Politics and the University: Views From the Campuses

Michael Morgenstern for The Chronicle

August 28, 2011

It's no secret that public colleges are struggling with huge fiscal problems. Nor that they are facing new political pressures as legislatures and governors in Florida, Ohio, Texas, and elsewhere become more interested in issues like faculty productivity, assessment, accountability, and bottom-line budgeting. With the new academic year about to begin, The Chronicle asked several key people on campuses what they think will happen as these two trends collide. Are times different than in the past? Are there lessons from history?

Michael F. Middaugh: Measuring Faculty Productivity: Let's Get It Right

I have been following with considerable interest the recent controversies at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M over the collection of data purportedly measuring faculty productivity. That's because I was, for almost 20 years, director of the National Study of Instructional Costs and Productivity at the University of Delaware ... MORE »

Daniel S. Hamermesh: The Know-Nothing Assault on Higher Education

We used to look to California as being in the avant-garde, a setter of trends that would spread across the country, especially in public higher education. Texas has been more in the derrière-garde, but in an era when we believe that the higher-education sector is retrenching, some attention to those who bring up the rear is useful ... MORE »

Ellen Schrecker: An Old Story With a Dangerous New Twist

For American higher education, the Tea Party feels like a wake. As political groups, often with ties to the movement, have increasingly intruded on the affairs of public colleges and universities, financial cutbacks have forced campuses into a triage mode. Administrators squeeze savings out of already malnourished budgets; programs disappear; tuitions rise; and the inequalities of a seriously stratified system worsen ... MORE »

Michael Bérubé: The Road to Dystopia

Margaret Atwood's 2003 novel, Oryx and Crake, depicts a near-future world in which two things matter far more than any other form of human activity: profit-making and genetic engineering. When two of the central characters graduate from their gated corporate community's high school, the one with a talent for bioengineering is admitted to the prestigious, wealthy Watson-Crick Institute; the one with a talent for words is schlepped off to the dilapidated Martha Graham Academy. I think the world of Oryx and Crake is pretty much where we're headed in American higher education, with two crucial caveats ... MORE »

Christopher Newfield: Public Education for the Public Good

Public universities have gotten sandbagged by frustrating and confusing debates about financial resources, administrative bloat, tuition bubbles, and cheaper, better high-tech alternatives. What are people supposed to make of all this? The question is especially critical as the economy goes from bad to worse and public universities teeter on the verge of a new wave of cuts to their public funds ... MORE »

Cary Nelson: Keep Your Hands Off the 'Fierce Humanities'

The organized assessment, accountability, and productivity-measurement movement aims to focus higher education on testable outcomes that can be comparable—and potentially uniform—across courses in a given discipline at multiple institutions. The movement has nearly overwhelmed elementary and secondary education, and it includes many advocates seeking to quantify higher-education goals and outcomes as well. I am opposed to this movement and to everything for which it stands ... MORE »