Chicago’s corporate university

Posted: 2 June 2010 in Uncategorized
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Just as the University of Notre Dame did in dissolving the Department of Economics and Policy Studies, so the University of Chicago is doing in creating the Milton Friedman Institute.

What they’re enacting is the new corporate university. It’s not just the content of their decisions (eliminating an economics department open to alternative perspectives in the first case, creating an economics institute devoted to one perspective in the second). It’s, even more, the taking of decisions by university administrators in a manner that ignores faculty input and contravenes faculty governance procedures.

According to today’s Chronicle of Higher Education, 170 University of Chicago faculty members have signed a petition in which they complain about the university’s decision to establish the Friedman Institute and the corporate model that was followed in making the decision.

The establishment of a Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics without a vote of the full faculty is hardly the only action by the administration that the letter cites as objectionable. It also objects to the university’s decision to allow the creation of a Confucius Institute—a language institute sponsored by the People’s Republic of China—on the campus without the Faculty Senate’s approval.

The letter argues that the university has risked having its reputation used to “legitimate the spread” of such institutions, which have been cropping up at colleges in the United States and other nations around the world.

Among other complaints, the letter alleges that the administrative staff has experienced “metastatic growth,” that the administration has been interfering with academic matters at study-abroad programs, and that the administration has been withholding information on the budget and other matters from faculty governing bodies. It argues that the university has assumed “a business mentality, in which academic units are understood —even designed—to function as product lines and profit centers,” and that power over academic matters is being shifted “to the donors whose favor the administrators court.”

One problem is the language of the corporate university: product lines, productivity, and profitability. The other problem is arbitrary power. So, all academic administrators need to do is say a policy leads to higher productivity, or one program is more profitable than other—and no one but them has access to the information to assess the argument.

The administrators are no longer there to help the faculty do their job. The faculty are there to work for and carry out the goals defined by the administrators. That’s the new market-driven corporate university of which Milton Friedman would be quite proud.

  1. […] First, the University of Chicago decided to create the Milton Friedman Institute. […]

  2. […] The problem they face is they’re not just there to assist young people to get a college education; they’re working in what I have called (since 2010) the new corporate university. […]

  3. […] The problem they face is they’re not just there to assist young people to get a college education; they’re working in what I have called (since 2010) the new corporate university. […]

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