A Field Guide to American Higher-Ed Reformers

This short and easy-to-use field guide is designed to help both academics and lay audiences quickly identify some of the important species and subspecies that now occupy the higher-education landscape in the United States. Recognizing these various species, many of which are new to this environment, has become particularly important in this period of drastic university climate change and species migration.

1. Venture philanthropists and foundations

Species: Benevolentia disrumpo

Habitat/range: Found throughout the United States with important subspecies clusters located around Seattle (the extremely large and various Gatesian variant) and Indianapolis (the Lumina conversion variant).

Description: Sometimes mistaken for its more docile cousin Benevolentia humanitas, this aggressive, leechlike species often attaches itself to a host, injects its venom, and slowly transforms it into a food source. Homo academicus, in particular, should be careful not to pick up this species despite its seemingly servile appearance.

2. Edu-preneurs and edu-companies

Species: Educatio negotium

Habitat/range: Originating just south of San Francisco, this now-invasive species has now been spotted in every state in the country. Can also be found flocking around Mathematica rex (described in No. 8) whenever it gathers in large numbers at its annual swarms. Particularly large flocks have been seen circling in central Arizona during the week of the Education Innovation Summit, in April.

Description: Like the raven, the noisy and opportunistic Educatio negotium is known for write essays for money collecting shiny objects, which in turn are extremely attractive to the species Mathematica rex. Educatio negotium is notable for its very short life span. A larger, more established subspecies, Educatio negotium Pearson, is particularly fierce and has grown so large and voracious that it poses a serious threat to the larger environment and the food supply of Homo academicus.

3. Consulting firms (e.g., Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company, Accenture, Deloitte Consulting, etc.)

Species: Pecunia consulta

Habitat/range: Can quickly fly almost anywhere when looking for a food source. More recently found near various large urban school districts and university systems around the United States. This vulturelike species is often spotted circling Negotium rex (described below).

Description: This highly opportunistic and proprietary species is known for its advanced foraging skills. It is often quite secretive and well camouflaged — although it tends to leave a mess that is very noticeable after it migrates. Particularly known for destroying a habitat and quickly moving on to another.

4. Business-minded boards of regents and trustees

Species: Negotium rex

Habitat/range: Various locales through the United States. This species is known to gather every couple of months to hold very loud and blusterous squawking sessions.

Description: This crass, peacocklike species in known for its elaborate preening sessions and mating dances but rarely produces a viable egg. Like the mocking and mina birds, this species displays an uncanny ability to mimic the calls of other species, particularly Pecunia consulta and Pecunia rex.

5. Neoliberal politicians

Species: Pecunia rex

Habitat/range: Located around capital cities with occasional appearances elsewhere when seeking food sources.

Description: There are actually two similar subspecies that are often difficult to differentiate in the higher-education environment: the Pecunia rex elephantas variant, which is very hierarchical, often destroys its habitat, and flogs weaker members of the species. Also evident is the Pecunia rex asinus subspecies, which is generally less vicious but often as destructive to the habitat.

6. Data-driven edu-researchers

Species: Academicus experimentus

Habitat/range: Originally found lurking around the experiment labs of university psychology departments filled with undergraduates, this ratlike species has now migrated to various departments of education at Research I universities around the United States.

Description: Although this species is sometimes hailed for its owl-like intelligence and scores high on field competency evaluations, it is often ruthless and myopic with little regard for the feeding methods or habitats of other species. Although generally inconsequential when left alone, it may become extremely dangerous when in the company of Benevolentia disrumpo.

7. Market-oriented think tanks (American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute for Public Policy, etc.)

Species: Pecunia cogitans

Habitat/range: Usually found in the Washington, D.C., or New York City metropolitan areas. Also can often be found where Pecunia rex gathers in large numbers.

Description: This very loud and well-fed, carnivorous species can be recognized by its loud repetitive shrieks sounding like “cri-sis,” “tax-es” and “sus-tain-able.” This species does not like to share food yet, ironically, will readily take food provided by the larger members of the Benevolentia disrumpo species.

8. Technocratic education managers and administrators

Species: Mathematica rex

Habitat/range: Widely variable but generally likes nesting in ivy-covered administrative buildings on campuses.

Description: This species has largely killed off and taken over the habitat of the now mostly extinct Gubernator collega. It generally likes to spend its time indoors but can also be found scampering about manicured lawns on its way to gather more scraps of paper for nest-making. Members of this species often like to collect the shiny objects of Educatio negotium to enhance their standing in the species-dominance hierarchy.

9. Edu-crats from state and national education departments

Species: Educatio imperium

Habitat/range: Likes to reside in limestone buildings in capital cities around the United States. Rarely ventures out of these confines.

Description: This rather erratic and aloof species will often occupy the nests of other species and randomly rearrange their eggs. This species usually lives only two to four years, but field reports have documented a lifespan of up to eight years. One subspecies, Education imperium Duncan is particularly known for its regular floggings of the Homo academicus species. This species’ neurotic behavior may be attributed to living in constant fear of being devoured by Pecunia rex.

10. Academic organizations (e.g., AAC&U, AASCU and the regional accrediting agencies)

Species: Academicus homicida

Habitat/range: Found mostly in areas around Washington, D.C., with six different clusters located in various regions around the United States. Also gathers for annual swarms often in warmer climates where it nests alongside Mathematica rex.

Description: Although seemingly docile and friendly, this species often turns and devours its own. The regional variants of this species are known for their docility and usually fall mute when in the presence of Pecunia rex.

11. Academics themselves

Species: Homo academicus

Habitat/range: Found on most college and university campuses throughout the country.

Description: Homo academicus timidus, a subspecies, can often be found sticking its head in the sand. Like the extinct dodo bird, it goes about its business without regard to the destruction of its habitat. The subspecies Homo academicus ovis is very compliant and servile when in the presence of Mathematica rex. In contrast, the subspecies Homo academicus conspiratus is known for being boisterous and overexcited, particularly the Christensenian variant found in Cambridge, Mass. Thanks in part to the activities of these subspecies, Homo academicus may soon be listed on the endangered-species list.

Steven Ward is a professor of sociology at Western Connecticut State University.


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