[-empyre-] Executives and corporatization

Erin Obodiac emo57 at cornell.edu
Tue Nov 27 13:46:50 EST 2012

Dear Nicky Donald,

Thank you for your post.  I had a postdoc at Leeds a couple of years back and I caught a glimpse of what you're talking about.  Thank you, Nicky!

Erin Obodiac
From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] on behalf of Nicky Donald [nicky.donald at gmail.com]
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2012 11:55 AM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Executives and corporatization

I'd like to put a couple of points from the other side of the fence (and the Pond). It's not targeted at any of the posts here, largely because the US is a different planet.

The UK academic establishment has always regarded and treated University administrators with contempt. They have historically  been part-time jobs for women who exist only to serve the great and good.

Time and time again administrators are bullied, shouted at and regarded as inferior. The attitude of many academic staff, especially, I have to say, the young ones on the make (professor by 35, HoD by 40, devil take the hindmost, probably the "stars" you mention) is shocking.

Now that universities are facing cuts across the board, the administrative staff have been the first to go. Rather than abandoning their silos and embracing cross-disciplinary projects or, God forbid, engaging with industry and wider society, the academic elite are entrenching themselves and blaming the "proliferation of administrators". The main reason there seem to be so many is that they've never noticed them before. As the cuts begin to bite, stuff just isn't getting done like it used to.

A University free from administration is absurd. Labelling highly-paid managers arriving from commercial companies and driving up senior salaries as "administrators" just betrays contempt for the little people who make sure we get paid, get our paperclips, get our proposals in on time etc. We need to distinguish between administrators and senior managers/executives, and to appreciate the excellent work that many of the latter do in these hard times.

Having said all that, I agree with most of the points, though not all attempts to democratise Higher Education are neo-liberal conspiracies (neo-liberal doesn't mean anything here, although the anti-intellectual movement is gaining ground in the UK too.) 25 years ago, most of my US High School friends had to join the military to get to University, since they were poor, or lower-middle-class. Freedom of speech is nothing without freedom of thought, and that shouldn't come at the price of a lifetime of debt.


On Nov 26, 2012 5:58 AM, "David Golumbia" <dgolumbia at gmail.com<mailto:dgolumbia at gmail.com>> wrote:
I want to thank Brian as always for his terrifically pointed, insightful, and accurate comments.

I want briefly just to note that these issues connect to two others, themselves connected. They are somewhat to the side of this month's discussion, but I think they are too important to the general discussion to let pass.

1) The neoliberal assault on higher education, endorsed and funded by many of the most prominent conservative and neoconservative institutions worldwide, exists primarily to limit the amount of critical thinking that goes on in the minds of citizens, because democratic thought, with its emphasis on critique, has become a major stumbling block to capital's pure accumulation and acceleration. More accurately: it is one of the only remaining stumbling blocks to capital's accumulation. The advent of the Tea Party and in particular its know-nothing rejection of science and of history, and its "coincident" alignment with the most heavily-capitalized of industrial interests, gave a public face to a form of ideological conditioning only remarkable for its success at this time, in this moment, with so much "information" available, at inspiring so many people to reject logic, fact, reason, emotion, communal solidarity, and even their own self-interest. The instrumentalization and corporatization of the University is one of the primary tactics this assault uses to realize its strategy, and thus analyses that attempt to meet the assault halfway by assessing liberal arts education on the basis of measurable outcomes, especially related to particular lines of employment, can only add fuel to the fire that is meant to burn down the University's most vital function: the maintenance of democracy through the continued study of the many discourses (I mean this as broadly as possible) that have gone into its development.

2) Given the above, it is vital for educators to realize that the advent of massive online education environments, including MOOCs, is not being done primarily to "democratize" access to education, but instead as the decisive tactic in the war to analyze forcibly each part of higher education on instrumental and economic terms. This is a war we will lose. We should not be negotiating with forces whose explicit intent is to destroy the institutions to which we have devoted our lives and careers, and we should not be mistaken in thinking their intent is somehow disconnected from the one mentioned in my first point. They are one and the same. The "neoliberal knowledge-based economy" Brian so rightly names is not the same thing as the understanding of democracy necessary for its survival.

I've touched on this, especially the first point, in a preliminary way in a blog post, "Centralization and the 'Democratization' of Higher Education": http://www.uncomputing.org/?p=160; I plan to follow up on the first point when time permits.


On Sat, Nov 24, 2012 at 1:30 PM, Brian Holmes <bhcontinentaldrift at gmail.com<mailto:bhcontinentaldrift at gmail.com>> wrote:
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

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?

More information about the empyre mailing list