Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Inside Higher Ed reviews Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University (University of Chicago Press, 2009), by Gaye Tuchman (University of Connecticut, Department of Sociology):
The book contains a discussion of the way faculty members look down on those who lead the university's divisions and colleges, viewing them as "corporate administrators" and not scholars. The professors check out the publication records of new administrators and gossip about how sparse or old they are. "When he wants to discuss research, he has to talk about his dissertation. He apparently hasn't done any research since then," quips a faculty member of one administrator. Another says of an administrator: "I don't know how many times I have heard him mention that he is a biologist. It's as though he mentions his field when he talks to [a group of faculty leaders] so that we will know he is intelligent." ...
In her concluding chapter, she calls Wannabe "a conformist university," with an emphasis on "doing what must be done to elbow its way up the rankings." She writes that the administration is imposing "an accountability regime" on faculty members. And she notes that while professors still have much more freedom than most American employees, "as the decades pass, working at a university will become more and more like working in the corporate world" and administrators will be hired for their ability to carry out corporate-style management. (While the book's barbs tend to find administrators as targets, it also criticizes professors, particularly for their lack of interest in teaching issues as compared to research agendas.)
The examples in the book portray an administration much more concerned with making the university look outstanding than actually becoming outstanding. And measures that Tuchman writes are of dubious value (U.S. News & World Report rankings, for example) appear to count much more than the vibrancy of intellectual life or the student learning experience. ...An abundance of evidence points to Wannabe's identity as UConn, Tuchman's employer.