"A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men
from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
(Thomas Jefferson)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Follow-Up on the Ouster of UVA President Sullivan

This article on the firing of the University of Virginia President should make every voter think twice about electing a Harvard MBA to be President who was head of Bain Capital.  Bain is known throughout the world as a vulture capitalist group who under Romney and after would buy up companies, take out the profits, lay people off, and ship jobs overseas.   That is the real Romney legacy not the rewrite his consultants are trying to do along with the his millionaire/billionaire donors who helped create the problem we have today not Federal Civil Service.

Romney's disdain for the teachers, police, fire,  and civil servants is beyond disgusting but fits in with some of the MBA mentality -- only the bottom line counts not people.  Any Federal Employee who votes for Romney hasn't checked out the facts on the man they support because he doesn't support them.  He plans to lay off over 150,000 civil servants if he was elected even though many of those were hired because of mandates out of the Congress and as the group of civil service from the Vietnam War retied and were replaced.  

You want an example of what an MBA does to education look no further than the University of Virginia and their Board of Visitors headed by two MBAs who are out to change the whole culture of education at the university founded to educate students by Thomas Jefferson.  MBA's for the most part hate the humanities and it shows as that is the real reason that the current President of UVA was fired as she refused to cut two programs she felt added to the University. 

Why don't the students just become mind-numbed robots and take all the same busienss classes so they can be like Romney and the other very wealthy in this Country where it is all about the bottom line and people don't count.  (sarcasm) As Romney said  he loves to 'fire people!'  Another word for it is greed as we have seen happen in the last few years in this Country:

There’s a painful irony in all of this, of course: The same folks who championed the combination of tax kickbacks to the wealthy, deregulation, and insider trading that helped shatter the economy and hobble the budgets of colleges and universities are now increasingly running them. What these people like to call “strategic dynamism” produced binge profits, sure. But it ended up shredding the economy, and now it’s coming to a college or university near you. (If you haven’t seen The Chronicle of Higher Education piece on the idea of “strategic dynamism” and the role it played in Sullivan’s firing, you ought to check it out.) Boards like UVAs, increasingly made up of hedge fund operators, mortgage lenders, developers, and investment firm CEOs, are trained to put fast-paced change, short-term economic gain, and dramatic changes in asset allocation and in personnel ahead of long term, methodical academic planning, subordinating even the pretense of shared governance to the economic bottom line. It represents a culture of governance alien to the one we’re used to in higher education. As Kris Olds points out in a superb Inside Higher Education piece on UVAs Board, this is "a patently unbalanced and inward-oriented board, drawing from a very narrow segment of society," one prone to "group think."
Talk to any engineer who has to work for an MBA and about 95% of the time, they will tell you how bad they are because they are not for innovations.  All they care about is making money no matter what you have to do including bending the rules as witnessed by some of the aerospace companies who have way too many MBA's to the stage it is stiffling innovation.  Yet the Republican Party is poised to nominate someone who is the poster boy for being an MBA.

This story is far from over as the faculty have their say or are they supposed to shut up, sit down, and do as they are told which seems to be the mantra of MBA's no matter what they are doing.   They can only see the bottom line and could care less in this case about education.  If you want to be over a university that is a money maker go to Phoenix or Kaplan for profit universities but this is a public university established to educate students not for profit.   

The Silver Lining in the Ouster of UVA President Teresa Sullivan
June 19, 2012

It always helps to know your enemy, and boy, do we know our enemy now.

The recent ouster of Teresa Sullivan, a mini coup d’etat that had enough court intrigue to give Hilary Mantel's new novel, Bring Up the Bodies, a run for its money, may be the best thing that’s happened in higher education in a long time.

Why? Because her summary dismissal by the Board of Visitors, spear-headed by real estate developer Helen Dragas, the Board’s Rector, and its Vice Rector, Mark Kington (the head of a capital management firm who sits with Dragas on the BOD of the energy company, Dominion) makes it absolutely clear what is at stake in the corporatization of higher education: Goodbye shared governance, hello strategic dynamism.
You remember shared governance, right? In the old days, when the business of education was education, and not business, the academic mission of the university -- its courses, curricula, and programs -- could safely be delegated to the people who have the expertise: the faculty. So could the process of promotion and tenure. Now, however, the curriculum has become a product, the faculty are employees (increasingly limited to adjunct or part-time status), and the students consumers. In the process, academic issues have been transformed into economic issues, and so the faculty can no longer be trusted with them. The value -- and thus the viability -- of courses, programs and departments can no longer be separated from the maximization of revenue flows, or from the cant of productivity and quantifiable learning outcomes. Strategic dynamism is fast becoming the new bottom line, and all it wants to know is how departments and their faculties can perform in the context of short-term, wildly fluctuating financial exigencies. Why allow faculty a governance role in the curriculum when faculty want to protect the viability of traditional academic programs that supposedly put a drag on the university's finances and are irrelevant to the vocational needs of their students? Shared governance just looks absurd to people like Dragas and Kington. They're CEOs, developers, and investment fund executives. Whoever heard of shared governance in their world?

And finally, what happens to the humanities under such a regime? They shrink into irrelevancy and their departments close. It’s telling that the only concrete reason we’ve gotten for Sullivan’s ouster is that she apparently refused to cut the departments of German and Classics. It’s not hard to imagine that this is where the deeper story lies. According to an article in The Washington Post, “Leaders of the university’s governing board ousted Sullivan last week largely because of her unwillingness to consider dramatic program cuts in the face of dwindling resources and for her perceived reluctance to approach the school with the bottom-line mentality of a corporate chief executive.” Surely if the recent past is any indicator, many of these cuts would have come from the humanities and the liberal arts. Indeed, the statement she issued yesterday suggests this is the case. You can read it here.
To its credit, the AAUP saw this coming way back in 1966. Consider this introductory passage from the AAUP Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities:

“[T]he academic institution, public or private, often has become less autonomous; buildings, research, and student tuition are supported by funds over which the college or university exercises a diminishing control. Legislative and executive governmental authorities, at all levels, play a part in the making of important decisions in academic policy. If these voices and forces are to be successfully heard and integrated, the academic institution must be in a position to meet them with its own generally unified view.”

“Less autonomy?" "Diminishing control?” "Unified view?" Indeed. If strategic dynamism is the ideal the Board at UVA was pushing, one doesn’t have to look far to see how recklessly that ideal operates, and how damaging it can be, for the firing of President Sullivan was clearly meant to be strategically dynamic. And boy did it backfire. But we shouldn’t be surprised. If it can screw up an entire nation’s economy it can certainly do the same thing to a university. The manner of Sullivan's firing is the best argument against the managerial ideal that drove it, and we can at least thank the UVA Board for dramatizing so brazenly what's at stake in the corporatizing of higher education.

Posted by Jay

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