Monday, February 7, 2011

Limiting the Power of College Administrators

My readers are the best. Reader V., who was reading this blog and commenting on it when I had an average of 3 visits a day, just sent in this interesting article arguing that the power of college presidents and boards of trustees should be curtailed and that faculty members should be given more power to make decisions: 
It may be objected that the budget would be a fruitful source of faculty discord. Some discord might, indeed, exist, but it is a fair question whether discord is not preferable to intrigue. Were it not better for a professor to go into faculty meeting and fight for the weal of his department openly, than to enter a private office and lobby for it secretly. In colleges, as in politics, publicity is a strong incentive to decency. The present system is one of secrecy, intrigue and deceit. The president, who holds the key to the situation, lacks the necessary special knowledge of the departments and their needs, and the securing of funds by the various professors becomes largely a competitive test in the matter of sycophancy. It were better to have all such matters threshed out in open meeting, with the data in question before the faculty. In the end its decisions would be fair and just. Here, as elsewhere, the principle of democracy will work if given half a chance. . . When one college shall have adopted the plan here suggested of transferring to the faculty the functions that are rightfully and naturally theirs, and limiting both trustees and president to their natural functions, a new and brighter era will have begun in the history of American education. The standard of collegiate instruction will at once rise many degrees, the college teacher will become a more useful member of society, as will also the college president, harmony instead of discord will reign among the three branches of the college government, and all three will be in a position to make a united and effective attack on the educational problems that are calling for solution.
You'd think that this passage just states the obvious, right? What's the point of quoting an article that says things we all know and understand? Well, what you need to know is that it was published in Popular Science Monthly in 1914. Today, almost a hundred years later, we still realize that limiting the power of college administrators is the best thing we can do for the system of higher education. Will we let another century pass without doing anything about it?

Read the entire article if you have time. It's priceless. It talks about low faculty salaries, undue emphasis on athletics, the intrusion of corporate mentality on campuses. This is what it says about corporate administrators: "Standards of scholarship are beyond their comprehension, but size appeals to them, for to them size and success are synonymous terms." Did I not write the exact same thing in my posts on quantification and academia? It's almost word-for-word what I said on the subject. The article also talks about colleges being transformed into "degree mills" by this corporate-minded approach. 1914, people! This article is enough to make one believe in the transmigration of souls. This academic even writes in the same wordy style that I used to have. 


Pagan Topologist said...

While reading this excerpt I kept thinking "This is what the AAUP has always advocated. I was also pleased by the precise grammar, even in unusual usages and constructions. I was still surprised by the date and the source when you gave it. Popular Science is the second oldest continuously published periodical in the U. S. (The Nation is the oldest.)

Clarissa said...

I know because I'm a passionate fan of The Nation.

I can't help enjoying this kind of writing style almost against my will. I know people are not supposed to write like this any more, but why? oh why?

Anonymous said...

This is priceless. I will print out this article and it will circulate among my colleagues first thing tomorrow.


People are not supposed to write like this anymore, but why? oh why?
This is a good question, you know?

The academic prose today (mine included) is hopelessly flat.


Clarissa said...

"The academic prose today (mine included) is hopelessly flat."

-If you went to the same school as I did (wink, wink!), we all know why. :-)

Clarissa said...

I was kind of hoping that somebody would say "There were times your fantastic blog only had 3 visitors a day? How is that possible???"

Don't mind me, people, I'm just in a good mood. :-)