Vital Signs

More Power to the Faculty?

"More power to the faculty" is the current rallying cry of academic reformers. This idea pops up with a persistence that goes beyond ideological divides, appealing even to self-described academic traditionalists, who view professional administrators and boards of regents and trustees as philosophically out of tune. This criticism does seem valid if one looks at the intrusion of the federal government into American higher education over the last half-century. By funding our universities, the state has made them into laboratories and bully pulpits for every government-sponsored crusade, from fighting fascism, communism, and segregation to laboring for multiculturalism. But worse than the government for many "moderate" conservatives (who may in fact understate government's contribution to the problem at hand) have been the new-class academic administrators who represent multiculturalism and political correctness. Academic Questions and other educationally traditional publications feature stories about such types, who are thought to typify the academic managerial class. Meanwhile, the left also calls for reining in academic management. In Dogmatic Wisdom, socialist Russell Jacoby argues that professors, not their administrative superiors, will maintain standards against capitalist commercialization. According to Jacoby, where academic resistance to the "depersonalization" of students and the treatment of learning...

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