Posts Tagged ‘academy’

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The United States suffers from an obscene cult of CEOs. Whether we’re talking about “Neutron Jack” Welch (who was celebrated for raising GE’s market value while laying off tens of thousands of workers) or Bill Gates (who made Microsoft competitive by engaging in anticompetitive practices) or Lloyd Blankfein (head of the “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”)—they’re routinely feted as being ruthless, “transgressive” leaders who make change happen in the corporate world.

I suppose it comes as no surprise, then, that two business professors—Hamid Bouchikhi and John R. Kimberly [ht: kc]—would extend that celebration to CEOs in the academy, by studying the decision by Dean of Arts and Letters Mark Roche to divide the Department of Economics at the University of Notre Dame.*

Transgressive leaders are those who are expected by members to abide by sacred organizational norms but who deliberately violate them for the sake of what they believe to be the greater good of the organization. . .The model of transgressive leadership we propose emerged in the wake of field work at the University of Notre Dame, where a new Dean of the College of Arts and Letters forced a paradigmatic, organizational, and managerial reorientation of economics after a long period of repeated and failed attempts by others to redirect the department.

What’s bizarre about this study is that the authors make clear that Roche did, in fact, violate many of the “sacred organizational norms” of the academy—and then they go on to celebrate him as a transgressive leader who managed to create a new, exclusively neoclassical department of economics.

What did Roche do to get to the point of forcing a split within the department? According to the authors, he “committed a series of lower intensity transgressive acts,” including expressing his own view of the paradigmatic orientation of the department, producing and publicly sharing numbers about members’ research productivity, and violating “the sacred norm of academic self-governance and democratic decision making in a research university” by appointing an advisory board, vetoing hiring proposals, and recruiting a new outside chair against the formal opposition of the existing departmental faculty. Those, of course, were all in the way—once the department itself didn’t cave to his demands—of preparing for, in 2003, the splitting of the department into two separate and unequal departments.

The department voted (15-6) against the split. So did the College Council (by a tally of 25 to 14). And the decision was challenged by several prominent mainstream economists, including Robert Solow (in a letter to the president of the university):

You should know that I am a mainstream economist, in fact a mainstream mainstream economist. But I am not an uptight mainstream economist. Economics, like any discipline, ought to welcome unorthodox ideas, and deal with them intellectually as best it can. It does pretty well, in fact. To conduct a purge, as you are doing, sounds like a confession of incapacity. I grant that you are not shooting the Trotskyites in the back of the head, but merely sending them to Siberia, That is not much of an improvement.

And Deirdre McCloskey (in an article in the Eastern Economics Journal):

What’s the problem nowadays at Notre Dame? … The Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, one Mark Roche, together with his agent in Economics, Richard Jensen, and with the backing of the Provost, Nathan Hatch, and the apparent entrepreneurship of the Dean of the Graduate School, Jeffrey Kantor, has decided that Notre Dame’s Econ Dept is broke . . . and should become mainstream…The Department has resisted. It’s being punished with appointments imposed on it; its promotions have been turned back. It may be abolished entirely, its distinctive graduate program scrapped, and a new one started that will be drearily Samuelsonian.

But the dean, with the protection of the university administration, ultimately got what he wanted. And, according to the authors, Roche’s transgressions ultimately served the good of his college because he sought to appease the faculty (by opening new communications channels and rewarding faculty members whose work met his criteria), thus leading to a celebratory self-evaluation (in his own private notes):

When I stepped down there was a truly joyful reception, as much like a wedding reception as a retirement party. It may be self-deception, but my sense was that there was more gratitude for what had been accomplished than for my leaving office.

Ultimately, Bouchikhi and Kimberly celebrate the cult of CEOs—who “have a clear vision of what needs to change and accept the collateral human cost, for others and for themselves, if they perceive causing hardship to others as a requirement.” It is a model that is well established in the corporate world and is increasingly becoming the norm in the new corporate university.

 

*Disclaimer: as regular readers of this blog know, I was a member of the Department of Economics when, in 2003, Roche, with the support of the university administration, decided to divide the department into two (one of which, the Department of Economics and Policy Studies, of which I was also a member, was dissolved by Roche’s successor, in 2010). I didn’t know about this research when it was being conducted but I am cited numerous times in the paper.

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It may be a changing of the seasons in big-time college athletics—from football to basketball—but, according to Will Hobson and Steven Rich, the basic business model remains the same:

Since 2004, many athletic directors have seen their pay soar and have gone on hiring sprees, surrounding themselves with well-paid executives and small armies of support staffs to help their premier teams — primarily football — recruit, train and plan for games. . .

“We’ve gotten so complex . . . we need people with levels of expertise in a whole myriad of areas that we didn’t need years ago,” said Cindy Hartmann, who makes $225,000 as Florida State University’s Deputy Athletics Director for Administration, a job created in 2014.

“We’re responding to the competitive demands of the market,” Hartmann said. “We’re no different than any other corporation that wants its business to be successful.”

That business, however, depends on unpaid labor. To people who have worked for years to expand benefits for football and men’s basketball players, surging administrative pay exposes the fallacy of the NCAA’s argument that most big college athletic departments can’t afford to pay players.

“There’s just this overwhelming force of greed we’re up against,” said Ramogi Huma, president and founder of the National College Players Association. “It’s clear NCAA sports are financially rich but morally bankrupt.”

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I was wrong: it’s not just a Koch problem. The problem is much larger. It’s the selling-off of higher education to the highest bidder.

In Kentucky, the two major public universities—the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville—have been undermining the idea of the university since at least 2003, when BB&T Corporation and the BB&T Charitable Foundation pledged $2.5 million to the University of Kentucky Gatton College of Business and Economics to

support a learning laboratory on capitalism, a speaker series, an annual student paper competition, and annual fellowship and research grant awards.

The original agreement included giving out free copies of Ayn Rand’s novels, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

This past November, BB&T donated another $500,000, which

will establish the BB&T Program for the Study of Capitalism, which will be headed by BB&T professor John Garen, who already teaches at Gatton. According to the new agreement, the program will “provide financial support for research, education and outreach programs to engage both the academic community and the public in a sustained examination of capitalism from economic, historical, legal and social perspectives,” according to a news release.

And, of course, we have the more recent donations by “Papa” John Schnatter and Charles Koch to Louisville ($6 million) and Kentucky ($12 million).

All of this is simply too much for lifelong Louisville resident and retired insurance executive Mike Gossett [ht: db]:

Since Greek antiquity of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum, distinguished universities have been one of the last bastions for intelligent free inquiry and pursuit of truth. Herculean efforts go into striving for intellectual honesty and excellence in academic scholarship at least at credible institutions. And for good reason since it is critical and necessary to live up to a reputation deserving of both the large capital outlay and years of hard work invested by students to be “educated.”

Thus, one would think it would be unthinkable, even laughable for a university to do anything in terms of harming its academic reputation by debasing and/or cheapening its course offerings. One cannot even imagine Harvard, Yale or Princeton offering intellectual pursuits in astrology, palmistry, creationism, etc.

And yet, today, powerful special interests are afoot with less than honorable intentions that are brazenly seeking to change how people view certain pseudo academic course offerings that offer no intelligent scholarship but rather amount to sinister promotion of politicized extremist utopian economic propaganda. . .

Right-wing extremist libertarians, including local pizza magnate John Schnatter and billionaire businessman Charles Koch, who is shamefully known as a staunch supporter of  extreme right-wing political candidates who actively fight against the economic interests of the working class and their families, are gifting millions of dollars to UK and U of L business schools in exchange for establishing so-called free enterprise programs of learning into their business school curriculums.

If that takes your breath away, consider also that complicit in this disgraceful public university gaff is BB&T Bank, a bank that obviously shares the same libertarian utopian worldview and is the chosen propaganda minister for the new centers of study or, more aptly, spin mills. . .

One finds no better example of what to expect from this new free enterprise program at U of L than a recent commentary in the Courier-Journal authored by a faculty member of the new center. The professor is actually referred to as a “BB&T Distinguished Professor of Free Enterprise.”

For god’s sake, what buffoonery. A BB&T Distinguished Professor of Free Enterprise? What’s next, a Looney Tunes Distinguished Professor of Politically Correct Cartooning at the U of L Art School. How about a Darryl Issacs Distinguished Professor of Ambulance Chasers at the U of L Law School. Or we could have a Pat Robertson “700 Club” Distinguished Professor of Elmer Gantry Televangelism in the Theater Arts Department. How about a Glenn Beck Distinguished Professor of Scorched Earth Politics in the Political Science Department. (Stop me, this is too much fun.)

Well, you get the idea. It’s obvious there might be just a tiny bit of conflict of interest and credible scholarship since this business instructor comes by his academic accolade of distinguished professor from a member of an Ayn Rand smitten bank and his article rife with affirmation of her nauseous egoist worldview.

Ah, nothing like principled, academic pursuit of truth and applied tenets of the scientific method. The same kind one might find, say, from academics in the science labs of tobacco industries or even the science and archeological academic inquiry at the Creation Museum. Oh, and let’s not forget that minuscule number of climate scientist that sell out to the highest bidder in return for discrediting the science of climate change in favor of the fossil fuel industry.

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It used to be the case that, for the most part, the Koch brothers were bottom-feeders when it came to higher education. They approached (or were approached by) financially strapped schools that were only too willing to sell their academic-freedom souls for relatively small infusions of cash.

The exception was, of course, George Mason University, the largest public research university in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which took in just under $80 million from Koch foundations from 2005 to 2014.

Now, the grants are getting larger and the recipients much richer and more prominent. In some cases, the Koch brothers are supporting right-wing, free-market scholars and programs; in other cases, they’re buying the prestige based on an association with highly ranked colleges and universities. And, of course, a mixture of the two.

Here are three recent examples:

Earlier this year, the University of Louisville announced the receipt of $6.3 million from the foundations of businessmen “Papa” John Schnatter ($4.64 million) and Charles Koch ($1.66 million) to create the new John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise.

Rebecca Peek, a U of L senior and member of the Student Labor Action Project, said she was ashamed of the school’s agreement.

“It will certainly affect curriculum and limit the viewpoints taught to business students,” she said in a statement. “As a student at the University of Louisville I want to know that I am being presented with information for the sake of knowledge, not to promote the personal agenda of a private interest group.”

The same pair has donated a combined $12 million to create a similar “free enterprise” teaching institute at the University of Kentucky.

At UK, the grant will establish a “John H. Schnatter Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise” and expand the work of a current capitalism program underwritten by BB&T bank, according to a university news release. About $10 million will go to the institute. The remaining $2 million gives Schnatter naming rights to an atrium in the new business school building.

Finally, the University of Notre Dame has just announced that its International Security Center has received a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation to further develop and expand its role as a forum for broader scholarship on U.S. foreign policy.

“We’re delighted to work with the Koch Foundation on our International Security Center, which we’ve been committed to for many years,” said John T. McGreevy, I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters. “We think it’s important for academics to have a voice in policy debates about international affairs, and we believe our scholars’ research can inform those policy debates.”

Just to be clear, Notre Dame has the tenth largest endowment in the nation, with $8.2 billion in its fund at the end of fiscal year 2014.

Update

Here is a link (pdf) to the list of of colleges and universities that, according to the Koch family foundations and philanthropy, have received grants from the Charles Koch Foundation.

The Center for Public Integrity has a list of 16 colleges and universities that received at least $25,000 in Koch foundation funding in 2014. Apparently, the University of Dayton in Ohio has decided it is no longer interested in receiving Koch-connected money.

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Special mention

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Special mention

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The public was asked to vote on a list of the top 20 academic books, from a list of 200 titles, selected by a committee of experts invited to take part by the Booksellers Association and The Academic Book of the Future project.

As it turns out, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was the firm favorite, securing 26 percent of the vote. The Communist Manifesto came in second.

But, for some strange reason, Alison Flood [ht: ja] decided to focus instead on Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, which was fifth:

a choice heralded by the Booksellers Association’s Alan Staton. “We seem to be governed by expediency and doublethink and it’s reassuring to know that Kant’s Categorical Imperative is known and thought important,” he said.

Philosopher Roger Scruton agreed. “I am gratified that the Critique of Pure Reason, which must be surely one of the most difficult works of philosophy ever written, should have been chosen as among the most influential of all academic books,” he said of the 18th-century text.

“Kant set out on an extraordinary task, which was to show the limits of human reasoning, and at the same time to justify the use of our intellectual powers within those limits. The resulting vision, of self-conscious beings enfolded within a one-sided boundary, but always pressing against it, hungry for the inaccessible beyond, has haunted me, as it has haunted many others since Kant first expressed it.”

From my perspective, it is much more interesting that the list included Edward Said’s Orientalism, E. P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, and John Berger’s Ways of Seeing.