Close

Not a member yet? Register now and get started.

lock and key

Sign in to your account.

Account Login

Forgot your password?

How Much Crisis?

28 Jun Posted by in Business | Comments Off on How Much Crisis?

I’m intrigued though not surprised at the extent to which the current fiscal crisis for universities, which is undeniable at least in the short term, produces all sorts of commentary about the larger demise of American universities as we know them. From some conservative politicians come calls for a vast expansion of the two-year college system, and possibly some new, cheap three-year colleges, on grounds that orthodox public universities have not been responsive to costs and access concerns. From some liberal educators come statements about the need for a massive recasting of teaching emphases and methods, toward greater student involvement and a more entrepreneurial approach (this last not in my view entirely clearly defined). This may relate to recent statements about the need to cut back on the number of research universities, though these come from other sources.

Obviously, all these diverse voices suggest some need to discuss more clearly how much crisis we’re in, which in turn involves careful consideration of the durability of the fiscal pressures and the extent to which these really relate to some of the larger concerns. I confess some personal skepticism about using the moment for larger agendas, because while I agree that universities change slowly, I’m not convinced that we’ve been doing a bad job overall. I am concerned about a number of proposals which, while phrased in different terms, really suggest much greater, structural inequalities within the university and college system than we now display — one of the strengths of our system, it seems to me, is that while it’s hierarchical, the hierarchy is fairly informal and porous — and a greater reinforcement of larger social inequalities through clearly differentiated college options, just at a time when higher education should be helping further to limit the disparities created by other mechanisms. I’m not sure it’s time to give up on adequate public funding, another risk in jumping too quickly from current crisis to radical restructuring.

But the whole issue of how much crisis does need to be aired, and I do think universities collectively need to take serious stock of some current expense categories, mainly rooted in the productivity of the personnel sector, so that we can assess, and perhaps resist, some of the other potshots with a house more clearly in order. Here, at least, the crisis should generate some innovative and responsive reaction.

How Much Crisis?

I’m intrigued though not surprised at the extent to which the current
fiscal crisis for universities, which is undeniable at least in the
short term, produces all sorts of commentary about the larger demise of
American universities as we know them. From some conservative
politicians come calls for a vast expansion of the two-year college
system, and possibly some new, cheap three-year colleges, on grounds
that orthodox public universities have not been responsive to costs and
access concerns. From some liberal educators come statements about the
need for a massive recasting of teaching emphases and methods, thoward
greater student involvement and a more entrepreneurial approach (this
last not in my view entirely clearly defined). This may relate to recent
statements about the need to cut back on the number of research
universities, though these come from other sources.

Obviously, all these diverse voices suggest some need to discuss
more clearly howl much crisis we’re in, which in turn involves careful
consideration of the durability of the fiscal pressures and the extent
to which these really relate to some of the larger concerns. I confess
some personal skepticism about using the moment for larger agendas,
because while I agree that universities change slowly I’m not convinced
that we’ve been doing a bad job overall. I am concerned about a number
of proposals which, while phrased in different terms, really suggest
much greater, structural inequalities within the university and college
system than we now display — one of the strengths of our system, it
seems to me, is that while it’s hierarchical the hierarchy is fairly
informal and porous — and a greater reinforcement of larger social
inequalities through clearly differentiated college options, just at a
time when higher education should be helping further to limit the
disparities created by other mechanisms. I’m not sure it’s time to give
up on adequate public funding, another risk in jumping too quickly from
current crisis to radical restructuring.

But the whole issue of how much crisis does need to be aired, and I
do think universities collectively need to take serious stock of some
current expense categories, mainly rooted in the productivity of the
personnel sector, so that we can assess, and perhaps resist, some of the
other potshots with a house more clearly in order. Here, at least, the
crisis should generate some innovative and responsive reaction.