Friday, December 5, 2008

HUNGARY: University rankings rejected

Writer: Nick Holdsworth
Date: 30 November 2008
Competitive university rankings have been rejected as an effective means of informing people about differing standards in higher education. A conference attended by delegates from European university and standards setting associations in Budapest last week agreed that rankings had "perverse effects".
See full story here

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Call for Proposals: Rouge Forum 2009—Education, Empire, Economy & Ethics at a Crossroads

Rouge Forum Conference 2009


Education, Empire, Economy & Ethics at a Crossroads

Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, MI

May 14-17, 2009

The theme for the 2009 Rouge Forum Conference is: “Education, Empire, Economy & Ethics at a Crossroads: What Do We Need to Know and How Can We Come to Know It?”

Bringing together academic presentations and performances (from some of the most prominent voices for democratic, critical, and/or revolutionary pedagogy), panel discussions, community-building, and cultural events, this action-oriented conference will center on questions such as:

✴What is the nature of the crossroads, where do the different paths lead, what are our choices and how do we implement them?

✴What does education for liberation look like compared to education for empire? Class struggle?

✴Are we at a turning point in history? Has the rightward shift stopped or will the economic crisis push the ruling class towards fascism?

✴What are the implications of 2008 election ballot initiatives?

✴How do education, empire, economy, ethics, and democracy intersect in classrooms and schools?

✴How do we learn and teach to get from where we are to where we need to be?

✴How can we educate to liberate ourselves from the impact of empire? OR, How are we teaching to push back the imperializing of our classrooms?

✴How do we stand up for the correctness of our ideas?

✴How does change happen (individually, within a school, within a district)?

✴What support, what conditions facilitate teachers being willing to take the step towards correct action?

To learn more about the conference, please contact any of our conference organizers:

Joe Bishop (
Greg Queen (
Adam Renner (
Wayne Ross (
Rich Gibson (


Review of Paper Proposals treating any of the above questions will begin 1 February 2009. Please send a 250-500 word proposal to Joe Bishop (, describing your work/project/manuscript, how it connects to one of the conference questions, and what participants might take away from attending your session. Classroom teachers and students are strongly encouraged to send their proposals.

Performance Proposals should also be forwarded to Joe Bishop ( by December 15, 2008. Please describe your art/performance and how it may relate to the conference topic/questions.

Monday, November 3, 2008

New Issue Announcement: Workplace #15 (Mental Labor Issue)

The editors of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor are proud to announce our latest issue, which is now available online at The issue begins with a special “Mental Labor” section, which was generously compiled and guest edited by Steven Wexler. We express our heartiest gratitude to him, as well as to web designers Stephen Petrina and Franc Feng.

The lead section includes:

(I’m)Material Labor in the Digital Age
by Steven Wexler

Autonomy vs. Insecurity: The (Mis)Fortunes of Mental Labor in a Global Network
by David B. Downing

Extreme Work-Study, or, The Real “Kid Nation”
by Marc Bousquet

From the *Grundrisse* to *Capital* and Beyond: Then and Now
by George Caffentzis

Ideology and the Crisis of Capitalism
by Thomas A. Hirschl, Daniel B. Ahlquist and Leland L. Glenna

Gender, Contingent Labor, and Our Virtual Bodies
by Desi Bradley

Our regular segment of “Feature Articles” contains the following:

Capitalism, Audit, and the Demise of the Humanistic Academy
by Charles Thorpe

Troubling Data: A Foucauldian Perspective of “a Multiple Data Source Approach” to Professional Learning and Evaluation
by Mark C. Baildon

And our “Book Reviews” section, edited for the final time by William Vaughn, features four new entries:

*Pedagogy and Praxis in the Age of Empire: Towards a New Humanism*
Reviewed by Dana Carluccio

*Taking Back the Workers’ Law: How to Fight the Assault on Labor Rights*
Reviewed by William Vaughn

*Three Strikes: Labor’s Heartland Losses and What They Mean for Working Americans*
Reviewed by Philip Eubanks

*Teachers as Owners: A Key to Revitalizing Public Education*
Reviewed by William Vaughn

The editors are extremely thankful to William Vaughn for years of fine work with the Book Reviews, and we are sorry to see him go. We are pleased to report, however, that Steven Wexler will take on the role of reviews editor in the coming issues.

Thank you for your continuing support of the journal, and please keep *Workplace* in mind as a venue for your future scholarship. Send submissions to or


Chris Carter
Wayne Ross
Stephen Petrina
Co-editors, Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Free inquiry at risk: universities in dangerous times

On October 29, 30 and 31, Social Research, the journal of The New School for Social Research in New York City, will host Free Inquiry at Risk: Universities in Dangerous Times in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the University in Exile at The New School. This three-day conference will feature leading scientists, academics, and university presidents in public dialogue about the trends facing universities around the world that put academic freedom and free inquiry at risk. The keynote event will be on 30 October at 6:00PM at which Aryeh Neier, President, Open Society Institute, will talk with endangered scholars from Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Belarus and China.
More information at or email socres [at]

Friday, October 3, 2008

Adjuncts Fight Back Over Academic Freedom

"Steven Bitterman was on his way to teach a course in Western civilization at Southwestern Community College last fall" ... "he got a telephone call from one of the college's vice presidents, saying he had been fired. Three students, the vice president told Mr. Bitterman, were offended because he had told his class that people could more easily appreciate the biblical story of Adam and Eve if they considered it a myth." ...
"The American Association of University Professors is also paying more attention to the academic freedom of professors who work off the tenure track. Such instructors now make up nearly 70 percent of the nation's professoriate. The instructors who have been fired typically have been terminated after discussing hot-button issues: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, religion, and homosexuality, for example."
Read full story in Chronicle of Higher Education here

Sunday, August 31, 2008

DENMARK: Academics sign up to protest

by Ard Jongsma
Danish academics are collecting signatures to convince Science Minister Helge Sander that opposition to the current education law is, in their words, “no sectarian craving from a dissatisfied minority…but has a broad basis of support among Danish students and researchers”.
Full report on the University World News site

Friday, August 29, 2008

AAUP Completes Dream Team

"Gary Rhoades, who transformed our understanding of the professoriate with the publication of Managed Professsionals and Academic Capitalism in the New Economy, will join Cary Nelson at the helm of the AAUP in January. As director of the Institute for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona, he is already a leading international authority on the complex of issues most pressing for AAUP: the assault on faculty culture by administration via the forced introduction of academic-capitalist values and practices; deprofessionalization and casualization; and the complex global-economic relations between state, market, and campus actors."
— read the story in Chronicle of Higher Education:

Monday, August 18, 2008

North Carolina State U undermines academic freedom of film scholar

For the Naitonal Project to Defend Dissent and Critical Thinking in Academia


As you know, since 9/11, the right has ramped up its attack on academics who dare to dissent from the U. S. occupation of Iraq and its policy in the Middle East more generally. Neo-McCarthyite groups like the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, Students for Academic Freedom and the David Project have published lists of “disloyal” faculty and scurrilous reports on allegedly "anti-American" courses dealing with U.S. imperialism, Islam and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Respected scholars who study and write about such subjects -such as Norman Finkelstein-- have been denied tenure solely on the basis of their politics. Others, like Ward Churchill, have had tenure summarily stripped from them.

In similar instances, applications for tenure have been seriously threatened (Nadia Abu El-Haj: Joseph Massad) and books and their publishers have been targeted for censorship (i.e. Joel Kovel’s book “Overcoming Zionism” and University of Michigan Press). Now, the assault on academic freedom has effected yet another critical scholar: Terri Ginsberg, a Ph.D. in Cinema Studies from NYU and an authority on Israeli and Palestinian film.

Last fall, Terri was hired to a one year, non-tenure track position in Film Studies at North Carolina State University (with the possibility of renewal). As part of her teaching responsibilities, she offered advanced courses on film and media treatment of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and on the political aesthetics of Holocaust film (the subject of her recent book) ; she was also charged with helping to program a Middle Eastern film series.

Unfortunately, as Terri details in a grievance she filed with the NCSU Faculty in March 2008, the director of the film studies program and the director of the Middle East studies program at NCSU made a number of administrative decisions in the course of the past year that flagrantly violated Terri’s academic freedom.

To begin with, they limited her involvement in the film series which she had been hired to curate, and criticized the introduction she gave at a screening of the Palestinian film “Ticket to Jerusalem” as biased and overly political. Moreover, the director of the film studies program refused to purchase many of the materials Terri had requested for her Palestine/Israel film and media course and submitted her evaluation of Terri’s teaching prematurely. All of this culminated in her contract not being renewed for the upcoming academic year.

The grievance Terri filed with the NCSU Faculty alleged violations of her First Amendment and equal opportunity rights under the University Code. Despite a recommendation from the NCSU Faculty Chair that her case be given a full hearing, NCSU Chancellor James L. Oblinger summarily dismissed her petition on the grounds that it was filed “too late” and that Terri was no longer a university employee. To make atters worse, the AAUP-- who had been helping Terri with her case-- informed her in
the wake of Oblinger’s decision that they would no longer provide her with assistance. (For more information about the facts of Terri’s case, read the following article:

In response to this outrage, people from around the world have been inundating NCSU with letters demanding that the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees allow Terri’s grievance to go forward. An online petition has been started that requests that NCSU consider Terri’s case and asks the AAUP to give her the support she deserves.

Please take a few minutes to help Terri in this fight. First, add your name to the petition of support drafted by Academics for Justice (

Second, send e-mails and make phone calls to D. McQueen Campbell, chair of the NSCU Board of Trustees, andD. McQueen Campbell, Chair NCSU Board of Trustees
tele: 919-515-2195
fax: 919-831-3545

Dr. Larry A. Nielsen, NCSU Provost &
Executive Vice Chancellor
tele: 919-515-2195
fax: 919-515-5921

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Online campaign to help Gaza's students reach their studies abroad

Currently, hundreds of Palestinian students are trapped in the Gaza Strip - unable to reach the universities around the world to which they have been accepted. Since June of 2007, Israel has imposed a closure on the Strip, violating the right to freedom of movement and other rights for which freedom of movement is a pre-condition, such as the right to access education.

Faced with pressure from world leaders outraged over the ban, Israeli officials declared recently that they would allow exit for just a few dozen students in Gaza holding "recognized scholarships" as a gesture to "friendly countries" but will continue to prevent hundreds of other students from reaching their studies. With each passing day, Gaza's most talented young people risk losing their places in universities abroad - and losing their chance to pursue their dreams of building a better future in the region.

Further information on this issue is available in Gisha's report issued in June 2008 and in Gisha's July 2008 Power Point Presentation.

With the new academic year fast approaching, Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement is working to persuade Israeli authorities to cancel the ban on students leaving the Gaza Strip and to allow Gaza's students to reach their studies abroad. One of the ways we are doing so is via a new internet campaign, in which banners featuring the students (see an example of one which I've attached below) are passed along through mailing lists and posted on blogs. Clicking on the banner then leads to the campaign's minisite:, where visitors can send a message to Israeli leaders in support of the right of Palestinian students in Gaza to reach their studies.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Free Inquiry at Risk

Social Research: An International Quarterly of the Social Sciences
exchanges advertisement with
Journal of Research Practice

-- Please share this in your academic/research network --

A Social Research Conference at The New School
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, October 29, 30, and 31, 2008

Join us as a group of experts discuss trends that are reshaping universities around the world. What are the benefits and what are the risks to the universities' core values of academic freedom and free inquiry as they navigate rapid globalization, international collaborations,
massification, corporate partnerships, and growing franchises. This conference commemorates the 75th anniversary of The New School's University in Exile, founded as a haven for European scholars rescued from the ravages of fascism.

John L. Tishman Auditorium, 66 West 12th Street, NYC
Full conference $30, $10 per session (Students are free)

Roberta Sutton
Conference Coordinator
The New School for Social Research
65 Fifth Avenue, 375 New York, NY 10003
P: (212) 229-5776 x 3121 F: (212) 229-5476
E: W:
Please visit Free Inquiry at Risk: Universities in Dangerous Times at
The journal, Social Research has provided a link to JRP on its Web site: In return, the Journal of Research Practice has provided a link to their "Free Inquiry" conference on the JRP home page:
D. P. Dash, Editor, Journal of Research Practice (JRP)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Academic Tenure Under Threat in Ireland

Higher Education in Ireland is provided by universities, institutes of technology and colleges of education. There are seven universities in Ireland. The institutions of higher education are publicly funded institutions with some institutional autonomy and receive about 90% of their income from state funds. Although they are autonomous institutions, the universities' duties and responsibilities are laid down by the Universities Act 1997. They are also monitored by a statutory body, the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which allocates the funding coming from the state.

About 80% of the academic staff in Ireland hold permanent tenured positions. All full time academic staff are officers of the state and tenured in the sense that they can not be fired without a serious cause, such as incompetence or outrageous conduct. In this sense, job security can be considered high (for instance, compared to the UK where only about 55% hold permanent contracts and there is no tenure). The academic staff who are not protected by tenure are primarily those who are in fixed term or temporary employment. In recent years, there has been an increase in the numbers of academics who are employed on non permanent conditions.

The first appointment to an academic position at an Irish university usually is at the level of lecturer. Lecturers need a PhD degree and preferably publications of high quality. Permanent positions of lecturer start with a probationary period of 12 months. At the end of this period, the promotion committee (invariably made up of senior officers of the university together with four elected academic staff representatives) decides on whether to award tenure or extend the probation period. A positive evaluation requires satisfactory performance of lecturing and other duties, evidence of interest in the pursuit of research and scholarship, and contribution and interest in the departmental development. Upon completion of satisfactory probation, the lecturer is granted tenure

Nowadays lectureships are often temporary - one, three or five years. Many new temporary jobs of one year have emerged because of government funding of temporary positions through the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI), Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS): they award funding which includes money to pay for replacement lecturers.

In February 2007, the HIGH COURT in Dublin, Ireland adjudicated on a case involving the interpretation of academic tenure and in particular, Article 5.1. of a controversial Statute of one of its seven Universities, Dublin City University (DCU). The DCU Statute 3 declared

“The tenure of officers of the university shall be such tenure as is conferred on each such officer in his or her individual contract with the university”.

As all DCU contracts of employment are legally constructed to allow the University to unilaterally terminate any contract by the giving of three months notice without cause or reason, the outgoing President of the University, Ferdinand Von Prondzynski, (an academic and employment lawyer by training) believed he could overcome the legal requirements of Universities Act, 1997 Section 25 (6) to "provide for academic tenure" by crafting this wording to stand up to legal scrutiny.

In the case, the Court addressed the question of the meaning of the word “tenure” as used in s. 25(6) of the University Act, 1997. The judge declared that the term as used must go further than a mere specification of the terms of employment. As pointed out a university already has (under subs. (3)) an entitlement to fix the terms and conditions of all employees (including officers). If the obligation to provide for tenure merely meant, as argued by DCU, an obligation to provide for the terms and conditions of employment so far as the length of that employment was concerned, then it would be a redundant obligation as that obligation is already covered by subs. (3). He concluded that the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) must have used the term “tenure” to mean something more than simply delineating terms and conditions as to the length of employment.

He was also satisfied that the term “tenure” brings with it an obligation to give a greater degree of permanency to the status of officers of a university, than would be the case in circumstances where, as a matter of contract, such officers could have their contract terminated on three months notice. He was also satisfied that the purported specification of tenure by a University Statute by reference to contracts of employment which, on the facts, provide for termination on three months notice, was an invalid exercise of the undoubted entitlement of the university to specify tenure.

The President of DCU appealed the judgement and the Case is now heading to the Supreme Court in Ireland for a further definitive ruling. The outcome of the Supreme Court hearing will have major implications for academic staff and academic tenure in all Irish universities but a hearing and judgment will take some time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Journals under Threat : A Joint Response from HSTM Editors

We live in an age of metrics. All around us, things are being standardized, quantified, measured. Scholars concerned with the work of science and technology must regard this as a fascinating and crucial practical, cultural and intellectual phenomenon. Analysis of the roots and meaning of metrics and metrology has been a preoccupation of much of the best work in our field for the past quarter century at least. As practitioners of the interconnected disciplines that make up the field of science studies we understand how significant, contingent and uncertain can be the process of rendering nature and society in grades, classes and numbers. We now confront a situation in which our own research work is being subjected to putatively precise accountancy by arbitrary and unaccountable agencies. Some may already be aware of the proposed European Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH), an initiative originating with the European Science Foundation. The ERIH is an attempt to grade journals in the humanities – including “history and philosophy of science”. The initiative proposes a league table of academic journals, with premier, second and third divisions. According to the European Science Foundation, ERIH “aims initially to identify, and gain more visibility for, top-quality European Humanities research published in academic journals in, potentially, all European languages”. It is hoped “that ERIH will form the backbone of a fully-fledged research information system for the Humanities”. What is meant, however, is that ERIH will provide funding bodies and other agencies in Europe and elsewhere with an allegedly exact measure of research quality. In short, if research is published in a premier league journal it will be recognized as first rate ; if it appears somewhere in the lower divisions, it will be rated (and not funded) accordingly.

This initiative is entirely defective in conception and execution. Consider the major issues of accountability and transparency. The process of producing the graded list of journals in science studies was overseen by a committee of four (the membership is currently listed at This committee cannot be considered representative. It was not selected in consultation with any of the various disciplinary organizations that currently represent our field such as BSHS, HSS, PSA, SHoT or SSSS. Only in June 2008 were journal editors belatedly informed of the process and its relevant criteria or asked to provide any information regarding their publications. No indication has been given of the means through which the list was compiled ; nor how it might be maintained in the future.

The ERIH depends on a fundamental misunderstanding of conduct and publication of research in our field, and in the humanities in general. Journals’ quality cannot be separated from their contents and their review processes. Great research may be published anywhere and in any language. Truly ground-breaking work may be more likely to appear from marginal, dissident or unexpected sources, rather than from a well-established and entrenched mainstream. Our journals are various, heterogeneous and distinct. Some are aimed at a broad, general and international readership, others are more specialized in their content and implied audience. Their scope and readership say nothing about the quality of their intellectual content. The ERIH, on the other hand, confuses internationality with quality in a way that is particularly prejudicial to specialist and non-English language journals. In a recent report, the British Academy, with judicious understatement, concludes that “the European Reference Index for the Humanities as presently conceived does not represent a reliable way in which metrics of peer-reviewed publications can be constructed.” Such exercises as ERIH can become self-fulfilling prophecies. If such measures as ERIH are adopted as metrics by funding and other agencies, then many in our field will conclude that they have little choice other than to limit their publications to journals in the premier division. We will sustain fewer journals, much less diversity and impoverish our discipline.

Along with many others in our field, this Journal has concluded that we want no part of this illegitimate and misguided exercise. This joint Editorial is being published in journals across the fields of history of science and science studies as an expression of our collective dissent and our refusal to allow our field to be managed and appraised in this fashion. We have asked the compilers of the ERIH to remove our journals’ titles from their lists.

Neil Barton (Transactions of the Newcomen Society)
Robert Fox (Notes & Records of the Royal Society)
Michael Hoskin (Journal for the History of Astronomy)
Nick Jardine (Studies in History and Philosophy of Science)
Trevor Levere (Annals of Science)
Bernie Lightman (Isis)
Michael Lynch (Social Studies of Science)
Peter Morris (Ambix)
Iwan Rhys Morus (History of Science)
Simon Schaffer (British Journal for the History of Science)

[editorial note: the protest can be read on this site: (as of July 16, 2008)]

Friday, July 11, 2008

Students around the world are struggling

Students around the world are struggling against neoliberal reforms and the privatisation of education right now.

In 2007 alone students in over 30 countries staged partly massive protests against exploding tuition fees and turning of universities into business and corporate entities.
Check out this list of protests:

A truly democratic society needs emancipated citizens. And for that we need emancipating - instead of privatised and commercialised - education!
The following Group is for Free and Emancipating education worldwide. Join the “International Students Movement for Free and Emancipating Education”:

If we unite in our struggle against the commercialisation of education, then we stand a chance!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Demos debate: Is public science a public good?

Is public science a public good? - A debate on the future of university

Thursday, 15th May 2008, 4pm- 6pm

Portcullis House, London, SW1A 2LW


* Philip Moriarty, Professor of Physics, University of Nottingham
* Ben Goldacre, writer of the Guardian's Bad Science column
* Terence Kealey, Vice Chancellor, University of Buckingham
* John Pethica, Chief Scientist, National Physical Laboratory
* Phil Willis MP, Chair, Innovation, Universities and Skills Select Committee
* Ian Gibson MP, Member, Innovation, Universities and Skills Select Committee
* Jack Stilgoe, Demos

Should we be worried about companies funding university science? Does it
boost innovation or poison science and blacken our ivory towers? Should
science aim to change the world or fuel the economy? Join us for a
debate on the future of science in universities.

This event is hosted by Ian Gibson MP and Phil Willis MP, with the
support of the Institute of Physics.

Spaces are limited. RSVP to science [at]

Building everyday democracy
to subscribe to free email updates:

Call for Papers: Universities and Corporatization

New Proposals: Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary Inquiry

Call for Papers for Volume 2, Issue 1.

The Editorial Collective invites submissions for Volume 2 of New Proposals.
We encourage the submission of papers that take a politically engaged
stance. We are interested in full length articles (3,000 to 5,000 words) as
well as shorter commentaries (up to 2,500 words).

Papers should be no more than 3,000 - 5,000 words. References and citations
are to be kept to the minimum required to advance your argument. Articles
can be based in original research, synthetic reviews, or theoretical
engagements. We look forward to -in fact expect- a diversity of
perspectives and approaches that, while they may disagree on the
particulars, they will share with the Editorial Collective a commitment to
an engaged scholarship that prioritizes social justice.

New Proposals is a transnational peer-reviewed journal hosted at The
University of British Columbia in collaboration with the UBC Library
Journal Project.

Call For Papers, Volume 2, Issue 2 (Fall 2008)

Universities and Corporatization

What is the role of the university and the meaning of education at the
beginning of the twenty first century? How are corporate money, influence
and ideology shaping the face of the university? How do crushing debt loads
constrain student choices and shape the kind of education they seek and

Over the past few decades, people in many countries have experienced a
steady corporatization of their universities. University administrations
are increasingly structured on a corporate model and academic success is
defined by profit. For this upcoming special issue of New Proposals, we are
interested in articles and commentaries that analyze this situation in
different countries and regions. We welcome contributions that ask the
following kinds of questions: How is the privatization of the university
expressed and experienced in diverse settings? How do ‘audit culture’
governance systems exacerbate bureaucracy and influence the allocation of
resources? Has the debate about this issue been framed differently in the
case of public versus private universities? To what extent have faculty,
staff, and student unions and organizations intervened? How have public
intellectuals responded to this issue in different countries in the past
and present? Have various countries and different systems of education been
more or less successful in resisting this corporate model?

For this special issue, we welcome shorter commentaries (up to 2,500 words)
as well as full length articles. In particular, we are interested in essays
that develop a comparative perspective.
New Proposals: Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary Inquiry

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Freedom of inquiry

University World News this week introduces a new fortnightly column reporting on how academics in countries around the world endure attacks on their freedom to conduct research, to speak out publicly on political and social issues, and to teach students through their own example how to become independent-minded.

The articles can be found on

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Perils, Rewards and Delusions of Campus Capitalism

From a review of:
Science for Sale: The Perils, Rewards and Delusions of Campus Capitalism
by Daniel S. Greenberg
University of Chicago Press

reviewed by: Michael M. Crow
“Daniel Greenberg is widely considered the premier journalist of science policy, having written extensively on the subject over the course of its 60-year evolution in the United States. Science for Sale is his latest offering. It provides an intriguing, if idealistic, review of the issues surrounding the funding of science in the twenty-first century. Greenberg posits that science was once, and should be again, driven by the pure curiosity of scientists and not by motives influenced by the stress of external funding and the negative forces of capitalism. Unfortunately, science past did not really exist in the way he spends so much time describing in the book.
Greenberg’s idyllic views — in particular that the academic scientist and the university are best motivated by curiosity alone — are interesting. But they run counter to history, to how organizations operate and, perhaps most importantly, to the understanding that ‘the university’ itself is an idea, not an ideal or an ideology.” (...)

Comment to the review in:
NATURE, Vol 452, 13 March 2008
How academic corporatism can lead to dictatorship

SIR — Michael Crow’s Book Review of Daniel Greenberg’s Science for Sale (Nature 449, 405; 2007) calls for a response because it reflects a worsening philosophical divide in US academia between those who regard universities as analogous to corporations and think they should be run that way (mostly career administrators) and those who see universities as primarily intellectual enterprises governed by academic core values (mostly line faculty). Asserting that the university is an idea — not an ideal or an ideology — Crow, who is president of Arizona State University, plays down or ignores most of the dangerous consequences of campus capitalism.

Faculty members would generally hold that universities represent ideals as well as ideas. These are manifest in a value system that is among the first casualties of academic corporatism. Derived from political corporatism, academic corporatism is an administrative strategy that is antithetical to the spirit that academics hold dear — including openness, transparency, collegiality, meritocracy, rule-governed procedures, balanced curriculum, a level playing field for probationary faculty and participation by faculty in governance. Like its political counterpart, academic corporatism often results in dictatorships, with ideas originating only from the top and nothing going the other way. Academic assemblies, unions and senates are eviscerated, neutralized or eliminated altogether. Faculty members are disenfranchised. There is a chilling effect on free speech and the notion of an open marketplace for ideas. This can wreak havoc with a university’s curriculum, jeopardize its intellectual and educational missions and compromise its future. As former Harvard president Derek Bok said: “The end to which this process could lead is not a pleasant prospect to behold.”
G. A. Clark
Department of Anthropology, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-2402, USA

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Threatening academic freedom at European University at St Petersburg

"Part of the Putin government's long-term campaign to consolidate an increasingly tight system of authoritarian control, while maintaining some of the outward forms of representative democracy and constitutional government, has been a systematic and wide-ranging effort to shut down, suppress, or marginalize independent institutions, organizations, and associations - especially, though not exclusively, those with any western or other international ties." writes political sociologist Jeff Weintraub on his blog February 22. "So far, this campaign has largely spared the academic world. But that is no longer the case. The European University in Saint Petersburg has been the object of strident public attacks, and now it has been shut down on the basis of what looks to everyone like a transparently fraudulent pretext." (see his follow-up).

David Pescovitz made this comment of February 26: "Late last year, the European University at St. Petersburg in Russia launched a project to study how elections in Russia could be protected from rigging. That line of inquiry pissed off Russian President Vladimir Putin. Feeling the Kremlin's thumb, the university's academic council killed the project on January 31. Yet just two weeks later, the St. Petersburg court shut down the school as a "fire risk." Coincidence? Unlikely. And now today, it's come out that the university has lost its license to operate. The Rector of the school says that if it isn't granted a new license within a month, the institution will be closed for good. A dear friend of mine, who emigrated from Russia in the 1980s, comments that this whole situation "is becoming so reminiscent of the old Soviet Union.""

Toda you could read at EUSP's own website, "On February 22, the EUSP signed a contract with the “Institute of Economics and Finance” to provide the EUSP with the premises necessary to conduct education until July 1 of this year. The premises meet all requirements of the State Fire"; and a press release of February 27 stating "There are no teaching activities in the University due to the suspension of the license. "

Founded in 1994, the European University at St Petersburg is one of Russia's top universities, with close links to leading higher education institutions in the UK and US. Launched at the initiative of St Petersburg's liberal mayor Anatoly Sobchak, the graduate university is known for its progressive views and western-educated teaching staff. It currently has 120 Russian graduates and 10-15 western students studying for an MA in Russian studies. Uniquely, the university attracts students from Europe to study in Russia. Its aim is to integrate Russian scholarship with scholarship in Europe and America, at a time when Russian scholarship is becoming increasingly isolated from the west.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Knocked by the market mechanisms

I almost laughed when Amazon knocked at my inbox with this ad:
We've noticed that customers who have purchased or rated "University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of American Higher Education" by Jennifer Washburn have also purchased "Strategic Financial Challenges: New Directions for Higher Education" by Lucie Lapovsky. For this reason, you might like to know that "Strategic Financial Challenges: New Directions for Higher Education" will be released on March 7, 2008. You can pre-order yours by following the link below.

Hey, I’m not interested in being strategic about financial challenges, I thought. Yet, I was tempted to take a look, but the Amazon page for that book didn’t reveal much. I went to another book by Lapovsky - Roles and Responsibilities of the Chief Financial Officer: New Directions for Higher Education - and read its description:

With demands for improved quality, increasing competition for state and federal funds, and the challenges of integrating technology into the curriculum, higher education faces greater economic uncertainties than ever before. The chief financial officer (CFO) of any higher education institution stands squarely in the middle of this maelstrom. This issue of New Directions for Higher Education offers CFOs proven strategies for balancing the operating and capital budgets, maximizing net enrollment revenues, containing costs, planning for the resource needs of technology, identifying and managing risks, and investing the endowment wisely. The contributors discuss how CFOs can build positive relationships with key players in the campus’s financial planning and budget, including admissions and financial aid staff, state legislatures, and the board investment committee.

Gosh, I’m happy not being a CFO! What kind of job is this? Let’s make a cause for crisis psychology for traumatised CFOs having hard times building “positive relationships with key players in the campus” when the faculty withdraw when market mechanisms threaten to knock-out academic expertise in university governance.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Knowledge as a public good implies Open-access

In the post "Access and Taxes" to a new interesting blog Knowledge Rules, John Willinski, a Stanford professor of education, discusses open-access policy and its potential impact on the public use of knowledge. Willinski is concerned with both the public service question and current changes in scholarly communication when the universities are in a position to direct endowment earnings toward greatly increasing access to the very body of knowledge they produce:
"Access to this body of knowledge could mean anyone could add high-quality, easily accessible references to such public services as Wikipedia and MIT’s highly celebrated Open Course Ware with its course syllabus and instructional materials. It would alter the balance between sound and questionable information online, and serve, in this way, the larger world of interested scholars and dedicated amateurs, concerned parents and social activists, high school teachers and other professionals, policy-makers and, yes, lobbyists. Does free access to research and scholarship sound too far-fetched, [...] ?"

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rethinking the University after Bologna

On December 12-13 2008 the University Centre Saint-Ignatius Antwerp (UCSIA) organizes a two-day international conference in Antwerp, Belgium:

Rethinking the university after Bologna:
new concepts and practices beyond tradition and the market

The conference will address several issues. First it wants to examine why we should look for alternatives at all. To do that, it identifies problems not only just in the entrepreneurial model, but also in the ‘old’ or traditional model it replaces. Second it then wants to look for new ways of organizing, practicing and conceptualizing university life. It will look for alternatives in different directions: new practices inside the university as well as practices outside the institution and practices at the borders, which may inspire university institutions.
In the framework of this conference, UCSIA holds a general call for papers/workshops. We accept paper/workshop proposals on the following topics:
· What are the possible dysfunctions of both the traditional models and the entrepreneurial alternative of universities?
· Why should we look for alternative models of higher education and research?
· What are the side effects of the entrepreneurial university?
· What are the consequences of commercialising higher education?
· Are there trade offs between accountability and academic freedom?
· What are the alternatives for non-institutionalised universities?
· What is the future for new open source movements, open access systems and open educational resources?
· How promising are new organisational alternatives for higher education and academic research?

Proposals should be submitted in English the latest by April 15th 2008 to sara . mels @ ua . ac . be 

More information (cfp, programme etc), see conference website:*UCSIA2&n=61857&ct=60273

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Denmark – a spearhead of political research management

A chain of legislation, minimized economy and chains of contractual obligations has provided the government with powerful tools by which to steer the Universities. On the top of it Danish politicians has legislated against freedom of research…
by Jørgen Øllgaard

The University is the foundation stone of democracy. Ideally, it is an institution wholly independent of political and economic interests, whose scholars strive to uncover scientific truths in accordance with their professional and objective convictions. Scholars should be free to voice criticism, to play the Devil’s Advocate, to speak out against those in power without risking their livelihoods.
None of this is the case in Denmark, the only country to have legislated against freedom of research. While the Danish University Law (§ 17, subsection 2) states that the choice of scientific method remains at the hands of the individual scholar, he or she is by no means necessarily sovereign in selecting the research topic, this being the case only where scholars have not been directed to carry out other research or perform contractual tasks. Moreover, research must be carried out within the research-strategic framework of the department. Line managers are thus able to freely dictate the kinds of research work scholars are to undertake. Clearly, this has little to do with freedom.
In practice, little ever surfaces about such dictates, mainly because scholars are reticent about voicing dissent in public for fear of jeopardising career opportunities. Basically, scholars simply tend to adjust after negotiation. Arguments along the lines of staff doing wise to stick to departmental research strategies defined at managerial level are usually quite effective. This is a form of discreet research management, fostered by strategies financially supported by government and implemented partly in the form of so-called ‘public authority tasks’ which universities now are obliged to carry out for government.
The so-called ’merger law’ of 2007 for Danish - the ‘Fusion-university law’ - is a remarkable demonstration of the managerial wishes of government. With an attention to detail quite unprecedented internationally, universities are now regulated harshly and have little freedom to manoeuvre. The legislation should not be seen in isolation from a whole series of initiatives: the merger law, developmental contracts, accrediting procedures and public authority tasks all are part of a chain of contractual obligations combining together to provide government with powerful tools by which to manage the scholarly activities of universities.
Denmark is in that way a European spearhead regarding political research management and a horror-scenario for others – and no doubt that there are research politicians and administrators in other countries that would like to copy the Danish model. In Europe, Danish politicians are those most likely to use university research as an instrument to support national industry and governmental bodies (and regarding the Barcelona & Lisbon objectives, which state that European universities need to improve innovation, business partnerships and so on in order to compete with the US and Asia). It is a small country with a well organized welfare-state, that allows politicians to steer research policy down to the last detail. In that way the Danish system has adapted some of the thinking of the east-communist 5-year-plans. The Danish politicians have the structure and the instruments to control university activities strategically with a hard hand – and do use it.

The 5 characteristics of the Danish system:

1. The universities’ system of government has been established by detailed legislation: Top-down control with supreme power in the hands of appointed managers and no contributory influence for faculty, who no longer have the power to elect department heads.
Seen in an international context, the recent Danish University Act is a remarkable piece of legislation in terms of the number of legal dictates, its facilitation of centralised management and the minimal degree of collegiate influence it accords to faculty. The Act introduced “politicised” executive boards with external majorities and external chairmen, as well as appointed vice-chancellors and faculty and department heads. The board is approved by itself; it appoints vice-chancellors, who appoints deans who appoint heads of department.
In Denmark, power is concentrated solely in the hands of the board and the vice-chancellor. The traditional supreme governing body, the Senate (konsistorium) has been abolished and replaced by what is termed an “Academic Council”, which has no power in any matter of significance. Whether or not economic or strategic priorities are to be put to the Council is purely a matter for the discretion of the vice-chancellor and heads of faculty, but the Council itself has no formal or practical influence. This kind of concentration of power is wholly particular to the Danish system, Academia being firmly established in other countries (apart from certain restrictions in the Netherlands and Canada) by way of ‘collegiate academic contributory influence’ involving genuine instruments of power, ‘collegiate organs’ being accorded decisive authority in decision-making processes.
At the same time, the index reveals that Danish academics have little or no influence on the appointment of department heads (this is also the case in Spain, Portugal and Romania).
(In comparison the Danish conditions are the worst in views of academic freedom and influence, if one uses UNESCO-criteria as Terence Karran's report "Academic Freedom in Europe: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis" (2007, in Higher Education Policy 20: 289–313 [pdf]).

2. Contract policy: Universities are legally obliged to enter into contract with the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Technology as regards establishing strategic objectives, success criteria, research priorities, study programmes, etc.
Denmark is clearly out on its own insofar as universities now are obliged by law to enter into ‘achievement contracts’ with government allowing state powers to directly impose upon universities strategic objectives, success criteria, research policies, study programmes, teaching courses and so on. This kind of politicisation has no parallel in the UK, Sweden or Norway (again, for some countries this is left unspecified).

3. After a fusion of Universities there are now 8 Universities altogether. In the same manoeuvre Government research institutes were merged with the universities as per January 1 2007, committing the universities to carry out ‘commissioned research’ tasks. The Minister is furthermore empowered to impose upon universities particular assignments such as the preparation of scientific reports or monitoring tasks concerning e.g. environment issues, food standards, etc.
Governmental bodies can impose upon universities government research tasks, so-called “public authority tasks”/commissioned research for government ministries and related institutions. Moreover, the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation can direct universities to carry out commissions for government ministries in cases of ‘particular public importance’, for example relating to the environment, food, agriculture and fisheries and so on.
Danish universities have become ‘fusion universities’, forced to fusion with former Commissioned Research-bodies and so operate in fields sometimes ‘politicised’. The assimilation of government research to universities will likely result in the dismantling of free research principles, universities being directly or indirectly obliged to perform commissioned research for public authorities. Even if these kinds of ‘special assignments’ may be confined to a limited number of research units, this obviously does little to alter the fact that university faculty will have be called upon to carry them out, a fact which cannot but negatively affect free research. Traditionally, such work does not fall under the auspices of the independent university - Danish universities are losing their independence of government and the political system, leaving their definition as universities entirely in jeopardy.

4. Restricted freedom of research (choice) for the individual: The Academics has no freedom of choosing subject, but has freedom of ‘theory and method’. This limitation is sophisticated as academics can be directed by department heads to perform certain research activities, and therefore not be able to choose research field by themselves.
It is also limited in another way, as where the head has not instructed such imposition, the researcher choice are limited to “freely conduct scientific research within the bounds of the research-strategic framework laid out by the University”, the latter being specified in the Achievement Contract drawn up with the Ministry. This means that if a university has not mentioned a researchers specific field in its strategic framework, the head of department can prohibit activity in alternative fields.
(To be fair, the public has no knowledge of conflicts on the limitations until now; no researcher dares to make it public as whistleblowing will make your position to the head and leadership impossible. When you for instance hear about conflicts as a journalist, the involved researcher don’t want you to write about it).

5. All the other initiatives are supported by a large redistribution of research money. The governmental plan is to ‘invite to competition’, which in liberal terms means that there has to be more sound competition between institutions and researchers - and in political terms means that the politicians can delegate the research money, where they want them to go. The basic grants for the universities have (roughly) been frozen at the same level for years. The pools for free research without specific conditions or terms (under the Free Research Council) has declined. In the same time pools for strategic research or innovation has increased more than 50 percent the last 5 years. Collaboration with private partners or industry is rewarded. This means the politicians have selected specific research themes in science, medicine or technology. And this means that the researchers have to run for the money in specific fields – which is a sophisticated way of disciplining the scientific world.

Behind these moves lies a concerted strategy to turn Danish universities into national instruments of business and government.
It is a big mistake to minimalize these drastic reforms to a result of the evil hand of an ultra-rightwinged government (of Anders Fogh Rasmussen). What is paradoxical is that the most vociferous protests have come from executive board chairmen (typically former captains of industry). They were seemingly appointed under the impression that they were to be operating with certain degrees of freedom, whereas in actual fact the politicians have simply increased the political-administrative control. Protests from rank-and-file academics are few and far between: critics, who are typically anonymous, claim they have been “bullied into silence” (which make journalism on the subject very difficult, I can tell from personal experience).
In parliamentary terms what is interesting is that on all these drastic reform measures there is wide consensus in the Parliament (Folketinget), only the smaller leftwing parties having remained sceptical. The Social Democrats aggrees, they are busy trying to employ a soft-line, Blair-like profile. For the Social Democrats, research policy has always been about technology policy, technical innovation and creation of new (industrial) jobs as prime motors of economic growth. And they are highly cognisant of the fact that a high-profile ‘support academic freedom’ platform is hardly going to bring in the votes from the broad population.

(See international comparison:

Jørgen Øllgaard ( is a sociologist and journalist. He is editor of FORSKERforum (, the monthly magazine for employees at Danish Universities.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Resisting the University (Conference at University of British Columbia, March 3-7, 2008)


Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada is hosting a Week of Resistance! We'll be discussing the privatization and commodification of education with an anti-military, anti-gentrification and direct-action bent! Join us if you're a student activist, a wanna-be student activist or simply intrigued by student activism and open to learn more about it! This conference is open to everyone as the issues explored are consequential for society at large.

email to get involved.

bookface group:

12-2 p.m. -- Opening Ceremony:
Keynote: DAVID NOBLE - “From Whining to Winning: Winning the Battle with the University—Dummy Corporations and all!”
David Noble is one of Canada’s most famous professor-activists. He’s currently a history professor at York University. He’s flying all the way out here to share his experiences fighting the Corporate University – and winning!

5-7 p.m. -- "Military-free UBC" panel
SDS Tacoma, UVIC anti-military recruiters and more discussing anti-military strategies on campus and what you can do about it!

12-2 p.m. -- "Labour and Corporatization of Campus" panel
The issue of rising sessesional instructors, the connection between labor and race and the CocaCola bastards on campus will be addressed all in one sitting!
Presenters: Petra Ganzenmueller (sessional instructor—CAUT); Larry Ngoma (CUPE and issues of racism); Stefanie Ratjen, AMS VP external elect (tuition fee increases); Steven Klein, SDS (history of Coca-cola contracts on campus).

More to Come!

12-2 p.m. -- "Unschooling Oppression" panel
Alternative models of education will be explored!
Presenters: Representatives from colour school, Indigenous free school, Windsor House, Bruce Baum.

5-7 p.m. --"Deconstructing ‘Progress’: Housing, Gentrification and Olympic Resistance" panel
No to the gentrification of the University/City!
Presenters: Gord Hill (No 2010 coalition), professor Chris Shaw (2010 Watch), Margaret Orlowski (Students for a Democratic Society), and Tom Malenfant (Anti-Poverty Committee)

12-2 p.m. – “Demystifying the Power Structure at UBC” panel + Lunch
Ever wondered what the fuck the AMS, BoG, Student Council, Resource Groups, GSS, AUS, and billions of other acronyms stand for? This is a student-directed workshop aimed at unmasking the power structure at UBC! Shit you actually need to know if you are a UBC student.
Lunch Will be Served!

5-7 p.m. -- “History of Activism at the University" panel
Come listen to UBC and SFU activists from the APEC period and before! Let’s integrate the older narratives with the new ones and make the interconnections. Awesome workshop for any current or wanna-be activist!

12-2 p.m. March in solidarity for International Women's day!

3-5 p.m. -- Closing Keynote: DENIS RANCOURT – “Anarchism in Academia Now!”
Radical professors are needed to indoctrinate progressive students. Anarchist professors are needed to make sanity. If they’re not trying to stop you, then you’re not making a difference.
Denis G. Rancourt is a physics professor, environmental researcher, activist, and anarchist teaching at the University of Toronto.

7-11pm -- RHIZOME CAFé (317 East Broadway)
Fundraiser, celebration of student art, music and resistance; entrance by donation

Full list of panel speakers and more activities on the way!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Canadian "Academostars"

The Globe and Mail (Canada's national newspaper) ran a long feature in today's edition on the "academostars" in Canadian universities, titled "We Will Rock U". The article describes the rock star-like attention a few academics are garnering and the millions of dollars that Canadian universities are paying out to lure these academostars (and the profits they generate) to their campuses.

The corporate university atmosphere blends nicely with the entrepreneurial approach of most academostars, which is bad for higher education in public interest. Jim Turk of the Canadian Association of University teachers says in the article: “Increasingly, the federal government is acting in a manner consistent with the private-sector approach." Turk points to the 2,000 Canada Research Chairs endowed by Ottawa at a cost of $300-million a year to help universities arrest the brain drain of their top academics and attract big names to Canada from the rest of the world: “Only 20 per cent of the chairs are in the social sciences and humanities, even though half of our students study in those areas and half of our faculty teach there.”

Thomas Homer-Dixon, a political scientist who wrote about the academic star system in The Ingenuity Gap—and has now become a (reluctant?) academostar, having recently been poached from his post as George Ignatieff Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies at U of Toronto to help create Balsillie School of International Affairs at the U of Waterloo (drawing on a $33-million donation from BlackBerry pioneer James Balsillie)—believes the phenomenon is "a reflection of the Americanization of the Canadian academic world. "

But it's not really "Americanization" at all, even though "academostars" started making headlines in The New York Times way back in 1997 and The Minnesota Review famously devoted its 2001 volume to the topic. Rather, as Canadians are sometimes wont to do, they characterize a disagreeable phenomena into an American cultural export when, in fact, it is a global economic trend that just happens to have swept the US prior to moving north of the border.

[Another example of this confusion in education is the test-driven bureaucratic accountability movement in elementary and secondary schools, which transformed US schools into test prep factories as the result of neoliberal thinking applied to education policy. As the testing craze invades the Canada, many people see it as an "American" pheonomenon, rather than a global economic phenomenon. And it's important to note that this same accountability movement is creeping into North American colleges and universities.]

The problem, of course, is that the when academostars (or accountability movements) are misunderstood as mere cultural phenomenon rather than the outcome of the neoliberalism applied to the education sector, critical analyses are likely like to miss the mark.

The complete article from The Globe and Mail can be accessed here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Academic Freedom Symposium at DePaul

January 20, 2008
Media Contact: Daniel Klimek
T: (773) 817-1291 E:


1-2 February 2008
Lincoln Park Student Center - 2250 N. Sheffield Ave. Chicago, IL

CHICAGO, IL – CHICAGO, IL – In light of the controversial tenure denials of eminent Middle East scholar Norman G. Finkelstein and International Studies professor Mehrene Larudee earlier last year at DePaul University, prominent scholars from across the country are coming together for a two-day conference at DePaul, on February 1-2, to lecture about the threats facing academic freedom and Middle Eastern studies at universities. In addition to DePaul's cases, the efforts to silence scholars such as John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) and Stephen Walt (Harvard University), and the tenure controversies of Nadia Abu El-Haj (Barnard College) and Joseph Massad (Columbia University) have all inspired the conference, which seeks to protect as well as preserve academic freedom through honest and informed debate.

The event is hosted by the DePaul Academic Freedom Committee, and co-sponsored by the DePaul University International Studies Program, the Peace Studies Program, the History Department, and the Department of Philosophy*
*DePaul University is not sponsoring this event, only the listed departments and programs

The Academic Freedom Committee is still accepting a call for papers to be submitted by professors or students for the two-day conference. For more information, please visit

The event is to be held at the Lincoln Park Student Center 2250 N. Sheffield Ave., at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.


Academic Freedom Syposum
Feb 1-2, 2008
DePaul University, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago, IL

Event schedule:

Day 1 - FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 6:00pm -9:00pm

Introduction with Keynote Speaker – 6:00 pm
Sara Roy, Harvard University political economist

The Role of the Activist Professor – 7:00 pm
Featuring Panelists:
- Bill Ayers, Professor, College of Education, University of Illinois – Chicago
- Ken Butigan, author, professor and peace activist
- Robert Jensen, Professor, School of Journalism, University of Texas
- Marcy Newman, Visiting Professor, Center for American Studies and Research, American University of Beirut; Fellow, Initiative for Middle East Policy Dialogue

Day 2 – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 11:00 am – 7:00 pm

Academic Freedom and the Way Forward – 11:00 am
Featuring Panelists:
- Mark Ellis, University Professor of Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Baylor University
- Peter Kirstein, Professor, Department of History, Saint Xavier University
- Joel Kovel, Distinguished Professor, Department of Social Studies, Bard College

Paper Presentations – 2:00 pm
Documentary Film presented by
Landrum Bolling, Director, Mercy Corps

Academic Freedom and Middle East Studies – 5:00 pm
Featuring Panelists:
- As’ad AbuKhalil, Professor, Department of Politics and Public Administration, California State University
- Juan Cole, Professor, Department of History, University of Michigan
- Peter Novick, Professor (Emeritus), Department of History, University of Chicago

For more information, visit us at

Monday, January 21, 2008

(video) All intellectuals are workers; and all workers are intellectuals

Part 1 and Part 2 of my interview with Adolph Reed (poli sci, U Penn) and US Labor Party. Also see "Play PhD Casino" and "Faculty on Food Stamps."

Marc Bousquet

Fearmongering neoliberalism

In an op-ed for today's Globe and Mail newspaper ("Canada's National Newspaper"), Indira Samarasekera, president of the University of Alberta, offers up an excellent example of the neoliberal propaganda aimed at opening up universities for exploitation by coporations.

Indeed, Samarasekera argues that the fate of not only universities, but of the national economy rides on public higher education resources being turned over to multinational corporations such as Intel, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, GlaxoSmithKline and BP.

The bargain is that these corporations invest "millions in basic and applied research in return for greater access to university laboratories and expertise," but Samarasekera studiously avoids any analysis of this equation.

Using the USA and India has examples of where "highly flexible, collaborative partnerships, have changed how postsecondary institutions and multinational conglomerates…work together," she argues that Canadians must follow the lead of these "most vibrant and diversified economies" to break down the barriers between industry and academe.

Samarasekera's key tactic is fear mongering about the Canadian economy, which she ironically admits is strong, but this fact seems not to affect her "logic":

But in today's ruthless global marketplace – where our competitors are leaping ahead of us through innovative policies and edgy entrepreneurial partnerships – we must quickly and strategically increase our competitiveness, productivity and innovation or risk being left behind.

Indeed, in spite of the strength of the Canadian economy, we are losing our competitive edge, failing to significantly improve productivity. Compared with our competitors, Canada has too few innovators, and too little entrepreneurial drive to bring our own ideas to market.

Samarasekera presents the fundamental (neoliberal) purpose of public research universities as: "Translating [university] research into commercially viable products" which is, of course, a "processes is best handled by expertise found in business."

President and vice-chancellor of the University of Alberta
21 January 2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008

UC at Berkeley and BP

"In February 2007, BP (British Petroleum) announced plans with the University of California (UC) at Berkeley, in partnership with the University of Illinois and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to lead the largest academic-industry research alliance in U.S. history."

"For a relatively small financial contribution, BP appropriates academic expertise from a leading public research institution, founded on 200 years of social support, to maximize its return on energy investments. These investments, in turn, are focused primarily on promoting the market for biofuel, the newest darling of those in power who stimulate change while maintaining "business as usual." (...) this case represents a new twist in the combination of debunked science, ecological imperialism, and the sophistry of "sustainable development.""

"The benefits to BP include access to leading scientists and laboratories, first rights for patent negotiations, and the rubber stamp of academia and science on its new projects. The benefit for the university is purely financial, though at least one third of the money goes to BP's own private projects on campus. The benefit for the public is hard to find. Politicians, university officials, and pro-market pundits laud this public-private partnership, while those critical of the "prostitution" of the university, including experts on biofuels' social and environmental impacts, are marginalized. This is not surprising given the undemocratic nature of the process whereby the details of the deal were negotiated without any public input."
Read the full report "Biofuels, BP-Berkeley, and the New Ecological Imperialism" by Hannah Holleman and Rebecca Clausen (backup here).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Special reports on academic freedom

University World News (no. 0011 of January 13, 2008) has released a special issue on academic freedom around the world:
Academic freedom is under threat in many nations around the world. Yet, as the Canadian Association of University Teachers says, post-secondary educational institutions serve the common good of society by searching for and disseminating knowledge, truth and understanding – and by fostering independent thinking and expression among academic staff and students. “Robust democracies require no less. These ends cannot be achieved without academic freedom,” the union declares. In this special series of reports, our correspondents discuss the situation in their countries.

- Read for instance Ard Jongsma's report from Denmark on the debate about Terence Karran's comparative study of academic freedom 23 European countries, and Karen MacGregor's telling article on "SOUTH AFRICA: Freedoms gained now being lost".

Monday, January 7, 2008

(video) In the US: Faculty on Food Stamps

Despite wildly erroneous impressions worldwide and by the corporate news media to the contrary, the overwhelming majority of American faculty are neither well-paid nor secure in their positions. Graduate students and precarious faculty do 3/4 of the teaching, frequently for around US$15,ooo a year. In most disciplines, the majority of persons earning these wages are women. On the same campuses, however, there are plenty of persons earning well over US$1oo,ooo. These individuals are generally overwhelmingly men: administrators, union-busting lawyers, sports coaches, and faculty in male-dominated disciplines such as business and engineering.

See the 5-minute video "Faculty on Food Stamps" at

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Welcome to our new blog

Fight Academic Capitalism!
- Welcome to the blog Universities as a public good

Academic capitalism
is the involvement of universities - professors, teachers, faculty leaders - in market-like behaviors. This has become a key feature of higher education, not only in the United States and Europe but world-wide. These institutional practices are detrimental to academic freedom, free inquiry and a university system that serves the whole society as a public good.

This blog is made to contest and challenge the increasing dominance of the academic capitalist knowledge regime over a more classic public good knowledge regime that values knowledge as a public good to which citizenry has claims. Norms such as communalism, universality, free flow of knowledge and organized skepticism are associated with the public good model, and even though they as norms may never fully be realized, they govern behavior and help securing academic freedom.

We urge academic faculty and professionals to engage more deeply in shaping and controlling both academic work and the relationship between the institution and the marketplace. There is a growing need to “republicize” colleges and universities, that is, to reaffirm the university’s public purposes and financing. Help the universities to restore a more healthy balance between the two knowledge regimes.

Theoretical inspiration (at least so far - more to follow!) for this group:
Gary Rhoades and Sheila Slaughter: "Academic Capitalism in the New Economy: Challenges and Choices". American Academic 1 (1) - June 2004. (Can be downloaded here:

See also:
If you like to be informed about major news, events, calls for papers, or important discussions on the blog, you can receive the blog's newsletter: Sign up or off by emailing

From the staff and students of The University of Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint Denis

This post is forwarded from the edu-factory list and can also be seen at the Crafting Gentleness blog.
- - -
I'm passing this along from a friend at paris VIII involved in the
recent actions against the LRU there, and the subsequent effort to
reinvent the university taking place among the students and faculty...

for some more info (mostly in french) see


For seven weeks, a massive movement has been growing within the French
University system, uniting professors, students and staff in a struggle
against Sarkozy's new university reform law, the law concerning the
"Liberties and Responsabilities of the Universities" (LRU).

The University of Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint Denis, with the support
of University administration and personnel, has been on "active
strike", offering alternative classes and workshops open to all. Today
the movement is at a turning point, revealing the depth of the crisis.

In most of the French Universities, with the exception of our own due
to this administrative support, riot police are present on the
campuses and their buses line the surrounding streets. Aided by
private "security" guards, the riot police have entered the campuses
in order to violently break the strikes, occupations and picket lines.
Plainclothes police patrol the corridors. During the protests,
students have been targeted, beaten and arrested, sometimes resulting
in major injuries. Some of the University presidents are therefore
closing the campuses preventatively, while others call upon such
public or private "forces of order", and create a climate of
fear. Despite this situation we are confronted with a near-total media
blackout, as to the movement's size and its demands (the abrogation of
the law LRU), as well as the violent repression, due to the fact that
the dominant media are friendly with the government.

The law LRU was adopted by Parliament on August 10, 2007, in the
height of the summer vacation, without consulting the university
community. It attacks the foundations of the French University system
as a public institution with a scientific and cultural
mission. Although the system is arguably far from perfect, it has
remained an institution of higher learning that is accessible to all,
without entrance examinations or elevated tuition.

This law imposes the logic of the market onto the Universities, on
many levels. It forces them into competition with one another for
students, financing and prestige, thus turning them into enterprises
and creating a classist hierarchization between campuses. The few
democratic administrative structures that currently exist will
disappear, centralizing power in the hands of the president and a
board that will include representatives from private firms. Professors
and staff will be threatened with job insecurity, with the new
possibility of hiring adjuncts and temporary workers. Even the
academic departments are forced to compete with one another for
students and financing, allowing private interests to help determine
course content, and offering classes in function of the needs of the
current job market. The door is opened to elevated tuition. Students
thus become clients, and the university an enterprise. We believe that
a democratic society needs public universities whose mission it is to
develop the critical spirit of all citizens, and that access to the
university is a fundamental right for all. This is why our movement is
essential for the future of the University, in France and beyond.

We are therefore calling upon you to ask for your solidarity and
support, by inviting you to take part in our movement. At the
University of Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint Denis, a university with a
radical history and situated in the richly diverse North-eastern
suburbs of Paris, we have set up an "open university". We would like
to invite you to come and lead a workshop, consisting in giving a talk
and opening up a debate. Your work has inspired us and we have taken
it seriously; we therefore invite you to come and put it into practice
with us. Together we can discuss issues relating to the University
even beyond the abrogation of the LRU. Your particpation would be a
great help to our movement, which is in need of exterior support.

We thank you very much, and greatly hope to receive your positive


The collective of students, professors and staff of the University
Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint Denis

Rethinking the University

Rethinking the University: Labor, Knowledge, Value
April 11-13, 2008
University of Minnesota
Deadline for Submissions: January 15, 2008

The university is in crisis. This crisis, evident in the everyday transformations of higher education, is made most visible during moments of labor struggle. Like universities across the world, the University of Minnesota has recently experienced an explosion of labor struggles, themselves symptomatic of the tendencies existing in this increasingly neo-liberal institution. Unfortunately, our struggles have been hampered by an intellectual and organizational lag, which has made it difficult for us to adequately respond to these crises. As a result, at key moments we have been unable to rethink fundamental assumptions about the university and, as a result, have fallen back on idealist notions of a university somehow removed from the world, have reproduced the language of an already existing "public university," and have sought comfort in legislative and institutional remedies.

It is because of the need to radically rethink our political strategy that we invite you to join us in the project of rethinking the University of Minnesota as well as the concept of "the university" itself. It is our belief that a militant struggle over higher education requires a militant rethinking of the languages, organizations, and foundational assumptions upon which the battle over higher education takes place. To this end, we want to collectively think about questions such as:
  • What is the role of the university in the production of value within contemporary capitalism? What is the relationship between academic labor and various other forms of labor at the university?
  • How can we reconsider the status of academic knowledge, research, and pedagogy in this context?
  • How can we remake universities as agents for changing this context?
  • What forms of university governance, collectives, and subjectivities would best facilitate projects for constituting the common world that we desire?
  • The purpose of this inquiry is not only to produce critique, but also to generate sites of resistance and viable alternatives to the corporate university.
As such, we invite diverse responses to these questions including collaborative works, workshop presentations, and art (e.g. photo-essays, performance art, and film/video pieces), as well as traditional essay presentations. In addition to presentations that engage the problem of the university in late capitalism more generally, we also invite presentations that treat the specific case of University of Minnesota. We hope to put into conversation workers of all types: university staff, artists, lecturers, union organizers, students, professors, and community activists, all of whom have a stake in shaping the future of the university.

Potential topics might include (but are not limited to):
  • radical pedagogy
  • corporate funding, branding
  • labor organizing in the university
  • students as consumers
  • intellectual property
  • immaterial labor
  • student and faculty activism
  • issues of access
  • class, gender, and race
  • casualization of labor
  • histories of the university
Please send questions and submissions (up to 500 word abstracts, workshop, or project proposals) to:

- forwarded from:
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