College Presidents Go Corporate. And how do they handle a crisis?

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Writing about college presidents again.

10 thoughts on “College Presidents Go Corporate. And how do they handle a crisis?

  1. Clearly, the system of higher education is broken. It is simply unsupportable to have a system that expects a lifetime of indebtedness (or a parent in the one percent) in return for four years of being spattered with beer and some random learning. And the unbridgeable cultural and political divide between academics and middle class taxpayers means continued cuts in public funding. But institutions are not usually reformed, they are usually replaced.

    1. I meant to conclude: There is no reason to think that a business executive will do better in a broken industry than a career academic, or that the kind of career managers who typically receive these appointments will produce the sort of radical restructuring that universities require.

  2. Average student loans for a new undergraduate degree are $35,000, which is not a good thing but also not “a lifetime of indebtedness.” I do see the “unbridgeable cultural divide” more in evidence. But it looks to me like the bridge is being deliberately smashed by people who don’t want to fund public-anything as opposed to some naturally formed divide.

    1. I’m sorry, but when you promulgate directives on gender neutral pronouns and not having Christmas parties, you are not making friends among working class taxpayers and their elected representatives. In any case, it is what it is: Republicans dominate state legislatures and they aren’t going to increase funding for public higher education significantly. If you are a university regent, you have to live in that reality when appointing a president rather than raging against the machine. (A professor is free to do the latter.) A career corporate manager may competently manage the decline, but that is not the sort of person I would look to for transformative change.

      1. That’s a smaller percentage of the university community that care about those issues than the percentage of the Republican primary voters that met the spouses at actual Klan meetings. I have literally never seen anything at all like “the War on Christmas” in 26 years of being affiliated with universities. As far as I can tell, it exists in Facebook and Fox News. I get emails saying “Christmas Holiday Schedule” from HR and the women on the staff throw a “Christmas Party” every year (fortunately everybody is sexist enough that they don’t expect me to do anything but show up with something I bought). It’s been that way despite the fact that at least half of the people I’ve worked for haven’t been Christian.

        BTW, Happy Hanukkah where applicable. Today I got cut off by a white van a giant Menorah on top and a bumper sticker reading “Defund Obamacare.”

      2. The van is probably a metaphor. Anyway, my neighborhood may be one of the few places where the percentage of Jewish voters who go for Democrats is lower than the percentage of white, gentile voters who go for Democrats.

    2. “lifetime of indebtedness” – you can pay it, but it’s tough. You are making to start, what, $40 thousand? And paying 20 per cent to the feds and 5 per cent to your state, and 600 a month in rent, and that leaves $22000 to eat and run a car. Try and add in four grand a year for debt and you are eating a lot of lentils and ramen. If you got your degree in Early Childhood Ed, you are making $28000.

  3. My favorite corporate-academic story is the time a professor referred to me as “a resource.” To my face and everything. I laughed and he didn’t do it again.

  4. I’ve been teaching an interdisciplinary course on working (in lit, history, and economics), and it’s been incredibly enlightening. (I’d always taught a section of my intro to lit course on working in offices, designed to make Bartleby the Scrivener an appreciated work of literature.) But I’m expanding further with this new class, and it’s eye-opening. These are things I knew but didn’t really put together, and one of those ideas is about how much tension there is between profit-making (the needs of the employers/managers) and life (the needs of the workers). What is “outcomes assessment” in higher ed than a new form of Taylorism, designed to measure each part of what we do in the university to try to figure out how to do it in a way that extracts more profit? The university is one of the last work organizations to move from a craft system of work to a factory system. To blame the university faculty and even administrators for that shift is short-sighted. This reorganization of our workplace priorities is wrong outside of academia, but it’s even more wrong in academia. And it’s just intensified by the practice of putting business people in charge of universities.

  5. I think having a parent in the top 10% of income or net worth is sufficient to pay the sticker price at a 4-year college, public or private, maybe even enought to pay the sticker price for two kids. There may be a re-fi involved, and you can cut out the ski vacations for a few years, maybe long if you have not saved anything. But it’s doable. There’s probably around 10 million such households nationwide, with hundreds of thousands of kids heading off each year to college. Most of the private college tuition is probably being paid by these people. If they want to give their kids expensive liberal arts degrees, that’s their problem. It’s not a societal one.

    Now, woe to those who did not scratch off the upper-decile box on their birth certificate. The big mistake many of them will make will be in thinking that they are financially equal to their brethren, such that they can Do What They Want in college. Because, even through they wear the same Abercrombie and Fitch, or whatever is being worn, and have the same 6ses (pronounced “six-esses”), taking on debt for a B.A. in English is not a smart move. It could be, if the B.A. English came with a concentration in misery (think Dickens, Dreiser, and Hardy). Someone reading those books might figure out what they were signing up for before the tab hit $200K and take corrective action. But those are not the flavors the English majors are consuming these days, or so I am told.

    That is enough today of my soapbox, on which I stood because of the one-percent comment placed above.

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