parodical description of Giamatti’s presidency to a doorway that invites us to view what remains constant about the university, what has changed, and why it has done so in such an unsettling way. It also points us to the public role of the University and its faculty.

The university is the place where the seeds
of speech first grow and where most of
us first began to find a voice.

The second half of the Introduction to A Free and Ordered Space is a lot less playful than the first. Here Giamatti points to the nature, purposes, and failings of the University, preparing the reader for the body of work included in the book.


Lakhovsky Conversation
Public Domain
For Giamatti the university is conversation. It is important to note that he does not choose to define the university as an institution in which conversations happen, or as a place friendly to conversations, or that it is a place that incites conversation – although it clearly has these qualities, instead he defines the university as a conversation. As mentioned in my last posting, Ruminations on University Presidency: evil is abolished and paradise restored, at the very end of his parody tenure as president, Giamatti was finally engaged by some group of "clergy" from the community that was interested in discussing “The problem of evil and the Restoration of Paradise.” The group's interest surprises Giamatti who informs them that he had issued a memo on the topic years ago when he first started as president and that he had tired to solve that problem. To which his guests let him know that they were not there years ago. And so the conversation started. Although we never learn if paradise was restored in New Haven (or any of our campuses), we do learn that according to Giamatti, it is these types of splendid and serious conversations that is a great university.


Giamatti completes the introduction of his book by explaining what the consequences are when the conversation goes quiet. The university conversation is one between students and faculty, across ages, overlapping with itself building and challenging culture, while over time associating ideals with realties. Conversation is the slow and steady way that higher education grows knowledge. And it is through this conversation that the university contributes to sustained civilisation.

Johann Heinrich Füssli - Silence
Public Domain
So, what happens when the conversation goes silent? Giamatti is not referring to absolute silence, but instead he is referring to the absence of critical and reflective dialogue. A dialogue that the university needs to have about itself with itself and with the public, without which the university loses its vitality. He speculates that the silence may be due to smugness within the university itself, making it unnecessary to explain itself because its value is self-evident, its mission so obvious that it does not need to be explained, and it purpose so virtuous that it needs no defence or justification. If this is the case, there is no need for the university to reflect on its purpose and there is no value in communicating outwardly even if something were to be discovered through critical reflection. No matter what the reason is for the silence, self- satisfaction or otherwise, Giamatti was seeing evidence of disconnection in the 1980's. And by this time, according to Giamatti, for more than a generation the University had failed to engage with the public and itself, which had two profound results.


First, without engagement with the public about the nature and purpose of the university, the problems it is facing, and how it is responding, a vacuum is left where the conversation needed to be. The empty space is filled by others from outside of higher education for their own purposes; commercial, political, personal, or otherwise. And when the void is filled by politicians, profiteers, and the well meaning, but uninformed, without any commentary from the university what is the public to think? The University should not be surprised when its identity is distorted, and framed by others without consideration for its purposes, now left dispossessed of its traditions and culture. Giamatti not only places blame on the university for its current state, but also accuses the university of failing the public in its educational role. Because higher education has failed to engage in and lead the conversation about itself, he asserts that,
When those who know best the realities and ideals of higher education fall silent, for whatever reason, or believe themselves only manages, not leaders, then the public is denied access to higher education in a fundamental sense, access to its thinking about what is going on and what it is for.


The second result of the generation-long silence is that the university looses touch with the publics it serves. What has resulted is a disconnection with other institutions and a disconnection with itself. Without a sense of identity, without the critical and reflective conversation to provide both rudder and anchor, university mangers look-up, embarrassed by how out of touch they have become. Not knowing what else to do, they cast about, jumping from fad to fad, while losing track of what is and has been important. Along these lines, Giamatti warns that
When the university lurches spasmodically rather than changes in a patience, inefficient, and purposeful way, a larger society that hears nothing about the principles and purposes of higher education from clear voices within higher education also sees a whole class of institutions as floundering..." 

What we see here is not only the university losing touch with its contemporaries outside of the university, but we also see a class of institutions loosing touch with themselves.

Taking a step back for a second, what really draws a smile from me is Giamatti's assertion that universities ought to approach change "in a patient, inefficient, and purposeful way" striking a discordant note with how many other organisation types are expected to approach change. This notion is probably worth holding on to and thinking about.


The final point Giamatti makes is about the relationship between universities and their role in teaching moral values. This question was raised within the context of the university being out of touch with public expectations and not effectively engaging in the conversation with the public. The university has not been an important part of this conversation, failing to inform those participating that although universities do teach moral values, they do so through their actions (and inactions). In our best traditions we teach moral values through our fidelity to the truth, our tolerance for the search, and our commitment to do so through civil discourse rather than through coercion. Giamatti, uses the topic of "moral values" to pull together the central themes in his introduction noting that
Silence does not make the point that families are where moral values... are first and longest implanted; that churches or synagogues or other houses of worship are where moral values are supposed to be taught; and that the classroom, or the academic part of the university, is where values of all kinds are meant to collide, to contest, to be tested, debated, disagreed about-freely, openly, civilly... 

Giamatti clearly articulates his perspective on the shared responsibility of moral value formation among different parts of society and the unique role that higher education plays. He also illustrates why it is important for universities to break the silence and set expectations that stop the purpose of higher education from being recast inappropriately.


It is worth noting the long standing role of universities as unique places with responsibilities to support academics engaging in civil and public critical discourse. In very many ways this strikes at the core of academic freedom. The AAUP's 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure clearly creates a moral commitment for universities to enable and support the public expression of ideas in the pursuit of truth within the discipline and providing protection to faculty for expressions made as private citizens. With this, the academic has responsibilities to fairly represent their knowledge and how it does or does not relate to their scholarship, role at a particular university, and status within the academic community.

Academic freedom is intended to create protections for faculty to exercise rights of expression and by extension creates a reciprocal responsibility to act on that right. A tidy logic plays out here.

  • As it is the academic staff and students that constitute the university, and 
  • as discussed in this post, for Giamatti the university is conversation, and 
  • as the principles of academic freedom are intended to ensure that academic staff have the right to participate in the conversation, 
  • the exercise of academic freedom through acts of public expression becomes essential to the existence of the university. 

It simultaneously creates the rights, expectations, and protections for the university to take place.

Through his work with the Public Intellectual Project on TruthoutHenry Giroux seems to take the responsibility a step further for academics, not only asserting that there is a responsibility that all academics share to act as public intellectuals and to engage in the conversation, but also doing it in a way that is accessible and meaningful (effective). That is, the academic has an affirmative responsibility to exercise her or his right to expression as an act of academic freedom. And the conversation should not be restricted to peers, where public dialogue is needed. In the statement of purpose Giroux crafted for the Project he points to the problem of academic abstraction and aloofness, both reducing the impact of academics engaging in, informing, and intellectualising the public conversation. His call is to raise and perhaps radicalise the discussion in ways that are accessible and relevant. He sets the purpose of the Project stating that
Within the last few decades, the emergence of public intellectuals as important cultural and social critics has raised fundamental questions not only about the social function of academics, but also about the connection between higher education and public life, between academic work and the major issues shaping the broader society. Truthout's Public Intellectual Project will provide progressive academics with an opportunity to address a number of important social issues in a language that is both rigorous and accessible. All too often, academics produce work that is either too abstract for a generally informed public, or they separate their scholarship from the myriad of issues and contemporary problems that shape everyday life in the United States and abroad.

Dollarmen Graduates - Jared Rodriguez
(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Although Giroux clearly indicates that there is a gap in effective engagement, which the Project is intended to address, he goes a step further in an interview conducted by Victoria Harper titled Neoliberalism, Democracy and the University as a Public Sphere, in which he points to much more serious concerns about the changing nature of the university and the corruption of its purpose from within and without. Here in 2014 Giroux points to the neoliberal agenda and the conceptual corporatisation of the university in a way that Giamatti only hinted at in the 1980s. While Giamatti points to the poverty of university leadership emulating corporate and government structures and norms, he is highlighting how the university purposes are eroding. Thirty years later Giroux has clearly experienced Giamatti's future and it is decidedly not good. Responding to a question about the ways in which neoliberalism threatens higher education, Giroux explains that
What is distinct about the current threat to higher education and the humanities in particular is the increasing pace of the corporatization and militarization of the university, the squelching of academic freedom, the rise of an ever-increasing contingent of part-time faculty, the use of violence to squelch peaceful student dissent, and the view that students are basically consumers and faculty providers of a saleable commodity such as a credential or a set of workplace skills.

The article is full of indictments that touch on virtually every aspect of the contemporary university. It is worth a good read. I will certainly be referring to the article (wrapped in an interview) along with other literature written since the publication of A Free and Ordered Space that treats the changing nature of the university, public expectations, and purpose. Furthermore, in addition to exploring the challenges higher education is experiencing and the role of academics, I would like to explore ways that university academics and others are liberalising the corporate university and perhaps recapturing and redefining the purposes of a college or university education in this new context. I would also like to take some time to identify colleges and universities that have managed to retain important elements of the public purpose of higher education, not as a throwback or as a token, but as a fundamental cultural value, exercised regularly, included in academic and managerial culture in the context of the realities in which contemporary universities are situated.

Once again, and as usual, please feel free to comment or otherwise reach out to me with your insights.

1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure

The Public Intellectual Project

Henry A. Giroux: Neoliberalism, Democracy and the University as a Public Sphere


Lakhovsky Conversation

Friday, 13 June 2014

Ruminations on University Presidency: evil is abolished and paradise restored


In the introduction of A Free and Ordered Space, Ruminations on University Presidency, Giamatti parodies his experience as president of Yale University, and the university broadly, foreshadowing the rise of the corporate university. Through his parodies he pokes at the corporatization of the university, some of the relationships between the university and society, and the character of university presidency in the late 20th century.

“Being president of a university is no way for an adult to make a living.”


I look back at the date of my last post made in March 2013 with a little embarrassment recognising how much time has passed. As indicated in my last few posts, Thoughts Provoked in “A Free and Ordered Space” and More Thoughts Provoked in “A Free and Ordered Space,” I had planned to really dig into A Free and Ordered Space, but got swept away with all that comes along with an international move and a new appointment. I have finally been forced to raise my head a bit through participating in a University of Southern Queensland version of “23-Things,” which includes a section on blogging and has resulted in renewed interest in sharing on this forum.

So, I am going to pick-up where I left off, but with no promises that I will stick to a schedule. I have reread the introductory chapter, Ruminations on University Presidency, which I found absolutely engaging… actually much more so than a year ago. I think that my experiences here in Australia and the opportunity to reflect from a distance on what is happening in the US has sharpened some of my thinking.

As mentioned in earlier posts, A Free and Ordered Space is a collection of speeches and presentations. So, the introduction serves a critical function, in effect providing guidance to the reader and pulling at threads that the author intends to pursue. In this case Giamatti decided to structured his introduction first to provide a retrospective overview of his 8 years as president of Yale through a series of parodies that need to be read a few times for full enjoyment. He then takes the time to address what a university ought to do, where he has seen the university fail, and the consequences of such failure. I will address the first part of the introduction in this posting and then move on to the second part in a later posting.


In the first part of his Ruminations on University Presidency, Giamatti describes the transformation he experienced while moving from scholar to corporate citizen. He pokes at the corporate university with such skill that I could not help but smiling and then thinking and then not smiling so much.  He is of course writing his own comedy while also painting the university’s tragedy – its assent into corporate culture and his role. He is of course speaking of a general trend at universities and an affliction suffered by university leadership more generally.

Giamatti chooses to make his point by cataloguing the anxiety he experienced while preparing for his presidency and how he responded. As it turns out, he felt compelled to focus on learning about the corporate world and concluded that Yale needed a corporate strategy and a policy, neither of which, as he points out, are things that he has ever had. During his preparation his activities included:
  • casting about;
  • soliciting data, forecasts, projects, and models;
  • doing comparative and longitudinal studies;
  • making a flowchart, and convening a taskforce.

All of which are activities that many of us know quite well and by implication are the things needed to repair the decent of the university. At the end of his preparations, while squatting in his garage he wrote the following policy:
[[File:Hieronymus Bosch 073.jpg|thumb|Hieronymus Bosch 073]]
The Fall of the Rebel Angels
This work is in the public domain world wide
To the members of the University Community: 
In order to repair what Milton called the ruin of our grand parents, I wish to announce that henceforth, as a matter of University Policy, evil is abolished and paradise is restored.  
I trust all of us will do whatever possible to achieve this policy objective. 


The responses to Giamatti's first policy are playfully prepared to illustrate a profound lack of understanding from a variety of archetypes, to lay bare a cast of predictable characters / caricatures, and to flaunt his misguided trust. Most of the characters either do not recognise any evil, see it, but do not want to change anything, or feel that Giamatti himself and others like him are the source. Eventually though, toward then end of his tenure, evil is recognised by a small group of "clergy from in town" who act on behalf of campus academics and engage in thoughtful conversation with the intent of making things better.


Giamatti then tells of his visit with an elected representative, Congressman Phlange, from the third district of a state we call Grace, in what I assume is his collective experience with the political environment and how it represents our public. Once again, by implication, it is the sentiments articulated during this visit that fertilise the growth of corporatization as it has taken its shapes in the American University. During his visit, the congressman briefs President Giamatti, and during the business end of the briefing the President is informed by the Congressman that:
  • We think that NIH cuts should go through.
  • We are not impressed with your fatuous argument that we can’t change the rules half way through the game.
  • We believe that student aid benefits only the rich and the poor; rather than stopping abuse, we’d rather do away with everything.
  • We are for cutting out charitable deductions, instituting for the 2 percent floor, and for forbidding gifts of appreciated assets.
  • We do not believe in a federal science facilities fund or in the nonprofit postal subsidy.
  • We think it would be the height of fraud and abuse to fund the Humanities.
  • We intend to uncap retirement, cap technology transfer, cut the NEA and NSF, get rid of the Library of Congress, and slash the Health Manpower act.
And the punch line to this familiar joke is that these positions are held because the Congressman and his public want to get this country moving again.  Taken together, these internal and public perspective-holders are the unofficial self-appointed "university owners" as discussed by Henry Rosovsky in The University, an Owners Manual. Rosovsky's description of these constituent groups is probably worth introducing in a future post as well.


I find this all very satisfying, first for its pure entertainment value, but also for its continued relevance. In the first part of his introduction, Giamatti is pointing toward the confluence of attitudes and conditions that have driven the growth of the corporatization of the American University, which in itself is a complex topic that merits additional consideration. Now, in 2014 many of us in Australia can take notes as well as we assess proposed higher education reform, which very much frame the university as a business competing in a free market for student customers. 

It is my feeling though that what we really need to do is assess ourselves. The acceptance by university administrators, academics, university governance groups, trustees, and the public that universities are knowledge corporations that through their teaching mission are designed solely and practically to feed the job market is not part of an inescapable logic yielding universally beneficial outcomes. But there needs to be a conversation. It needs to be critical and reflective. And university academics and leaders need to frame it in terms that assert value in our fundamental purposes. The value would seem to include a broader social service requiring a logic that is different but not entirely divorced from maximising returns to our "equity holders" as defined appropriately.

In the second half of Giamatti’s introduction he poetically describes the nature of the university, its essential connection with conversation, and the need to rekindle it in public.

It is my hope that as I progress through what Giamatti is communicating in A Free and Ordered Space, the treatment of these topics will become more subtle, thought provoking, and meaningful for those of us participating in current conversations about the changing nature of higher education and the identity of the university. As always, I invite discussion and critique. I also invite those with insights to share their knowledge about what was happening at Yale and other universities during the mid-70s through mid-80s that may have influenced Giamatti's thinking and attitudes. Insights about specific events along the lines of what Eric Feinblatt shared in a comment last year are incredibly valuable. 

The Corporate Analogy Unravels, Chronicle of Higher Education

The The Earthly Paradise (Detail - The Fall of the Rebel Angels)

Brief excerpt from Paradise Lost referenced in Giamatti's first policy
Say first—for Heaven hides nothing from thy view, Nor the deep tract of Hell—say first what cause Moved our grand Parents, in that happy state, Favoured of Heaven so highly, to fall off        30
From their Creator, and transgress his will For one restraint, lords of the World besides. Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?

Friday, 1 March 2013

More Thoughts Provoked in “A Free and Ordered Space”

I am following my last post in which I introduced my intent to use A Free and Ordered Space, by A. Bartlett Giamatti as a vehicle to explore some current issues in higher education. In this posting I explain why I have choses A Free and Order Space as a resource.

I am following my last post, Thoughts Provoked in “A Free and Ordered Space,” in which I introduced a project. During the coming year I intend to review and engage in the book A Free and Ordered Space by A. Bartlett Giamatti. In the first post I provide some background and the reasoning behind why I have decided to work on the project. Today I will indicate why I have chosen Giamatti as my guide. In short, it is a combination of the contexts under which the addresses were made, the topics addressed, and some of the characteristics of Giamatti himself.


There are all sorts of ways of engaging in personal and professional development and all sorts of resources from which to choose. So why choose a Free and Order Space? Perhaps it was my state of mind that magnified the relevance of the book, but when I started reading it, I recognized the importance of the topics being discussed and the authenticity in which they were being treated. The topics, even those treated in passing, have proven to be enduring. They are easily identified in conferences, professional discussions, appearance in policy, and their treatment in the public media during the past years and months. That is, they are important and persistent. They are themselves the types of problems that universities are designed to pursue.

I believe that the principal reason why the issues discussed by Giamatti and treated in a Free and Ordered Space have continuing relevance is his insistence on applying a value-ladened lens, which framed each topic in terms of enduring principles supporting the purpose of the university. Giamatti's continuous refocusing on principles serves as a reminder that each problem ultimately needs to be addressed in terms of the university, not the corporation, not the swirl recorded and projected in popular media, not the mishigas of political urgency, not the mishmash of popular opinion, not the logic of popular managerial cults, and not the fear and uncertainty these things bring. Given my reaction to Giamatti's writing, it struck me that there would be merit in reviewing each address (chapter), teasing out the themes, relating those themes across addresses, and contextualizing them in terms of what we are facing, in many cases, more than 30 years later.

This is all fine, but why choose a Free and Orders Space? Giamatti approached relevant questions in a principled way; but haven't other authors done so as well? Of course they have, but this book has some qualities that are ideally suited for my purposes. Giamatti was performing in an act of service, as a teacher, from the unique perspective of the President of what many perceive as a truly great university. The topics covered in his addresses and the context in which they were delivered provides a unique an useful platform for review and extension. In each address the combination of chosen topic, audience, context, and the characteristics of the author presents an opportunity for those of us writing at a different time with different experiences to apply enduring principles to challenges that have spanned decades in different forms.


I found that a book published more then 20 years ago that features writing more than 30 years old provided a sense of safety and distance. Giammati was writing with the intent of addressing contemporary issues to students and other stakeholders of the early 1980s. In most of his addresses he was identifying critical issues and was trying purposefully to demystify them. The nature of the topics and the circumstances under which the addresses were made provide us a unique opportunity to reflect on the qualities of the topics under discussion and the degree to which the university and its environment has changed in recent decades. It provides touchstones from which to interpret current events. Some of the topics included in his addresses were,
  • the nature and value of liberal education,
  • the push to utilitarian education,
  • the pressure of federal regulation,
  • the appropriate role of college athletics,
  • the role of transparency, openness, and freedom in the properly functioning university, and
  • the relationships between academic and administrative staff in the university.


As mentioned above, A Free and Ordered Space is a collection of addresses that Giamatti delivered to key constituents including students. Through each presentation he was addressing a set of issues that he felt were timely and relevant, which provides the reader with insights into what the president of Yale felt was of critical importance at the time. That is, each of the book's chapters is somewhat self-contained and manageable, but the collection reflects a set of relationships that together form rich patterns. The organization of a Free and Ordered Space and the purpose of the writings is ideal for a reader interested in topics germane to the nature of the University. The following list of audiences that were addressed in Giamatti's speeches provides some insights into what Giamatti felt were important messages for a range of stakeholders, but perhaps most interestingly, for students entering and leaving Yale College.

The Nature and Purpose of the University
  • 1987 Association of School Administrators
  • 1987 Commencement at Franklin and Marshall College
  • 1978 Inaugural Address, Yale
  • 1981 Conference on Excellence in Education
  • 1883 Senior Class as Baccalaureate Address, Yale
  • 1984 Freshman Address, Yale
  • 1986 Senior Class as Baccalaureate Address, Yale
  • 1981 Senior Class as Baccalaureate Address, Yale

The Earthly Use of a Liberal Education
  • 1981 Freshman Address, Yale
  • 1983 Freshman Address, Yale
  • 1985 Freshman Address, Yale
  • 1983 Association of Yale Alumni “Humanities at Yale”
  • 1977 Conference on the Humanities at Yale
  • 1978 Convention of the Modern Language Association
  • 1979 Freshman Address, Yale
  • 1980 Association of Yale Alumni (April)
  • 1987 Williams College
  • 1980 Phi Beta Kappa Lecture at Yale
  • 1980 Annual Report of the President, Yale

The Private University and the Public Interest
  • 1979 Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
  • 1979 Senior Class as Baccalaureate Address, Yale
  • 1980 Senior Class as Baccalaureate Address, Yale
  • 1982 Convention of American College of Surgeons
  • 1980 Association of Yale Alumni (October)
  • 1982 Graduate and Professional Convocation, Yale
  • 1982 Partners in the Research Enterprise: A National Conference, University of Pennsylvania
  • 1982 Senior Class as Baccalaureate Address, Yale
  • 1985 Senior Class as Baccalaureate Address, Yale
  • 1980 Freshman Address, Yale
  • 1984 Senior Class as Baccalaureate Address, Yale


Dr. Giamatti served as a career academic, as scholar as well as administrator with his last appointment in the academy as president of Yale. It is my feeling that his writing reflects the wisdom and experience of a professional balancing the purpose of the University as a common good with the management of the University as an organization. In doing so, Giamatti frames and harmonizes some of the tensions modern universities are facing. His treatment of these tensions shows an understanding and respect for the those contributing to the purpose of the University with special attention given to the undergraduate student. In short, I believe that Dr. Giamatti was in a privileged position to write holistically about the University, chose to write about authentic challenges to the University, and wrote with principle. As has already been pointed out in a comment by Eric Feinblatt to the last post, Giamatti, like all presidents, made controversial decisions, some of which seem inconstant with fundamental espoused beliefs. These apparent inconsistencies and the contexts in which they grew and exist merit as much consideration as what was included in Giamatti's writings.


Of course anybody reading the book now has a different perspective than did the author who was writing 25 to 35 years ago. In addition, there are differences in the type of formal education we received (liberal/utilitarian), the types of universities that we have served (public/private; elite/non-elite), the principal roles we have served (academic/administrative), and other contexts (US/Overseas). My perspective on the University comes from a vastly different set of experiences than does Dr. Giamatti's. This is likely to be true of many who read his book and it is my feeling that our differences, when well recognized, will add something beneficial to the discussion.


Enough explanations. As mentioned, I plan to move forward through the addresses in the book in the order they are presented. I will not really be working to any schedule. I may take a week or two to post the first one to give a little time to anybody interested enough in reading along to pick up a copy of the book.  Once again, and as always, I welcome involvement.

Giamatti, A. B. (1988). A free and ordered space: The real world of the university. New York: W.W. Norton.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Thoughts Provoked in “A Free and Ordered Space”

I intend to use A Free and Ordered Space, by A. Bartlett Giamatti as a vehicle to explore some current issues in higher education.  In this posting I explain why I am doing this and I briefly introduce a Free and Ordered Space. In my next post, I will continue the introduction.

This graphic is not open content.  I am using it under terms of fair use.
In the coming months I plan to use “A Free and Ordered Space: The Real World of the University” by A. Bartlett Giamatti as a source and sounding-board for my thinking about higher education. In the spirit of Mortimer Adler, I hope to engage with Giamatti through his writings and perhaps through this public forum engage with others as well. I intend to methodically embrace the text; teasing out its explicit messages, its latent meanings, the patterns that are formed within, and their relevance to what we presently see about ourselves in higher education. I also hope to extend in some way Giamatti's thoughts and observations by simply building on them and applying his logic to what is currently happening within and without the university. At the very least, the ensuing posts will anchor and catalog my thoughts, but potentially others will join privately or publicly in an effort to make sense of some enduring issues.

Although I am happy to simply step through the book and share my thoughts, I also want to extend an invitation. While at one level I of course invite comment and conversation, I also invite other forms of participation. If anybody reading this blog has special insights or interests in the topics treated and would like to share their perspectives, I would be happy to expand the discussion with guest postings.

A Free and Ordered Space is a collection of presentations, which are organized into three thematic areas. Giamatti groups his presentations into the following formal sections:
  • The Nature and Purpose of the University
  • The Earthly Use of a Liberal Education
  • The Private University and the Public Interest

In addition to the 23 addresses in the book, Giamatti includes some introductory materials. I will try to treat an address/presentation (chapter) each week or so, but anticipate that some will require more time to appropriately prepare. Most of the addresses include multiple themes, each of which may merit separate posts. I will almost certainly find the need to pause occasionally to summarize and reflect a bit, share additional thoughts, and make modifications to prior posts. In addition, I fully anticipate some interruptions as professional workload ebbs and floods (right now it is mostly flooding) and personal commitments demand, so this project could extend throughout the coming year.


As indicated above, methodically treating A Free and Ordered Space may be a nontrivial activity. I'm a pretty busy guy. Like most folks, I have professional responsibilities and personal commitments, which leave me with little extra time. So, why should I spend it this way, and why would anybody decide to spend their time engaged with this project, even to passively follow along? For me, the answer is sort of simple. I am troubled. I am troubled by the way many colleges and universities are reacting to a variety of changes within the University and without. I am seeking a way to to better understand what is happening, a better foundation from which to interpret what others are writing, a more grounded perspective to interpret regulations and policies, and a principled footing to better contribute to my chosen profession and avocations. Frankly, I have found that reading current events in publications that treat higher education is not doing the trick.

A number of months ago I reached out to Dr. Marcelette Williams to exchange a few words about what I was reading and thinking about on the topic of liberal education and the university. At the time I had recently read The University: An Owner's Manual by Henry Rosovsky, and was working through Newman's Nine Discourses in The Idea of a University. Marcie recommended that I read a Free and Ordered Space as Giamatti was one of her favorite published voices on the topic. I had reported to Marcie for 3 years while serving the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Williams serves as the Senior Vice president for Academic, Student, and International Affairs at the University of Massachusetts, and stands as one of the most thoughtful and humane figures I have work with in higher education. Given my relationship and respect for Marcie, I was thankfully predisposed to take her advice.

I know that I was reaching out to Marcie to fill a gap. I had recently left UMass to join a start-up company and found myself among a small group of intensely smart managers planning to sell services to universities. Even though I had served as a university administrator for nearly to 2 decades, surrounded by managerial types (and functioning as one), things felt fundamentally different at the start-up in ways that I had not fully appreciated or anticipated when I first joined the organization. The nature of the conversations took the colour of efficiency and scale. Student services were framed as ends in themselves, while student development, discovery, civil advancement, and service of the common good were largely absent in our dialogue. It was, perhaps rightfully, assumed within the company that not only were these concerns those of the university, but their clear articulation could be principally absent in an education service provider. I am of course not being critical of the organisation. After all, a college or university outsources services when an external organisation possesses characteristics or capacities that do not or ought not exist within the college or university. I should have known that this was going to be the case, as this company was designed to “take care of business,” and that its value is located in its ability to do things that the universities themselves could not. Yet I was taken unawares by just how differently my working colleagues viewed the purpose and nature of the university than had I.

It was these experiences that punctuated the feeling that I had personally strayed from the reasons that I had first decided to pursue a career in higher education. I believe that there is a gap, which I had allowed to grow, that I am starting to explore with this project. Although I have since move back into the University, am serving the University of Southern Queensland, and feel very much as if I am in my professional home, the gap still has meaning.


A Free and Ordered Space was published posthumously in 1990, and is a collection of addresses that Dr. Giamatti had made to a variety of groups while he served as president of Yale. Most of the addresses were given between 1980 and 1985 and many were presented to undergraduate audiences of incoming and graduating students. I will provide more detail in the following post. For those colleagues who may be interested in reading along, you can access the book through many libraries or purchase the book through the usual channels. Unfortunately, I have not been able to track down open versions of many of the addresses, but I will continue to look. If they exist, I welcome any suggestions about sources for open and other types of relevant resources. I will maintain a page dedicated to resources, and perhaps, time permitting, will keep a annotated reference list. I will for the benefit of casual readers start each post with a summary of the address, but I am sure that my efforts in this regard will fall short.

As this post was going to get a bit too long, so I have decided to split it in half and will post the reminder during the next day or two. In the following post I will outline why I think that Giamatti, through a Free and Ordered Space, will serve as an excellent guide who provides touchstones to interpret some activities and events in higher education.

Giamatti, A. B. (1988). A free and ordered space: The real world of the university. New York: W.W. Norton.

Adler, M. J., & Van Doren, C. L. (1972). How to read a book (Rev. and updated ed.). New York: Simon and Schuster.

Newman, J. H. (1959). The Idea of a university. Garden City, N. Y.: Image Books.

Rosovsky, H (1990). The University: An Owner's Manual. N.Y.: W. W. Norton.

The University of Southern Queensland

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

How can the Course Catalogue Save Education?

In a recent article, James Lang introduces the notion of “Far Transfer” to help address questions about student learning and critical thinking.  As treated here, far transfer is the ability for a learner to apply concepts across classes and circumstances, and represents one of the most desired outcomes of a college or university education. When achieving far transfer learners are exercising critical thinking. Transdicipinary and liberal education are important considerations to help ensure that the university course catalogue is a vehicle for learners to achieve far transfer and critical thinking.

More than a week or so ago James Lang wrote the first part of a series published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, titled Why Don't They Apply What They've Learned, Part I. In the article Lang questions why many students do not seem to be able to apply previously learned knowledge over time and across courses (and more generally across circumstances). In his article, Lang refers to a recent book, How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, in which Susan Ambrose and her co-authors use the term “Far Transfer” to describe the ability of a learner to apply knowledge across courses. That is, far transfer is the ability of learners to apply conceptual knowledge learned in a class to learning situations and practice in other classes and to circumstances outside of the classroom (perhaps on the job). Intuitively we must recognise that far transfer is a pretty important aspiration of higher education. After all, the ability for our students to apply knowledge outside of a specific classroom situation is a reasonable expectation that reflects not only on the ability of the learner, but also on the relevance of the university itself.

Lang makes it clear that Far Transfer is not easily accomplished, pointing to Ambrose and then James Zull, the author of The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning, Lang highlights that:
  • Transfer is difficult, and it becomes increasingly difficult as the application context becomes increasingly dissimilar or novel to the learner. The failure of the learner to successfully transfer their learning to an unfamiliar or novel context can be attributed to tying their knowledge too closely to a specific situation, or it could be associated with their learning being overly formulaic or shallow. This reveals in the learner an understanding of the mechanics of problem solving, while lacking the understanding of the underlying principles being used.
  • Although conceptually it may appear that applying learned rules across situations should not be too terribly difficult, there are physiological changes in the brain that allow for transfer. Cognitive development depends on the growth of neuronal networks in the brain, with transfer of knowledge across situations being made possible when these networks connect.

After Lang takes us through some examples of how he creates expectations of far transfer in his writing classes, he makes what I think is a critical point.

If you have ever thought or told your students that you are teaching them "critical thinking," for example, you are banking on the prospect that students will abstract some general cognitive skill from your course and apply it to future courses or even life situations.

This notion stuck with me for a number of reasons. First, it seems that teaching critical thinking skills is frequently cast as the University’s holy grail. That is, critical thinking is often identified as one of the less tangible, highly valuable, and infrequently achieved outcomes sought from graduates of colleges and universities. Second, for me, it points to two critical topics that extend far beyond skill development or skill delivery – the transdisciplinary curriculum and liberal education.

Transdisciplinary Education

Lang chose the following quote from Zull to connect conceptual notions of what critical thinking is with the physiological response in a learner's brain to learning a disciplinary subject (forming a neuronal network element) and connecting these networks in ways that allow for far transfer.

"Neuronal networks grow by building on existing networks," Zull writes, "so our entree to reasoning in one subject comes through the neuronal networks for the information in that subject. Often we don't have the networks that connect one subject with another. They have been built up separately, especially if we have studied in the standard curriculum that breaks knowledge into parts like math, language, science, and social science."

For me, Lang seems to be setting the ground for the need to really think about the function of courses and the functions of curriculum in different but complementary ways. Disciplinary and technical skills, that are frequently very sophisticated, are developed in particular classes. While, courses represent the vehicles in which disciplinary conceptual networks are created, it is the constellation of courses that compose a well-developed curriculum that provides the platform through which disciplinary neuronal networks can connect allowing for far transfer of knowledge.

Liberal Education

So, if a transdisciplinary curriculum can serve as the framework for an educational experience that lends itself to far transfer and critical thinking, how do students take advantage of the opportunities being offered and actually make the connections among disciplinary networks? It seems to me that simply creating the opportunity for far transfer and critical thinking is not enough. Evidence of critical thinking will require some capacity on the part of the learner to connect the networks with some discipline and creativity. For example, when applying far-transfer, how does the learner decide which concepts from which networks best apply to a problem situation under a variety of circumstances? To what degree can a particular conceptual model be applied, how much of the model needs to be modified, or integrated with other models? What sort of intellectual disposition and what sort of behaviours do learners and practitioners need to successfully engage in critical thinking?

It seems to me that the arts and habits that are the hallmarks of a liberal education are germane to disciplined and creative far transfer. To illustrate, I refer to an earlier posting titled Is a liberal technical education something more or something else? in which a short listing of the arts and habits that are assumed by a liberally educated person. One of the lists started with
habits of an educated person
  • the habit of attention
  • the habit of submitting to censure and refutation
  • the habit of regarding minute points of accuracy
Taken together these habits (along with others) will help learners make thoughtful attempts at far transfer and improve their ability to critically apply their thinking in the future under other circumstances.

Just a Little More

So, for me, the punchline from Lang's article is that for learners to achieve Far Transfer and Critical Thinking they must have
  • opportunities to create disciplinary neural networks (acquired on the course level), 
  • opportunities to connect disciplinary networks (acquired through a trans-disciplinary curriculum), and
  • the behaviours and capacity to actually make those connections (acquired through a liberal education).

Because it is obvious that far transfer and critical thinking are particularly valued outcomes when they are extend beyond classroom application, it makes sense to think about the transdisciplinary curriculum more broadly. We might think in terms of moving from a transdisciplinary curriculum to a transdisciplinary education that includes “off-campus” experiences such as experiential and service learning, citizen science, and citizen civics. In addition, we might more consciously construct the notion of a transdisciplinary education as continuing throughout a lifetime.

Maybe I am predisposed to rationalise my way to this conclusion, but it does leave me in a happy place. By my thinking, the elements of an education designed to achieve Far Transfer and Critical Thinking are for the most part inherent in the University mission – teaching, discovery, and service. It is a matter of rethinking the nature of traditional curriculum, to support a transdisciplinary education and recognising the value of a liberal education along side professional (and vocational) education to support the development of technically competent professionals who are able to apply critical thinking. Add a little life-long learning, and some universities may have made themselves relevant in a more broad and recognised way, without fundamentally changing their values, staying true to their learners and the common good.

Continuing that thought...

During the last few days, while I was constructing these few paragraphs, my attention has been drawn to a (wonderful) posting by Christine Geith titled How the Course Catalog Killed Education at the WCET Frontiers site. Its influence on the title of this posting is obvious. Now it seems to me that Christine has hit on an important insight about the poverty of the college and university catalogue as an expression of value. She asserts that the value of the University does not rest in its catalogue of courses or programs, but instead is embedded in its “Brand.” It is the brand that serves as an expression of the university's capacity to distinguish its catalogue with something far more then the simple collection might imply. I think that Christine and I are barking up the same tree from different sides. Christine did a very tidy job at pointing to what the research university brings to the table beyond its catalogue, while I am pointing to the role of the catalogue in creating that "something more, "which transforms taking courses into an education and transforms course takers into critical thinkers.  

It is my feeling that thinking beyond the course catalogue will help us better frame the ongoing trend toward fragmentation in higher education and the “unbundling” of traditional college and university services. Although thinking beyond the catalogue is critical, we may also ask what type of course catalogue will best support a university education? One that delivers on helping learners achieve far transfer becoming critical thinkers and practitioners. I believe too that this type of thinking and these types of questions can provide a way to frame the ways we engage with things like MOOCs, education service providers, open educational resources (there will always be more things), and more generally understand the economics, identity, nature, and value of the University and higher education (themes that seem more timeless).

Why Don't They Apply What They've Learned, Part I

Is a liberal technical education something more or something else?

How the Course Catalog Killed Education

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Fall of the Faculty: impressions and extensions

Ginsberg’s The fall of the faculty: The rise of the all-administrative university and why it matters, serves as a sounding board for a larger discussion about the roles of academic and administrative parts of the university community and ultimately the value of a university education. We have a good idea of what the all-administrative university might look like, but what would the “all-faculty” university look like and how would it function as we pass further into the 21st century?

Graphic of cover of the book, The Fall of the Faculty.
This graphic is not open
content.  I am using it
under terms of fair use.
I am going to start with a little warning. This is a long posting and is perhaps a little self indulgent and rambling. During the past few days I read The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters by Benjamin Ginsberg, and although I recognized during my reading that it has merit, I did not care much for its presentation. I am not reviewing the book. Although I read the book completely, I did not read it thoroughly enough to write a review or with the intent of doing so. I am just providing some of my impressions about its execution and its principal messages, while also recognizing the importance of the topics Ginsberg addresses in general. I would like to acknowledge that, to a lagre extent, I have glossed over the root causes and attitudes that have created conditions fertile for the corporate-university, which I find intriguing.

A Matter of Style

First here is the frustrating part. While reading the book, I definitely got the impression that virtually all maladies at the University can be traced directly to administrators. Although lip-service was paid to the occasional good administrator, and Ginsburg acknowledged that all members of the faculty are not equal contributors to the academic community, and some (the worst of the faculty lot) are even administrative collaborators, for the most part all of us were thoroughly archetyped. Following from the American Western, in this book everybody wears black or white hats or might as well. University administrators are bad guys or buffoons and are grouped together as deanlets and deanlings. The administrators have “staffers” who are not all bad, but probably have no place at the University while serving the ambitions, waste, and bloat of administrators. Full-time faculty are clearly good, while adjuncts could be better, and most students are good as well... even if the students are athletes... unless they play basketball or football on Saturdays, in which case they are "big dummies."

That is the part of the book that drove me absolutely crazy - the presentation. These very simple messages were repeated and repeated almost to the point of being useful triggers for a college drinking game. As in, Ahhh, he wrote “administrative bloat,” again - take a drink. There were times while reading the book it felt as if I were having a picnic near a construction site. It would be great without the background noise. So, why did I start and finish the book? Like the construction site picnic, you do it because your sister's homemade potato salad is so good that you endure the incessant and predictable jackhammer in the background, sometimes the overall story in a book is good enough to suffer the presentation style. (By the way, I like spending time with my sister absent her potato salad, but that does not complete the analogy.)

Word Cloud from 
Picking up the book was kind of convenient. Although I have owned the book for some time without reading it, I was inspired to do so because of a reference to the book in the OER Foundation’s Open content licensing for educators seminar (#OCL4Ed). During the first session, the facilitators asked a question about whether teaching is a “profession” or a “vocation,” which generated a lot of interesting discussion. Early in the discussion, a thread titled “Fall of the Faculty / The All Administrative University” was started by a colleague from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver, BC. I made a few comments in the thread and decided to pick up the book and read it.

Before going on, a sense of fair play and respect for whoever might read this demands full disclosure. Although I have never boasted a deanlet or deanling title, I have served a number of universities in administrative and “staffer” capacities. My last few titles have included director, executive director, CEO, and now DVC and CIO. I have also taught in the classroom and online for nearly 20 years, but always as a contingent member of the faculty - sometimes full-time and sometimes part-time, but in any event, I have never faced the rigours of the tenure track.

Some Good Points, But...

Now, back to the book. Yes, I thought that it was overly cynical and overly relied on stereotype and hyperbole, yet I absolutely sympathise with Ginsberg’s substantive messages. As an administrator I have seen, participated in, recognized, and actively resisted many of the managerial pathologies associated with the all-administrative university; excessive meetings, a preoccupation with strategic planning, retreating, empire building, and a host of other activities that are not “teaching” or “research.” In addition, the author’s principal points about
  • the value of a liberal education,
  • the erosion of academic freedom,
  • the importance of tenure, and 
  • the politics of manipulation used to gain “university” ends,

resonate well with me, even if in the book the causes all lead predictably to the same place - the administration, and the implication that there is some sort of conspiracy at hand. That as a group, administrators are systemically plotting together, perhaps across institutions a quiet coop. What did not resonate with me was the oversimplification of an exceptionally important topic.

Unlike A. Bartlett Giamatti in A Free and Order Space, who very eloquently frames the interplay of academic and administrative functions at the University in terms of “the academic mission,” Ginsberg seems to be more interested in setting the stage for a confrontation in which academics and administrators are pitted against one another. Even if the intent was good and the art was bad, Ginsberg should have had the sense to not over-generalize. Once again, unlike Giamatti, who spoke specifically of Yale, Ginsberg is all over place, applying his standards from elite private universities, to liberal arts colleges, regional public universities, and community colleges. In my opinion, the net was cast far too widely and it weakened his overall argument. It is not fair or I think intellectually honest to use examples of administrative activity and organizational structure from a community or regional public college to make a point about the “all-administrative university” from his personal exposure to some pretty elite private traditional research universities.

Once again, I am frustrated because the topics of university cost structures and relationships between full- and part-time faculty and administrators with each other and with students in relation to the institution’s mission are of critical importance. And they represent issues and challenges that need to be addressed with mutual respect, putting our key stakeholders first.

Accuracy and Clarity Would be Nice

One of the main arguments in The Fall of the Faculty is that administrative staffing has grown more rapidly than faculty staffing, resulting in misdirection of limited funds. There is no question that administration (management, staff, and clerical support) at Universities has grown. And there is no question that managerial and administrative staff have grown at a higher rate than have faculty. And there is no question that popular reporting of this has been... unkind and sometimes confusing. For example, in a recent article in the Economist titled Not what it used to be: American universities represent declining value for money to their students, Roger Geiger and Donald Heller (who are not the authors of the article) of Pennsylvania State University are quoted to say,
...that since 1990, in both public and private colleges, expenditures on instruction have risen more slowly than in any other category of spending, even as student numbers have risen. Universities are, however, spending plenty more on administration and support services (see chart 2).

Chart 2, Plenty of padding, non-faculty professional employees per 100 faculty members. In 2009 there were approximately 98 non-faculty professional employees per 100 faculty members
Please note that this graphic is not open content.
I am using it under terms of "fair use."
Chart 2 is titled Plenty of Padding and it refers to numbers of employees not spending as is stated in the quote. The units of measurement do not match reducing the value of the chart. In addition, it provides a vague (not specific enough) reference to “The Department of Education; National Center for Educational Statistics.” Furthermore, I am not sure if the terms “college” and “university” are being used interchangeably in this article. I simply have no way of knowing. This seems like just plain sloppy work on the part of the Economist. Back in the classroom this type of reference, absent a citation, would have earned the author a lecture on the importance of helping your reader know what you are talking about, allowing the reader to fact find, and the ethical nature of applying appropriate attribution standards. That said, I would have given the author a “do over” with the opportunity to clear up some of the inconsistencies.

Regarding Chart 2 above, I have no idea where the data is coming from (a link to the source would have been helpful). According to the US Department of Education, Center for Educational Statistics, Advanced Release of Selected 2012 Digest Tables, in 2009 the number of non-faculty professional employees per 100 faculty members was 69.5 rather than the 98 (or so) represented in the Chart. No, I am not arguing that nearly 70 non-faculty professionals per 100 faculty is a good number. I am just suggesting that the coverage of higher education in popular mass media sources is not well done and perhaps can be a bit misleading. Besides the numbers themselves are pretty slippery. The majority of non-faculty professionals are characterized as “other professionals,” the numbers represent all types of post-secondary schools, and there is some dynamic that needs to be recognized between the growth in professional employees and decline in non-professional employees. In addition, many colleges and universities are outsourcing some of their administrative functions, so the effort and cost is not reflected in the employment figures. If one just considered executive, managerial, and administrative professionals, which seems to be where Ginsberg concentrates, the number drops to 16 administrators per 100 faculty, which may still be excessive. But just for clarity, I would like to point out that according to data provided in the Advanced Release of Selected 2012 Digest Tables in the US between 2001 - 2011,
  • there was a 24.57% increase in all university employees,
  • executive, managerial, and administrative staff increased by 86,608 employees, representing 57% growth,
  • faculty staffing grew by 410,432, representing 36.9% growth, and
  • the number of student enrollments increased by 31.81% during the same period of time, so
  • faculty ranks more than kept pace with student enrollments from 2001-2011.

Once again, I am in no way suggesting that these numbers are good or appropriate. In fact, I am not even sure what the numbers mean relative to the purposes and missions of the sector and individual colleges and universities. For example, what would these numbers look like if we started including the faculty and enrollment numbers that are common in MOOCs; that is, when some universities start using MOOCs as part of their regular curriculum and offerings?

Obviously Ginsberg has no control over the way popular media reports on higher education. I do not mean to infer a connection between the Fall of the Faculty and articles like those in the Economist. I wanted though to point to the fact that the issues being discussed are politically charged, the data require subtle treatment, and popular media is frequently not the best place to turn for accuracy and clarity.

Are Some of the Things we are Doing Valuable?

I think though that the numbers as they stand can be put into some perspective. Although I have no data to support this, I do believe that we have seen a reshaping of staffing at many post-secondary institutions not just more of the same-old. Once again, this is just common sense, but when you consider the changing demographic that we are serving across the sector, the push to increase access, and the growth of distance education, we can see increased needs for student and faculty support in at least the following areas.
  • information technology
  • learning design
  • student counseling and advising

Remember, in 2001 a small number of institutions had institutional learning management systems, never mind electronic library and research resources, ePortfolios, social media, and other digital assets that are now considered just part of functioning in the 21st century. The number of non-traditional and adult learners and those studying at a distance was much smaller and was concentrated at relatively few colleges and universities. Most institutions have built infrastructure and resources to accommodate the growing populations of returning and remote learners. Is this right, are these good investments? It depends on the type of school you are considering, the institution's commitment to access, and its self-identity. Perhaps, as Ginsberg clearly states, it is not right for Johns Hopkins University. Regardless though, reliable technology-based systems are now an expectation. As an undergraduate I remember spending more than 2-days leading into each semester standing in lines to register for courses. We would line-up hours before the faculty member would show up at their designated classroom, so we could sign-up and get into their course. I can't imagine that many of the faculty felt this was good use of their time either. Now registration takes seconds to execute. Faculty time is spent advising the student and supporting academic development, not managing a queue. It takes a team of technologists to support these very helpful administrative systems, and they were, for the most part, absent before the 90s.

How about the All-Faculty University?

I would like to acknowledge though that I think the real points of Ginsberg’s book are most weakly made in terms of finance and staffing. I think that that they are most strongly made in terms of control and governance of the academic enterprise and the assumptions that we make about the purposes of the University. Ginsberg’s point that academic freedom is critical to the purpose of the University and that without tenure, there is no academic freedom is powerfully made. I do see that tenure is under siege both within and outside of the University. I see few university administrators clearly articulating the value of tenure and academic freedom, while articulating the practical importance of a liberal education as the University pursues its mission.

At the end of the day though, even though I was frustrated, the Fall of the Faculty struck a chord. Kudos to Ginsberg for providing solutions. In many ways, he is suggesting that we return to the old ways. Rebalance the roles of administrators and faculty. I think that this is an excellent suggestion. It is perhaps a recommendation that is not practical for every post-secondary school to follow, but it clearly has a place in the incredibly diverse landscape of higher education. In reality we have seen the manifestation of the “all administrative university” with the rise of the for-profit chain university. I don’t think that many of us liked what we got, but like Ebenezer Scrooge we did get a glimpse at a potential future. In response, why not build the “all-faculty university,” and see how that goes in our current environment and as we prepare for the mounting challenges and opportunities of the 21st century? It would be better to not have to build one from scratch, but by the sounds of it, there are not many universities available that have not been infected by the administrative virus. Perhaps though some universities will give a fair hearing to the idea and come back home. Perhaps some exist and we need to learn from them. I am sincere about this. I would like to see a college or university that followed in earnest the values and priorities that Ginsberg has promoted in his book and I hope that there is still a place for it in the spectrum of post-secondary education. It would even be better if it were affordable, appealed to students, contributed to the common good, and we knew if it was delivering on its promise.

Legitimate Concerns and Questions

Finally, I am going to return for a minute to my last posting, Why have we failed ourselves as we have failed our student-athletes? I wonder if the behavior described in the Western Oklahoma story is a bellwether for more traditional research universities. Ones whose missions play more to seeking truth, engaging in discovery, and effecting the common good than career and workforce development and meeting remedial student needs. In the Need 3 Quick Credits to Play Ball? Call Western Oklahoma article Lisa Greenlee, Western Oklahoma's vice president for academic and student-support services made an effort to provide assurances of continued curricular integrity at her college, insisting that she
"...will not oversee something that isn't of high quality. ... It won't happen under my watch," she says. "If you knew me and our administrative team, we go to great lengths to ensure that what we're doing has rigor and quality. 

"If that means hiring someone full-time whose job is to make sure that every class is not substandard, or to make sure we integrate technology to watch students as they take exams, that's what we will do."

Would we not legitimately expect, as Ginsberg clearly would, that the person ensuring that a class is not substandard be the faculty member? Would we not expect this as a student or a parent? I am guessing that different people would respond to this question differently, but I think that it strikes at the larger question raised in the Fall of the Faculty. It is the type of question that ought to be discussed openly and civilly. It is the type of question that needs to be framed in terms of institutional mission, alongside the expectations that are being placed on the sector and the expectations we have for different types of colleges and universities in different parts of the sector.

OER foundation

Open content licensing for educators #OCL4Ed (2012.12)

Digest of Educational Statistics 2011

Chapter 3: Postsecondary Education

Advanced Release of Selected 2012 Digest Tables

Table 257. Employees in degree-granting institutions, by sex, employment status, control and level of institution, and primary occupation: Selected years, fall 1991 through fall 2011 

Table 198. Total fall enrollment in degree-granting institutions, by attendance status, sex of student, and control of institution: Selected years, 1947 through 2011

Not what it used to be: American universities represent declining value for money to their students

Chart 2: Plenty of Padding

Why have we failed ourselves as we have failed our student-athletes?

Need 3 Quick Credits to Play Ball? Call Western Oklahoma