Thursday, December 12, 2013

Welcome to the Alcalá Country Club!

A growing number of colleges are choosing to fingerprint new employee hires, including faculty members. But what about being fingerprinted every day, to make sure professors are on the job? That could be the new reality for faculty members in the City Colleges of Chicago system, and they are speaking out against the possibility. 

Everyone is whining because higher education has become so expensive. So the idea is to cut the waste, that is humanities disciplines, and to supervise faculty so that we meet standards imposed by accrediting agencies and teach to tests. It's industrialized education, imposing factory discipline on faculty. Here's the brave, new world: instead of humanizing factory work, we've industrialized faculty work.

The idea that productivity should be maximized is unquestioned and the assumption is that to achieve it you have to put everybody on the assembly line and run a university like a business. So we got into "accountability" and, endless, endless "assessment." And, given the business model, students were the customers so the university had to offer products that would attract them and keep them. We went into debt expanding the Student Union to add game rooms, restaurants, and other entertainments. and having gone into business USD has to behave like a business and invest even more in goods to please the customers.

So there's a vicious cycle of spending more and more, and being less and less able to afford to support faculty research or other items that don't go toward pleasing the customers. Is this the future? To please the customers you set up in the resort business. Instead of going to classes, students will do classes online. Imagine a student sipping a margarita on the beach, doing a course on their laptop.

Should students have a good time at college? Of course they should. They should party, as students have always done, drink themselves silly and hook-up: no time is better for sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll than when you're young, and can experiment in a relatively safe environment. 

But we faculty should have fun too. That's why we got into this business, isn't it?: because we were willing to take on risk and sacrifice virtually everything, including money, the choice of where to live, and years of our lives living in student poverty, for job satisfaction: for the chance to do research in the areas that interested us. And if we have fun, students might get the idea that in addition traditional undergraduate entertainments, intellectual activity is also fun.

It isn't faculty salaries or the time we "waste" on research in humanities disciplines that have cranked up tuition. It's the implementation of the "business model" that was supposed to make colleges cheaper and more efficient, and reduce faculty to service workers--surveilled and supervised by an growing cadre of administrators--and the expenditure on non-academic student services and infrastructure aimed at attracting, pleasing and retaining customers.


  1. I cannot agree more. And many of us feel the change in the Academy, not just at USD, but nationally. There is a cowardice on the part of administrations, one which generates a refusal to stand up and take ownership of a liberal arts education. The justification is that people cannot AFFORD to send their children (or themselves) THROUGH such an educational experience because the economy does not support jobs upon graduation. That is a bull*&^$. The increasing costs of higher education are generated by the explosion of administrative gigs and the expansion of administration and high salaries. It is corporate. Make no mistake about it. It is corporate.

    The bottom line is that universities are motivated by a business model, by demand for profit, and retention (demand for profit through tuition), etc. Just look at how people are now recruited: by external headhunters! So sad that a Catholic University which espouses the values of liberal arts is succumbing to this model. It is cowardly. How much does the President make again? How much the Provost? CEOs need a lot of money, I guess.


      See page 9 answers to some of your questions.