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.