Monday, December 08, 2008

Academic Austerity

As a follow-up to the scattered notes on academic labor below, here's a link I missed to a very helpful post by Marc Bousquet over on How the University Works:

On the one hand, yesterday’s major AFT report on the permatemping of the faculty urges the necessity of reversing course on academic staffing. That would imply a greater investment in higher education, almost certainly including substantial federal leadership and funding. ...

On the other hand, as education “leaders” across the country have already made clear, their intentions aren’t really to get together and demand a “bailout” or a “new New Deal for higher ed,” etc. Why not? Instead they seem all too ready with even more grandiose plans for austerity.

That’s because administrations have found four decades of austerity useful to establish greater “productivity” (more work for less pay) and more “responsiveness to mission,” which is to say, more control over curriculum, research, and every dimension of teaching, from class size to pedagogy.

This tendency can certainly be seen on my campus. Nothing shifts decision making from shared faculty governance to administrative fiat quite so quickly as a good budget crisis. The fact that, as Bousquet writes, "many administrators welcome austerity" seems all too likely. It is certainly true that many university administrators have had significantly more experience at successfully implementing austerity measures than they have had at successfully resisting such measures.

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