[-empyre-] Executives and corporatization

Brian Holmes bhcontinentaldrift at gmail.com
Sun Nov 25 05:30:51 EST 2012

On 11/23/2012 07:28 PM, Susan E Ryan wrote:
> I have witnessed the
> escalation of university administration, both in the number of
> administrative positions and in the rather breathtaking salaries that I
> have heard
> quoted to me.  These are elite corporate executives. I assume this is
> part of the corporatization of the university, and that that is the real
> culprit.

Well, there has been a kind of star-system applied to professors, to the 
point where salary scales have been all but abandoned in many places. 
You can look up the salaries of professors in the UC system (public 
servants you know) and it's interesting to see who gets what. But of 
course, the star system only affects the stars, leaving everyone else 
with the usual wage stagnation, while the actual faculty majority, the 
adjuncts, get the worst deal of all. The question is indeed why, for 
what and for whom?

 From all I can see, the neoliberal transformation of universities over 
the past thirty years is effectively driven by the administrators you 
are talking about, who typically give themselves three-figure salaries. 
They come in, you see, in the wake of economic crisis, in order to make 
the university *more efficient* -- ha ha, which is apparently why there 
is a tuition spike after every major recession, including a large one 
right now. The administrators go before Congress every couple years to 
raise the level of the loans that will be guaranteed by the government, 
and they use the proceeds, along with corporate partnerships and 
financialized endowments, to preside over vast expansions.

I think the research university should be identified as the central 
institution of the neoliberal knowledge-based economy. The sea-change 
was the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980, which allowed for the patenting of 
publicly funded research. Corporations as well as government could then 
scale back their large laboratories and practice what's now called "open 
innovation," where relatively small amounts of seed money are enough to 
catalyze research processes whose results can be selectively acquired by 
buying out the relevant patents. In a society where, since Reagan, only 
business is recognized as a value, this transformation of scientific 
research was enough to justify running the entire university like a 
corporation. The star system, the corporate partnerships, the 
precarization of academic labor, the competition for the revenue stream 
of student loans, and more recently, the franchising of major university 
brands in Asia, are all among the results. For what? is the best 
question. In my view, very sadly, it's for reducing knowledge to nothing 
more than a function of capitalism.

The best book I've found on this is, fittingly, entitled Academic 
Capitalism, by Sheila Slaughter and Gary Rhoades. It's serious, anything 
but simplistic, a very impressive and wide-ranging piece of scholarship, 
check it out:


Another good one is Chris Newfield's Unmaking the Public University, 
particularly the chapter "Facing the Knowledge Managers":


Finally, my own attempt to sum these things up:


No one yet has the solution to these problems, but the good thing is, 
over the last five years people have finally started to ask the 
important questions and to begin mobilizing around those questions. 
Student loans and corporatization are issues in themselves: but they are 
also part and parcel of a larger problem, which is the neoliberal 
development model. It can't address the problems of inequality and 
ecological unsustainability, and as long as it rules over the 
universities, we will get nothing substantial from them. A great loss, 
I'd say.

in solidarity, Brian

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