The Declaration of Independence

by Kieran Healy on June 20, 2012

Charlottesville, June 19th, 2012

The More or Less Unanimous Declaration of the Board of Visitors

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for a Board to dissolve the administrative bands which have connected a President with a University, and to assume for themselves the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and the Bond Market entitle them, it is best to do it secretly, quickly, and in the middle of the night.

However, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation, especially when one is unexpectedly faced with large, angry crowds on the Lawn at two o’clock in the morning and a quite stupendous media shitstorm thereafter.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Universities are endowed by their Donors with certain unalienable Goals, that among these are Strategy, Dynamism, and the pursuit of some sort of Online Degree delivered via the Interwebs,—That to secure these goals, Presidents are appointed, deriving their just powers from the half-baked ideas of idle Billionaires,—That whenever any University President becomes destructive of these Goals, it is the Right of the BoV to institute a new President, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect Strategy, Dynamism, and Strategic Dynamism. Prudence dictates that Presidents only recently established should not be changed for light and transient causes; yet experience hath shewn, that Universities are more disposed to suffer than to right themselves by downsizing obscure departments such as Classics, or German, or—it now appears—Computer Science. Fuck.

Anyway, it is nevertheless our right, it is our duty, to throw off such Presidents, and to provide new Administrators for my future security. Yours! I mean, Your future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of this University; and such is now the necessity which constrains us to alter its former Systems of Government. The history of the present President is one of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the maintenance of some sort of financially viable, intellectually robust, nationally respected institution of higher learning. Such goals are so 20th Century. I read that in Forbes recently. Did I not shew it to you all via e-mail? Perhaps I forgot to attach it. Sorry, where was I? Oh yes. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world:

  • She has refused to listen to me when I sent her this US News & World Report article I read about how Technology is Transforming Education.

  • She has refused to hire Consultants at extortionate rates, preferring instead to consult experts on her own Faculty—as if a University were the place to find experts of any kind, the very idea. Far better to hire a team consisting mostly of 22 year-olds from McKinsey, they know how to do those 3-D charts in Excel and have you seen their Powerpoints the transitions are cool I like the flame one the best.

  • She has called together legislative bodies at places normal, standard, and proximate to the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of keeping the Faculty and university community informed of her plans.

  • She did not think Becoming China’s Bitch was a very good book at all.

  • She has hired some Officers to implement her goals.

  • She has combined with others, like the Provost, to subject us to a set of standards foreign to the understanding of Beach Condo Developers; giving her Assent to their Acts of pretended Administration:

  • For Quartering large bodies of actual students among us, instead of on a website somewhere.

  • For maintaining Standards without our Consent:

  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of future consulting deals:

  • She has excited domestic insurrections amongst us—have you seen this crowd outside, Helen? It’s really quite large now.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: i.e., by circulating emails amongst a subset of our group, exchanging links to some stuff in Wired Magazine about Stanford, and ginning each other up for her removal. A President whose character is thus marked by every act which may define an intelligent, decisive, forward-looking, and accountable leader, is clearly unfit to be the ruler of a Nationally-ranked University.

We, therefore, the appointed members of the Board of Visitors, in closed session, Assembled in haste and appealing to the Theory of Strategic Dynamism for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of some very wealthy people indeed, solemnly publish and declare, That President Sullivan is removed and that Dean Carl Zeithaml shall henceforth have full Power to Dynamically Strategize, set up Online Learning Working Groups, implement Acquisition and Diversification strategies, contract Knowledge-Based Sources of Competitive Advantage, develop Resource-Based Conceptual and Methodological Frameworks for Global Effectuity, and to do all other Acts and Things which Business School Professors may of right do, gosh it’s a wonder capitalism was able to get off the ground in the first place without their assistance. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence and please God the Governor, we mutually pledge your Reputation, your Fortunes and your sacred Honor.

{ 166 comments }

1

Tom Bach 06.20.12 at 3:42 pm

This is one of my favorite things on the intertrons and its related tubes ever. Thanks.

2

Daniel S. Goldberg 06.20.12 at 3:49 pm

Magnificent. And I too like flaming PPT transitions.

3

Eli Rabett 06.20.12 at 3:52 pm

The comments over at the Daily Progress are wonderful. Dragas’ sister, probably with an assist from Hill and Knowlton tried to play the my sister is wonderful card and got it thrown back in her face. While there is plenty of snark, it is the substantive replies, and there are many, which are priceless.

Eli’s favorite is
——————————-
Ricardo Padron
Dear Ms. Dragas,

Let me be the first to thank you for this letter, which, after all, is the only window any of us have ever had into the personal difficulty that your sister and your family have suffered since this all became public on June 10th. All of you, including your sister, have my sympathy, as fellow members of the U.Va community, and as human beings.

That said, you must understand that the “three-ring circus” that has emerged from all this is entirely of your sister’s creation. At issue, for me and many others, is not only the relative merit of Teresa Sullivan as a president, but the way in which your sister and her collaborators conducted themselves. They have engaged in an egregious abuse of power, carefully observing the letter of the law while violating its spirt at every turn. They have acted in a thoroughly dishonorable, reprehensible manner, and it is that behavior, not the decision to remove President Sullivan per se, that has done damage to their personal reputations and to the reputation of UVA.

Please understand, as well, that I do not consider this to be my own personal opinion. I believe this is an accurate, and true assessment, or at least as close to one as it is possible to get in these matters. The actions of the Rector and the Board have been condemned widely and vociferously by thousands of faculty, staff, alumni, and students. They have been condemned by my colleagues in the Faculty Senate (I am a former chair), who have been struggling mightily for the past 15 years to achieve greater transparency in the University’s governance, and have been met with this flagrant affront to everything they have worked for. They have been found seriously wanting by noted figures outside of the University community, including the heads of the American Association of Universities, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

I think it is clear now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that any continued defense of the actions of the Board in this matter can stem from only two motivations that I can think of, denial, or sheer hubris. It is time for you, and more importantly, your sister, to admit that a mistake has been made, a big one. It is time not only for her to resign, but to disavow her actions in public.

Your sister has it in her power to start the process of recovery from this mess. To do so, she needs to listen to the nearly unanimous judgment of her fellow Wahoos, who are telling her by the thousand that she was wrong. She needs to eat humble pie, admit to a mistake, and resign. That is the only way that she can demonstrate that she is the sort of person that you, who know her better than any of us, believe her to be.

Best,

Ricardo Padron
Associate Professor of Spanish
Former Chair, U.Va. Faculty Senate
Alumnus, CLAS ’89

4

djw 06.20.12 at 4:01 pm

Well played.

5

Steve LaBonne 06.20.12 at 4:05 pm

Kieran is now hors concours in all future Internets-winning competitions.

6

Erik Loomis 06.20.12 at 4:18 pm

I bow before you.

7

Geoff Pynn 06.20.12 at 4:29 pm

Words cannot express my admiration for this work of genius.

8

j_h_r 06.20.12 at 4:58 pm

A very serious, thoughtful argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care.

9

MattF 06.20.12 at 5:09 pm

It’s good to see that Old Tom’s words are still dynamic, relevant and dynamically relevant, sort of, to the problems of the modern world of today.

10

Russell L. Carter 06.20.12 at 5:16 pm

Crooked Timber is just full of win lately. Thank you all very much.

11

catherine liu 06.20.12 at 5:26 pm

Ditto on genuflection before genius. Facebook likes cannot express, etc.

12

Steven Hales 06.20.12 at 5:28 pm

Awesome.

13

Davis X. Machina 06.20.12 at 5:33 pm

It’s a forgery. The words ‘entrepreneur’, ‘entrepreneurial’ or ‘entrepreneurship’ nowhere occur. And the kerning is wrong.

14

Darryl L. Peterkin 06.20.12 at 5:35 pm

Mr. Jefferson would be proud.

15

tomslee 06.20.12 at 5:37 pm

In truth, Kieran is a leader, not a follower.

16

Brian Clarke 06.20.12 at 6:43 pm

Truly outstanding. TJ no doubt needed a good laugh after spending the previous fortnight spinning in his grave and — thankfully — you have provided it.

17

John Protevi 06.20.12 at 6:53 pm

Kieran Healy, il miglio fabbro.

Also, “fab bro” as the auto-correct would have it.

18

Ricardo 06.20.12 at 7:02 pm

Hilarious!

19

js. 06.20.12 at 7:02 pm

This basically justifies the internet. Amazing.

20

rea 06.20.12 at 7:16 pm

“It’s a forgery. The words ‘entrepreneur’, ‘entrepreneurial’ or ‘entrepreneurship’ nowhere occur.”

No, you forget that Jefferson spent years in France, and that the French don’t even have a word for “entrepreneur.”

21

Russell Arben Fox 06.20.12 at 7:31 pm

Hooray! Huzzah! And other similar statements of acclamation and praise.

22

JB in VA 06.20.12 at 7:47 pm

Excellent. Just plain excellent. May all here do our part in circulating this Declaration far and wide.

23

Sherman Dorn (Tampa) 06.20.12 at 7:59 pm

This cannot be genuine — there is no use of the terms “thought leader” or “disruptive innovation.”

24

Claire Gastanaga 06.20.12 at 8:08 pm

The value of a liberal education revealed.

25

Aaron Pallas 06.20.12 at 8:16 pm

Other than a UVA graduate, only a graduate of the Virginia of the North would have the proper sensibility to pen such a screed. With a quill, of course.

26

P O'Neill 06.20.12 at 8:23 pm

It’s all the fault of Michael Sandel. He’s doing Youtube and stadium tours in Korea, and these clowns read about it in the New York Times and wondered why not UVa.

27

UVA Observer 06.20.12 at 8:25 pm

I bow humbly at the feet of Kieran Healy, master wordsmith.

We are not worthy.

28

MikeJake 06.20.12 at 8:51 pm

Clearly this was dreamed up at Crooked Timber’s Mid-Atlantic Innovation Center by a committed tiger team of paradigm-shifting black belt dynamism evangelists.

29

Frank in midtown 06.20.12 at 9:07 pm

But the words, they buzz.

30

art kyriazis 06.20.12 at 9:08 pm

i don’t see what the big deal is.

none of you made a big sqawk when they fired Lawrence “Larry” Summers.

the inmates don’t get to run the asylum.

31

art kyriazis 06.20.12 at 9:09 pm

PS Michael Sandel? He’s like the shadow of the imitation of John Rawls.

32

LFC 06.20.12 at 9:32 pm

Great post. “Global Effectuity” is priceless.

33

Bill Benzon 06.20.12 at 10:10 pm

Rumor has it that the UVa BOV has been seen sneaking around in midnight rambles licking the backs of South American frogs in the gardens a Monticello. Apparently frog backs exude a chemical known to enhance strategic dynamism.

34

Alumna Coll '74 06.21.12 at 12:07 am

MAG-F’ing-NI-FI-CENT!!

35

Poet 06.21.12 at 12:17 am

Dear UVA Rector Helen Dragas,

Have you ever read a poem closely?
If not, I suggest you do, and let
It sound in your inner ear, or melt like chocolate
On your tongue, or rise like cigar smoke
Into your nose; take your pick; I promise
It will make you will feel much less lonely.

Yrs.

36

Enda H 06.21.12 at 12:21 am

Are you by chance related to Myles, Kieran?

An-mhaith ar fad.

37

Jerry Vinokurov 06.21.12 at 12:48 am

You are my hero.

38

GiT 06.21.12 at 1:19 am

@30

“the inmates don’t get to run the asylum.”

Brilliant! Let’s extrapolate wildly:

“the citizens don’t get to run the democracy”
“the jurors don’t get to run the jury”
“the senators don’t get to run the senate”
“the guild-members don’t get to run the guild”
“the monks don’t get to run the monastery”
“the partners don’t get to run the partnership”
“the students and masters don’t get to run the universitas scholarium et magistorum”

39

Believer 06.21.12 at 1:27 am

Wahoo-wah!

Brilliant.

40

Belle Waring 06.21.12 at 1:43 am

I love you Kieran!

41

Charlie Schm 06.21.12 at 1:43 am

Magnificient. I wish I had the talent to write this well.

42

Will F 06.21.12 at 1:46 am

I love this post! Belle!!!!

43

wetcasements 06.21.12 at 2:20 am

My favorite bit:

“She has refused to hire Consultants at extortionate rates, preferring instead to consult experts on her own Faculty—as if a University were the place to find experts of any kind, the very idea. Far better to hire a team consisting mostly of 22 year-olds from McKinsey, they know how to do those 3-D charts in Excel and have you seen their Powerpoints the transitions are cool I like the flame one the best.”

You had me at “I like the flame one best.”

44

lupita 06.21.12 at 2:24 am

I thought the piece was brilliant despite not understanding what the drama was about. Now that I have read extensively about what happened, I can upgrade my opinion to genius. The voice! Kieran, do you actually know this guy or did you acquire his voice solely by reading his emails? Actually, his multiple voices: the inner idiot, the shell of a pompous ass, and the idiot once he begins to realize he is in way over his head, (“Fuck”. “Helen?”) Triple genius!

45

Dave Maier 06.21.12 at 2:47 am

No, I’m sorry, the best bit is

“Such goals are so 20th Century. I read that in Forbes recently. Did I not shew it to you all via e-mail? Perhaps I forgot to attach it. Sorry, where was I? Oh yes. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world [...]“.

46

C'villian 06.21.12 at 3:40 am

I’m just a townie who reads the news, but this is the cleverest thing I’ve read in a long, long time. I hope you are well rewarded for your brilliance.

47

Stanley 06.21.12 at 3:50 am

This is outstanding.

48

Greg Hays 06.21.12 at 4:51 am

I cannot begin to praise this adequately. Of its choice virtues only gods should speak, or English poets who grew up on all internet traditions.

49

Stephen Diamond 06.21.12 at 6:32 am

Admittedly very funny but what about the problem?

The UVA board clearly needed help in carrying out its strategy. For starters, they apparently ignored their own faculty in the process, although the noise currently being made is largely that of a minority and so we really do not know.

But are the supporters of Sullivan suggesting that American universities are NOT in a crisis? Google “law school” and “student debt” and then tell me there isn’t an issue here. Watch Social Network and tell me that it makes sense for Mark Zuckerberg to have stayed for his degree like his classmate Eduardo Saverin. Or Bill Gates? Or Steve Jobs?

It is not just about online education (although a glance at the success of Udacity suggests there is a snowball gathering momentum here that is going to smash into the an aging tottering model). It is also about the relationship between the academic environment and the real world. Stanford actually encourages students (and faculty) to drop out if they want to pursue a business opportunity.

No reason to believe that UVA can’t “lead from behind” through “incremental change” (is that any less a buzzword than “strategic dynamism”?) but will they still be the “public Ivy” in ten years?

50

GiT 06.21.12 at 8:22 am

@49

On this point see this piece, by critics from the “public ivy” of the left coast:

http://reclaimuc.blogspot.com/2012/06/invisibility-of-corporatization-on.html

“For this reason, the conflict between President Sullivan and the Board of Visitors is not a question of running the university “more” or “less” like a business. It is not a conflict between good, old-fashioned “university values” on one hand and nonsensical or inapplicable “business values” on the other. It is rather a conflict between different business models.”

“What appears here as a “contest of worldviews,” one essentially corporate and the other essentially academic, is resurrected in a very different context today. Its appearance is the same, but on scratching the surface it becomes clear that the goalposts have shifted, that the worldview that Kirp identified as so clearly corporate and inappropriate to the university context has simply become part of the norm, a principle so obvious that it no longer seems out of place or offends.”

“It doesn’t make sense to criticize the corporate “mumblespeak” of the strategically dynamic Board of Visitors without at the same time understanding that President Sullivan not only used such language herself but made its implementation at UVA the “signature effort” of her presidency.”

51

bill benzon 06.21.12 at 9:09 am

@GiT (#50 as I write): Yes, that piece you link to is well worth reading. As is one reply to it:

“Yes and no. Sullivan was implementing RCM [responsibility center management, a well-established but of university corpspeak], but through a very careful process involving faculty at all levels. I know — I was in those meetings, as an asst professor. She and the Provost were very concerned to protect interdisciplinary collaboration, and to protect areas — Russian literature was mentioned — that might never become a profit center. (Analysis elsewhere has revealed that humanities often subsidize the sciences and medical schools — as has happened at UVA. Deans of Arts and Sciences have argued this for years, and RCM might actually help them reveal this.)”

“The BOV was aping mindless columns from David Brooks and airport business books, in secret, and then hoping to impose that on an entire university.”

“Certainly administration is bloated at UVA as elsewhere, and salaries are too high. Donors have too much power. This happens when you have less than 10% state support. But to say that Sullivan and the Board each wanted to impose business thinking is nonsense. Pres Sullivan’s parting words to the Board were that you can’t run a great university like a corporation.”

52

bill benzon 06.21.12 at 9:10 am

Doh! Well-established “BIT” of corpspeak, not “but.”

53

Another Damned Medievalist 06.21.12 at 9:35 am

Wonderful! Thank you.

54

GiT 06.21.12 at 10:08 am

@51

I agree, the comment adds some helpful nuance, though there’s still something to ignoring the nuance and embracing the polemical view for a spell.

55

Kwahwi 06.21.12 at 11:20 am

The run-on at the end of the second bullet is priceless.

56

bill benzon 06.21.12 at 12:23 pm

GiT @54: It’s a tricky business. Fact is, the whole university system is in deep trouble, and has been digging itself ever deeper into the pit for the last four or five decades. Against THAT backdrop this fracas is but a burp. Still, the BOV’s actions betray contempt and deep misunderstanding of the intellectual life of the university and that somehow must be registered. It is, alas, too much to hope that that effort would extend to a complete re-examination of higher education.

57

Jed 06.21.12 at 1:25 pm

Masterful.

58

Greg Hays 06.21.12 at 1:36 pm

Stephen Diamond @49: “the noise currently being made is largely that of a minority”

The UVA Faculty Senate voted No Confidence in the Board by 68 to 2, with one abstention. The Board’s behavior has been condemned by the University’s two former living presidents, by former rectors and board members, by the AAUP, and by the interim president selected by the Board itself. Both the Governor (R) and former Governor (D) who appointed the current board members have criticized their actions. Several thousand people–students, faculty, staff, and alumni–gathered on Monday (in June, with the University not in session) to protest the firing. A Facebook page supporting President Sullivan has over 11,000 members. Newspapers around the state have called for the Rector’s resignation.

The Rector has the expressed support of eleven colleagues on a sixteen-member board, of a wealthy donor, and of her own sister.

59

Lex 06.21.12 at 1:47 pm

**stares in awe, turns, throws away pens and computer and walks off to become a woodcarver**

60

dm 06.21.12 at 2:12 pm

On the one hand, if Sullivan’s plan really was to adopt RCM, then firing’s too good for her. On the other hand, if the BOV got even that much right, it could only have been by accident.

Successful corporations and universities are those that evolve mechanisms that prevent the “visionary” idiots who inevitably occupy the upper echelons from doing serious harm to goals of the organization. Those mechanisms seem to be failing with increasing frequency. In this case, hybridization of models apparently created an opportunity for the business “visionary’s” to run amok. UVA is not an isolated case, of course.

61

Chris Bertram 06.21.12 at 2:35 pm

_On the one hand, if Sullivan’s plan really was to adopt RCM, then firing’s too good for her. _

As I understand it, RCM is just a system of decentralized budgets. It doesn’t preclude permanent subsidy to loss-making parts of the operation (which you might want to retain for good academic reasons) but it does make those transfers more transparent. Of course there are plenty of reasons to be suspicious: senior management can use the fact that they preside of the system to divide-and-rule and cost centres that are big earners can develop a sense of entitlement that’s problematic. But I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically evil about decentralized budgets.

62

Jerry Vinokurov 06.21.12 at 2:45 pm

But are the supporters of Sullivan suggesting that American universities are NOT in a crisis? Google “law school” and “student debt” and then tell me there isn’t an issue here. Watch Social Network and tell me that it makes sense for Mark Zuckerberg to have stayed for his degree like his classmate Eduardo Saverin. Or Bill Gates? Or Steve Jobs?

What the hell does any of this mean? Nothing going on here has the least bit to do with law schools or student debt as such, and you’re… using a movie to argue about something that doesn’t have any relationship at all to what’s going on. Seriously, this makes zero sense.

63

dm 06.21.12 at 2:50 pm

My issues with RCM are based on practical realities of implementation, not principle:
1) the barriers it creates to inter-disciplinary programs are evidently real and difficult to resolve;
2) the system is readily gamed (which is probably true of many alternatives).

64

Jed 06.21.12 at 3:25 pm

@Stephen Diamond @49, please read @Greg Hays @58. Or just come to Charlottesville and see how minor the noise is here.

65

Stephen Diamond 06.21.12 at 4:27 pm

Jed and Greg,

I don’t know about UVA’s Senate but I know of very few senate’s that actually reflect majority views of faculty, hence the emergence of faculty collective bargaining and the important role of the AAUP. As someone who has made a lot of noise over the years I also know how much of it is hot air. However, I will concede that there appears to be something in the air, in Charlottesville that I was unaware of prior to this. And likely I share that naiveté about UVA with many others in academia.

But is UVA really that different?

After all, two of the heroes in this battle only yesterday were administrators at Duke and Michigan while their opponents (like Dragas and Kington) would appear to be UVA true and through. The interesting question in light of the very interesting blog post suggested by GiT on RCM, is whether all that noise is just the Greek chorus of a competing business model? Frankly, that makes a lot of sense because it is otherwise very hard to explain precisely the unanimity of opposition you point to as evidence of some kind of progressive defense against a “corporate” attack on the university. When I see law school deans uniting with PoMo English professors it really makes me wonder.

66

Stephen Diamond 06.21.12 at 4:35 pm

Jeffrey:

The point is simple, Gates, Jobs and Zuckerberg all dropped out. What used to be considered “counter-cultural” is now being made a norm. In Social Network a clear theme is the irrelevance of traditional 4 years of college (with its stuffy wasp rituals and heavy student debt loads) to the reality of business today. That theme is now being taken to a new level by people like Peter Thiel, an early investor in Facebook, who now recruits people to drop out of graduate school and begin businesses. Entities like Udacity and Singularity are attracting thousands of people around the world and are rewriting the rules and structures of higher education. In other words, what Gates and Jobs did back in the day is increasingly being legitimized, even institutionalized. And the smart universities like Stanford and MIT see the change are trying to get ahead of it. RCM appears to be the way that some schools defend their model while trying to stay afloat fiscally.

67

Stephen Diamond 06.21.12 at 4:35 pm

Jeffrey:

The point is simple, Gates, Jobs and Zuckerberg all dropped out. What used to be considered “counter-cultural” is now being made a norm. In Social Network a clear theme is the irrelevance of traditional 4 years of college (with its stuffy wasp rituals and heavy student debt loads) to the reality of business today. That theme is now being taken to a new level by people like Peter Thiel, an early investor in Facebook, who now recruits people to drop out of graduate school and begin businesses. Entities like Udacity and Singularity are attracting thousands of people around the world and are rewriting the rules and structures of higher education. In other words, what Gates and Jobs did back in the day is increasingly being legitimized, even institutionalized. And the smart universities like Stanford and MIT see the change are trying to get ahead of it. RCM appears to be the way that some schools defend their model while trying to stay afloat fiscally.

68

Jerry Vinokurov 06.21.12 at 5:10 pm

Stephen Diamond,

Jeffrey:

It’s not hard to get my name right. I mean, it’s right there at the top of the comment.

The point is simple, Gates, Jobs and Zuckerberg all dropped out. What used to be considered “counter-cultural” is now being made a norm.

Two of those people dropped out of college decades ago (even Zuckerberg’s exodus is close to 10 years past). Gates in particular left with the strong certainty that he wouldn’t go hungry if his venture failed; his father was a prominent lawyer in the Seattle area, so it wasn’t exactly the riskiest proposition for him. In any case, looking at only the success stories is pointless. It’s like saying that Kevin Garnett went straight from high school to the NBA and therefore college is pointless; you’re failing to factor in all the people who dropped out and whose lives were made worse off as a result.

In Social Network a clear theme is the irrelevance of traditional 4 years of college (with its stuffy wasp rituals and heavy student debt loads) to the reality of business today.

You know that The Social Network is, like, a fictional account, right? That certain elements of Harvard are exaggerated due to artistic license? Also, my memory of the movie may not be great but I don’t actually recall where exactly it said anything about debt loads.

This isn’t a serious argument in any case. You can’t say anything interesting about the actual reality of college education today by looking at this movie. The actual reality of life today is that, for better or worse, you need a college degree to get into lots of places. The fact that certain individuals manage to get around that requirement (from positions of extreme privilege, no less), means absolutely nothing for the overwhelming majority of the population. Most people cannot be Gates or Jobs or Zuckerberg, and probably don’t want to be them, and basing any kind of public policy around the idea that everyone should emulate their example is idiotic.

I won’t even get into the much thornier question (which in some ways is actually more relevant here) of your apparent subservience to business interests. Suffice it to say that there’s a case to be made that the university’s mission extends beyond simple vocational skills, and that a wide-ranging education is desirable in and of itself. But whatevs.

That theme is now being taken to a new level by people like Peter Thiel, an early investor in Facebook, who now recruits people to drop out of graduate school and begin businesses.

Yes, Peter Thiel is a terrible person. So what?

Entities like Udacity and Singularity are attracting thousands of people around the world and are rewriting the rules and structures of higher education.

No they aren’t. They’re doing the equivalent of taking a $50 bottle of wine, watering it down to 5 liters, and selling the result at $5 per glass.

In other words, what Gates and Jobs did back in the day is increasingly being legitimized, even institutionalized.

No it’s not. It’s not even the same thing. You just took some things that coincide in time and mashed them together into a single phenomenon.

And the smart universities like Stanford and MIT see the change are trying to get ahead of it.

They’re not doing anything of the sort. You still can’t get a Stanford or MIT credential by taking their online classes, and there’s a reason for that. OpenCourseWare is a great thing and I’m glad it’s available to the public, but it’s not the same as attending MIT.

RCM appears to be the way that some schools defend their model while trying to stay afloat fiscally.

Yes, well, when public commitment to educating the next generation dips to the point where ostensibly public institutions of higher learning get almost no support from the state, it’s highly unsurprising that they will seek out alternate revenue streams.

69

JW Mason 06.21.12 at 5:15 pm

I am finding it hard to reconcile Stephen Diamond’s view that nurturing future Zuckerbergs should be the defining mission of public universities, with his view, expressed elsewhere, that Facebook constitutes “the largest “pump-and-dump” securities fraud ever perpetrated against U.S. investors”.

70

Enrique40 06.21.12 at 5:31 pm

Presidents and Assholes: The UVa Version (like those college specific versions of Monopoly)

Rules

At any moment during the game, asshole can revoke President’s authority through secret arrangement with 2-3 other players.

Every time someone invokes St. TJ or takes his name in vain take a shot.

Logical fallacy by Rector or BoV member take a shot.

Resignation of leading expert in her/his field from UVa faculty take a shot

Buzz word that only MBA students understand used as if it described an actual thing in the world take a shot.

Resignation of the rector, everyone shotguns a beer.

The game ends when players dissolve into groups to organize protests and write petitions to the Governor.

Winners: nobody

71

Jerry Vinokurov 06.21.12 at 5:43 pm

JW Mason, I didn’t understand that either. But I’m not going to devote any more brainpower to untangling this mystery.

72

Stephen Diamond 06.21.12 at 5:43 pm

JW: I don’t think nurturing future Zuck’s should be the mission, I only note that is what is, in part, happening.

Jerry, You have an attitude problem so I am not going to get into it with you. Sorry.

73

Jerry Vinokurov 06.21.12 at 5:47 pm

Jerry, You have an attitude problem so I am not going to get into it with you. Sorry.

“I can’t defend my incoherent ramblings and movie-based justifications of public policy, therefore I won’t even try.” It’s at least admirable of you to acknowledge the limitations of your mode of argumentation, I’ll give you that.

74

JW Mason 06.21.12 at 5:51 pm

I don’t think nurturing future Zuck’s should be the mission, I only note that is what is, in part, happening.

For someone who doesn’t think it should be the mission, you’ve spent an awful lot of time on this thread arguing that it should be.

75

Robin Baxter 06.21.12 at 6:02 pm

Congratulations on a wonderful Declaration. Makes me want to go out and join the revolution. (OK, I wish I could be at the Lawn, but have to work in Reston, instead.)
I will pass the Declaration on, to colleagues and the future generations of ‘Hoos that I know.
Thank you.

76

Stephen Diamond 06.21.12 at 6:16 pm

Sorry, JW, but I don’t see any evidence of advocating what Udacity and Thiel are up to (in fact, you must have seen my criticism of Thiel in my piece on the Facebook IPO and noted that it was part of the entire theme of the article). There is a crisis in higher education. Thiel/Dragas have one point of view about how to deal with the crisis. RCM/Sullivan have another. I don’t support either.

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Substance McGravitas 06.21.12 at 6:51 pm

I only note that is what is, in part, happening.

Yes, in part some dropouts become billionaires, others are struck by lightning. Sure, there’s some teensy percentage of dropouts who do neither, but who cares? Nobody makes movies about them.

78

mike 06.21.12 at 7:02 pm

@kiernan

wow (or wahoo!) you nailed it. Very clever.

79

Katherine @ eggton 06.21.12 at 7:12 pm

Phenomenally funny, dude. You’re really talented.

80

Jim 06.21.12 at 7:27 pm

This entire mess makes me very sad. I don’t see any way for the University to recover from this in the short term, no matter which administrator is chosen to lead.

81

JW Mason 06.21.12 at 7:28 pm

Stephen, you wrote:

what Gates and Jobs did back in the day is increasingly being legitimized, even institutionalized. And the smart universities like Stanford and MIT see the change are trying to get ahead of it.

Ok, maybe you meant smart in a strictly non-normative sense. Haha.

And the whole tone of your comments here has been unmistakably a defense of Draga et al.

I reckon you showed up here and, as people do on the internet, decided to show how smart you were by arguing against the local consensus. Which committed you to a position that, in retrospect, you wish you hadn’t taken and presumably don’t really believe. So you want to claim now that you didn’t say what you clearly did say. No dice.

82

Gene O'Grady 06.21.12 at 7:33 pm

Did someone really post about “stuffy WASP rituals” as part of American colleges? Let me assure that even at an elite all-male Northeastern college nearly fifty years ago stuffy WASP rituals were so far in the past that it took a lot of curiosity and a lot of effort even to find what they had been.

83

mike 06.21.12 at 7:46 pm

oops, I called Kieran, Kiernan (is this what is meant by a freudian slip?)

84

reclaim UC 06.21.12 at 7:58 pm

@GiT #50 Thanks for sharing our post. Here’s an earlier one for folks who are interested in the structural critique of administration:

http://reclaimuc.blogspot.com/2012/06/notes-on-ouster-of-uva-president-teresa.html

@dm #63 Can you expand a little more on your critique of RCM? Especially the second point, about gaming the system.

//

The main point we wanted to emphasize was that it’s absurd to posit that the conflict between Sullivan and the Board of Visitors is one of “university” or “academic” values vs. “corporate” or “business” values. Implicitly or explicitly, this is the framework for most of what’s been written about Sullivan’s ouster. University administration across the country is already based largely on business models. Sullivan’s push for RCM is just one specific example.

85

tomslee 06.21.12 at 7:58 pm

even at an elite all-male Northeastern college nearly fifty years ago stuffy WASP rituals were so far in the past…

Sir, I have read The Secret History, and it proves you wrong!

86

Stephen Diamond 06.21.12 at 9:22 pm

Local consensus, JW? Is this a UVA site?

In any case, I do not think my views have either changed or been inconsistent. I maintain that Dragas and the BOV believe, understandably, that UVA has a problem. They did not think Sullivan was intent on solving that problem.

They pushed her out. They made mistakes procedurally and I don’t think the Stanford model, for lack of a better term, is a solution to the problem (in fact it creates very serious problems of its own – for some detail see my review of Phil Mirowski’s new book in Contemporary Sociology).

But that does not mean they were wrong about the existence of the problem.

Just one question for you: why would a scholar who thinks the federal securities law added no value (UVA law dean Paul Mahoney) back Sullivan? What does that tell you about the “local consensus”?

87

Substance McGravitas 06.21.12 at 9:24 pm

I maintain that Dragas and the BOV believe, understandably, that UVA has a problem.

What was this problem?

88

lupita 06.21.12 at 9:30 pm

@reclaim UC:

Perhaps by “business” values you mean “neoliberal”? There definitely is a world-wide conflict with those and it has nothing to do with conflicting business models, RCM, or strategic dynamism.

The conflict is with corporate raiders who destroy businesses the second their stock goes down, with the IMF closing hospitals and schools in poor countries the second they cannot service their debt, and with rectors who want to close language departments that to not generate capital and open online courses that they mistakenly believe do.

The conflict is with the sociopaths in academia, corporations, governments, and global institutions who believe that capital is the only from of wealth and are in a position of power to destroy all human endeavor not geared toward short-term capital formation.

89

Tom C 06.21.12 at 9:45 pm

Latest UVA e-mail hints that Sullivan may be re-appointed next Tuesday.

90

BroD 06.21.12 at 10:54 pm

I don’t know RCM. In fact, this is the first I’ve ever heard it named. I think I’m familiar with the genre though. Among other critical elements in their implementation, executive judgement and leadership skill is perhaps the most important. Without it, failure is assured.

91

Deutsche Wahoo 06.21.12 at 11:05 pm

This whole fiasco has been a headache for me since I first saw the news break when Sullivan was fired. I really do love the University, but I have watched it creep towards “Big State U” and away from the traditions and focus on quality of education and towards trying to make our athletics department better than any other in the nation (Nike sponsorship and big donations to make a marching band still hasn’t improved the football team … we were better when we had dudes in vests drunkenly sprinting around the pitch and we had Champion as our uniform sponsor).

Unfortunately, the University has seen many backdoor deals for the sake of “progress” and making more money … all it has gotten us is a really nice basketball stadium with a weak team (which might have improved sans ACC expansion) and a football program that remains weak. Despite new construction for many CLAS-associated buildings, the programs using those facilities could use more help. It has appeared to me that the University’s priority (not that of the faculty and students or all of the alumni, mind you) has been athletics for many years now. Sure, it sells the brand, but when I had a prospective employer ask me when I graduated (CLAS ’02) and he tells me, “Good. You graduated before your program started to decline in prominence and relevance” you know that selling the brand means more than selling t-shirts with a classy logo. (note: This occurred in 2010) At the end of the day, it’s about the quality of the education and the ball-breaking challenge of earning the marks necessary to wear the “honor of honors.” Not whether or not we win the Sears Cup or a BCS game.

BOV — you should have stuck to the Jeffersonian roots of the University … as the old adage goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We used to be a Public Ivy, but I’m starting to feel like Duke is more like Stanford than we are right now. Prove me wrong and I’ll start paying my annual donation again. Keep it up, and I’ll keep sending your money to the graduate school (University of Pittsburgh – Graduate School of Public and International Affairs) I attended after I left Charlottesville. That place seemed to have more scruples about it’s internal decorum than what we are seeing right now in C-ville.

Rick Dortch
Senior IT Consultant, GeoEye, Inc.
Stuttgart, Germany
CLAS ’02

P.S. I don’t mean to bash the athletics department, but it seems to have more money thrown at it than departments which constitute the University’s bread-and-butter. Trust me, I enjoy the fact that while we continue to pick up national titles in *insert name of non-revenue sport here*, our friends in Blacksburg still only have a national title in Bass fishing, courtesy of ESPN. And even here in Stuttgart, that makes me smile as much as having a frosty halbe in my clutches.

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Stephen Diamond 06.21.12 at 11:43 pm

SubMac:

For a comprehensive overview do the problems see the Statement issued by Dragas today. Most important in my view is her comment about the pace of change at many universities relative to what is happening at Stanford and MIT.

93

Barry 06.22.12 at 12:21 am

Link?

94

Tom C 06.22.12 at 12:40 am

Yeah, latest Dragas e-mail doesn’t make reference to the earlier e-mail’s implication that Sullivan would be reinstated but instead doubles down on why she was fired–looks like a bloodbath is coming at Tue.’s BoV meeting. I predict Sullivan is back in, Dragas out–but who could have predicted what’s already happened??

95

Tom C 06.22.12 at 12:42 am

S. Diamond,
Firing the President b/c of a lack of commitment to online education seems pretty weak. Have you tried online coursework? It’s way worse than reading a book. So if books haven’t obviated the university, I don’t see how online will. Techno-utopianism is overrated.

96

Stephen Diamond 06.22.12 at 1:13 am

Tom C,

I don’t think that’s the only reason why they wanted her out although clearly the BOV opponents would like to shape the debate that way. I have raised concerns on our campus about on line learning and agree that it is problematic. But this debate runs much deeper than that. See the Dragas memo today listing ten major areas of concern. The theme I think is the pace of change. And that is a problem many schools and universities face. There is an inertia on college campuses that can border on the absurd.

I think the BOV saw TS as someone, in the fashion of RCM, who was really a captive of the faculty and deans. My guess is there is a substantial group among faculty who think things need to change there too. Of course, in this atmosphere they are remaining silent.

And of course the number of people who would like to see even more radical change to higher education is much smaller and much less vocal. The ReclaimUC group is a nice corrective to that.

97

Substance McGravitas 06.22.12 at 2:16 am

98

Tom C 06.22.12 at 3:12 am

S. Diamond,
Right. The other (than online education) 9 factors that Dragas cites strike me as rather–generic–though. That is, not-UVA-specific. I am agnostic about the Sullivan firing, b/c I don’t think she’s really made much of a mark yet (not a criticism–she’s new), but is UVA really going to conjure up a new President that can improve faculty compensation? And, I thought that a UVA-strength was a its de-emphasis on “Big Science”–that seems to have led schools like Rochester from (20th C.) prominence to mediocrity b/c it’s too expensive, and federal funds don’t fully cover it–so, b/c UVA isn’t CalTech or MIT, that should be left relatively small. Prominence in fields like English, history, philosophy, law and (dare I say it?) business is a lot cheaper to attain, and I thought a reason for UVA’s punching above its financial weight amongst US universities.

99

bemused 06.22.12 at 3:14 am

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/u-vas-teresa-sullivan-urges-civil-discourse-on-campus/2012/06/21/gJQAITrKtV_story_1.html shows that several of Dragas’s reasons for dismissing Sullivan were not, as we say, “reality based”.

100

Tom C 06.22.12 at 3:25 am

Bemused,
Yeah, that’s pretty funny that the faculty-student ratio is unchanged and the faculty compensation has increased above the national norm and Dragas is citing those as “crises.”

101

JW Mason 06.22.12 at 3:41 am

I would just like to say that I, anyway, see a great value in the distinct values of the university and think that calls for “change” for its own sake should, in fact, be strenuously resisted. (Especially when the main evidence for the need for change is an Aaron Sorkin movie…) Stephen Diamond approves of Draga’s actions (though he’s too cowardly to quite say so) specifically because they move in the direction of extending or deepening the hegemony of business values in higher education.

102

JW Mason 06.22.12 at 3:42 am

why would a scholar who thinks the federal securities law added no value (UVA law dean Paul Mahoney) back Sullivan? What does that tell you about the “local consensus”?

I have no idea, and I don’t care.

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Stephen 06.22.12 at 3:47 am

Bravo!

104

Christian Gehman 06.22.12 at 4:55 am

Thank you for this. But it would be perhaps appropriate to convene an Honor Court to consider the question: Did Ms. Dragas’s actions bring dishonor on the University?

105

Tom C 06.22.12 at 5:30 am

Well, on the (very) narrow point Mahoney is correct. This doesn’t invalidate all regulation of course, but he’s correct on the details of the SEC.

106

Stephen Diamond 06.22.12 at 7:51 am

I don’t know what you are smoking, JW, but now you are evidencing the same style of Jeff, err, Jerry V. It is clear that I do not support the Dragas approach and you should not state otherwise. It is inappropriate behavior. Since this is a moderated blog I appeal to the moderator to respond here.

Regarding the role of Dean Mahoney, you were the one who said you cared about my views of the securities markets and yet you do not seem to think it interesting that a leading conservative law and economics figure who has attacked those same securities laws that I think need strengthening, is a leading figure in the anti-Dragas movement. As the Reclaim UC analysis demonstrates there is more to this anti-D movement than you dismissively suggest.

107

Stephen Diamond 06.22.12 at 7:52 am

Tom C, how is Mahoney correct exactly? Have you read his paper?

108

Tom C 06.22.12 at 8:06 am

S. Diamond,
Yes, I have, and it doesn’t seem shenanigans have gotten less common since the SEC got involved–I think that’s his modest (and correct) point.
The future of UVa seems more important–I’m still not so sure why these generic issues have crystallized here, but it’s interesting for sure. I still want to hear how Dragas is going to use her power to make UVa more competitive with, say, Penn–she’s what they call “all hat, and no cattle” as far as I can tell.

109

Tom C 06.22.12 at 8:16 am

We can quibble about Mahoney, which gets into a whole topic-see:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=10077
but let’s keep our eye on the UVA ball.

110

Eli Rabett 06.22.12 at 9:26 am

Dragas has hired Hill and Knowlton. Hill and Knowlton do PR. PR lays astroturf. Just keep that in mind.

111

Eli Rabett 06.22.12 at 9:45 am

And, breaking news, Dragas’ statement of reasons was written by a senior flack in the office of Hill and Knowlton, who forgot to strip out the metainformation.

112

bill benzon 06.22.12 at 10:05 am

@111m Eli Rabett. Nothing like outsourcing stupidity! No doubt the H&K flack had, in turn, farmed it out to one of the Nigerian letter scammers.

113

bill benzon 06.22.12 at 10:12 am

Look at #10 on the list:

“10. Increasing importance of a proactive, contemporary communications function. The recent events unfolding at UVA have proven a demonstrated need to fortify university communications functions with updated technologies. We need faster, multi-platform communications including cutting-edge use of mobile, digital and social media to complement a more traditional media-relations function and press outreach to tell the UVA story.”

Looks like a pitch for more H&K expertise. Is that one of they things they teach you in the Mickey Mouse School of Value-Added RedundancyConsultancy? You know: “The LAST thing in the list of problems in your dynamic diagnostic document, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS argue that the client needs more of your precious live-giving vital fluidic services. ALWAYS, though not in so many words.”

114

bill benzon 06.22.12 at 11:26 am

I got it: Take Yudoff from UCal, the UVa BOV, JP Tudor’s billions, and let then establish a charter city for distant learning in Honduras, where, I hear, the legal machinery is already in place. I call it a winwinwinwin situation, a big w4! Bananas for everyone.

115

Jerry Vinokurov 06.22.12 at 12:37 pm

You know, given that apparently disagreeing with Stephen Diamond’s argumentum ab cinema qualifies one as having an “attitude problem” and therefore not worthy of being engaged, I wasn’t really going to pursue this further, but this:

I don’t know what you are smoking, JW, but now you are evidencing the same style of Jeff, err, Jerry V. It is clear that I do not support the Dragas approach and you should not state otherwise. It is inappropriate behavior. Since this is a moderated blog I appeal to the moderator to respond here.

is pretty rich. Inappropriate behavior? Did someone die and make you moderator? I await with bated breath the arrival of a moderator who will no doubt take your hurt feelings on the Internet very seriously!

And maybe, just maybe, if you don’t want to be seen as supporting Dragas, you shouldn’t be writing things that make it sound like you support Dragas. Because, see, when you refer to university education as an “aging tottering model” and then refer to Dragas’ list of lies:

For a comprehensive overview do the problems see the Statement issued by Dragas today. Most important in my view is her comment about the pace of change at many universities relative to what is happening at Stanford and MIT.

with apparent agreement about “change of pace” (whatever that means), then people with normally functioning reading comprehension skills are going to assume that you’re actually in agreement with Dragas. So maybe if you don’t want people thinking that, you should choose your words more carefully. But I’m guessing that given that you seriously and without reservation wrote that American higher education is in crisis because some computer dudes dropped out of college to start businesses and someone made a movie about it, word choice is not exactly your strong suit.

116

Stephen Diamond 06.22.12 at 4:04 pm

Bill Benzon: Reclaim UC suggests that Sullivan was a protege of Yudof. Should she join him on the island?

117

Stephen Diamond 06.22.12 at 4:19 pm

I don’t know whether the Sullivan backers here actually teach or work or study at a university where everyday you have to grapple with how exactly one matches the need to prepare young people to survive in the real world with the cost of doing so in an economic environment that insures that most will be paying off debt for decades.

But I do. And while I have deep politcal differences with the approach of Dragas et al I nonetheless recognize in the Dragas memo the essence of the challenge facing all of higher education today. We are laboring under a Clark Kerr cold war model in an era that is dramatically different economically and technologically.

Nothing about the situation at UVA is pretty. But to dismiss the conflict blithely as some have done as a battle between a corporate takeover and heroic intellectuals is to argue reductio ad absurdum.

118

Steve LaBonne 06.22.12 at 5:52 pm

But to dismiss the conflict blithely as some have done as a battle between a corporate takeover and heroic intellectuals is to argue reductio ad absurdum.

No, it’s to have one’s eyes open and not be an idiot. (Only an idiot would have the time of day for an arrogant real estate developer who thinks her money and her head full of B-school buzzwords qualify her to run a university.) Your position, to make sense, requires Sullivan to be seen as ignoring the challenges you cite. That’s a long way from being the case.

119

Substance McGravitas 06.22.12 at 6:00 pm

I don’t know whether the Sullivan backers here actually teach or work or study at a university where everyday you have to grapple with how exactly one matches the need to prepare young people to survive in the real world with the cost of doing so in an economic environment that insures that most will be paying off debt for decades.

But I do.

Is there some movie you could refer me to that would prove this?

120

Substance McGravitas 06.22.12 at 6:04 pm

I don’t know whether the Sullivan backers here actually teach or work or study at a university where everyday you have to grapple with how exactly one matches the need to prepare young people to survive in the real world with the cost of doing so in an economic environment that insures that most will be paying off debt for decades.

But I do.

Curse the CT formatting demons. Seriously though, I do not understand the sense of proportion exhibited here. A professor who has the wrong ideas about regulation couldn’t be right about Dragas but The Social Network proves something about academia?

121

richard d bove 06.22.12 at 6:09 pm

most insightful creative and all to accurate

122

Stephen Diamond 06.22.12 at 6:11 pm

Here are the very broad strokes: 50% of the population can’t or don’t go to college. 50% of the half that do don’t graduate. That leaves 25% who do but half of those can’t get serious work when they do. That leave 12.5%.

Of the 12.5% half could probably succeed with out graduating with a degree anyway (the Zucks).

That leaves 6.25%. Probably 75% of those graduate with significant sometimes overwhelming debt loads.

Ask yourself if we were starting from scratch whether we would build the massive higher education capital plant (human and physical) on the basis of that 6.25% and then force them to finance it?

Now go ahead and offhandedly tear apart the stats but a year from now the problem will not have gotten any closer to resolution, it will have gotten worse. That is the nature of the threat that I think the BOV (and Sullivan) are trying to grapple with.

123

Substance McGravitas 06.22.12 at 6:43 pm

Now go ahead and offhandedly tear apart the stats but

What are the stats for the University of Virginia and what is their trend?

124

Jerry Vinokurov 06.22.12 at 6:49 pm

I don’t know whether the Sullivan backers here actually teach or work or study at a university where everyday you have to grapple with how exactly one matches the need to prepare young people to survive in the real world with the cost of doing so in an economic environment that insures that most will be paying off debt for decades.

One does not need to assume that Sullivan is a saint in order to see that her opponents are worse. I mean, I read the reclaimUC post (and as a Berkeley alum I agree with virtually all of it); I’m willing to believe that Sullivan isn’t made of puppies and rainbows. On the other hand, she seemed (from my distant vantage point) to be at least nominally concerned about running a university like, you know, a university, and not like a business.

For what it’s worth, I do work at an Institution of Higher Learning, but my job has nothing to do with teaching. On the other hand, I am one of those young people you speak of.

But I do. And while I have deep politcal differences with the approach of Dragas et al I nonetheless recognize in the Dragas memo the essence of the challenge facing all of higher education today. We are laboring under a Clark Kerr cold war model in an era that is dramatically different economically and technologically.

What challenges, exactly? And why do you think the Clark Kerr model is irreparably broken? Or to put the question another way: who broke it?

That’s not idle speculation. We didn’t just randomly end up here somehow, we weren’t teleported to this stage of affairs. What’s happening at UVA, and Berkeley, and other public institutions of their stature (and will soon, if it hasn’t already, filter down from those places) is the product of a decades-long campaign to undermine universities as places of learning and inquiry. None of this is accidental, and people like Dragas who bleat on about strategic dynamisms and what have you are instrumental in accomplishing this. I don’t believe for one fraction of one millisecond that Dragas and her ilk have any interest whatsoever in solving the real problems of higher education (one of which, as you acknowledge, is the debt load). They nothing but profiteers, and if they could make an extra dollar by burning UVA to the ground, they’d do it in a heartbeat.

Nothing about the situation at UVA is pretty. But to dismiss the conflict blithely as some have done as a battle between a corporate takeover and heroic intellectuals is to argue reductio ad absurdum.

Besides an incorrect use of the concept of the reductio, you also showcase a completely false dichotomy. We don’t have to believe that Sullivan is a “heroic intellectual” and the corporate takeover of public higher education is already a fact anyway. The question is: is that takeover the right solution to the problems of higher ed? Is it a good solution? For whom? The increasing privatization of universities is certainly a great solution for a small cadre of rich people who profit from it (c.f. most of the UC regents) and a terrible solution for the students (and I would posit for society as a whole).

Here are the very broad strokes: 50% of the population can’t or don’t go to college. 50% of the half that do don’t graduate. That leaves 25% who do but half of those can’t get serious work when they do. That leave 12.5%.

Of the 12.5% half could probably succeed with out graduating with a degree anyway (the Zucks).

That leaves 6.25%. Probably 75% of those graduate with significant sometimes overwhelming debt loads.

Are these numbers even remotely close to reality? Let’s say they are; are you seriously claiming that we’re “build[ing] the massive higher education capital plant (human and physical) on the basis of that 6.25% and then forc[ing] them to finance it?” Do you have any evidence for this?

Yes, student debt is a serious problem! I agree! But the solution is not destroying the idea of the university altogether; we could, if we wanted to, renew our commitment to public higher education in the form of increased state support. But that would require someone to pay a little more in taxes, and we can’t have that, so I guess we’ll just have to destroy the university in order to save it. Or something.

125

Sara Robinson 06.22.12 at 7:19 pm

The esteemed UVA professor, Dr. Brantly Womack, and I(a UVA/OLLI instructor) will be hoisting a nice Glenfarclas single malt tonight in honor of Ms. Dragas’ petard.
Only Glenfarclas would work here. All that have preceded my humble entry are right and true. I can only add this: Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of facts within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity.-Calvin Coolidge.
The BOV would be well served to look the lessons of history, and gain some wisdom. But now I would prefer they conduct their learning outside of UVA, perhaps in a sandbox(which they seem to prefer) where they can do less damage.

126

John Mashey 06.22.12 at 7:39 pm

re: #142 Hill and Knowlton

H&K: now nice. It is famed for <a href="http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/xrd37b00/pdf&quot;, i.e., the "Frank Statement, p.5-" which was advertised in 400+ newspapers. The Tobacco Industry Research Council was set up in H&K offices.

Viewed from a PR perspective, H&K did a terrific job helping the tobacco companies under John Hill, who had himself stopped smoking years earlier for health reasons.

127

rf 06.22.12 at 7:50 pm

keynote has better transitions

128

rf 06.22.12 at 8:15 pm

I didnt write the above for what its worth, so either there’s an impersonator (!) or somethings wrong with the site or my computer. Either way, I doubt anyone cares

129

Eli Rabett 06.22.12 at 8:47 pm

Ah no

Of the 3.1 million youth age 16 to 24 who graduated from high school between January and October 2011, about 2.1 million (68.3 percent) were enrolled in college in October 2011. The college enrollment rate of recent high school graduates was slightly lower than the record high set in October 2009 (70.1 percent). For 2011 graduates, the college enrollment rate was 72.3 percent for young women and 64.6 percent for young men. The college enrollment rate of Asian graduates (86.7 percent) was higher than for recent white (67.7 percent), black (67.5 percent), and Hispanic (66.6 percent) graduates. (See table 1.)

Wanna try again

130

JW Mason 06.22.12 at 8:55 pm

she seemed (from my distant vantage point) to be at least nominally concerned about running a university like, you know, a university, and not like a business.

Right. And this is what Stephen Diamond and Draga object to.

student debt is a serious problem! I agree! But the solution is not destroying the idea of the university altogether; we could, if we wanted to, renew our commitment to public higher education in the form of increased state support. But that would require someone to pay a little more in taxes, and we can’t have that, so I guess we’ll just have to destroy the university in order to save it.

Exactly. Student debt is a problem, but to go from that to the idea that universities should be reinvent themselves as staffing services for venture capitalists is a bit of a leap.

131

Stephen Diamond 06.22.12 at 9:10 pm

Gosh, JW, I guess I can go back to work now since you seem so good at putting words in my mouth.

While of course I do not think a university can or should be run like a business (and please show me the evidence that Dragas thinks that either), let me ask you: should a university’s revenues exceed its costs?

132

JW Mason 06.22.12 at 9:16 pm

should a university’s revenues exceed its costs?

I think you meant this the other way round? Either way, it’s a silly question. Education is not a kind of business, it’s a public good.

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Raya 06.22.12 at 11:19 pm

As one who does, in fact, teach at a major research university (one ranked somewhat higher than UVA according to the largely spurious criteria employed by US News & World Report), I do not see my job as being “to prepare young people to survive in the real world.” My job is to nurture young minds, develop students’ intellectual skills and interests, impart knowledge, and play a role in both the preservation and the advancement of human knowledge. In essence, to do the work of maintaining human civilization. That is why the public invests in higher education. That is why the university is a public good. It’s not so that people can earn more money when they graduate. In fact, I’d rather that workers putting in long hours at physically (but not intellectually) demanding jobs were paid as much as, or more than, those in professions for which a college degree is helpful. They deserve it.

Universities are, first and foremost, supposed to be places where intellection happens: where people think, research, and study difficult questions in the hope of adding something to the answers. Society needs the pool of educated thinkers to replenish itself on an ongoing basis, which is why universities accept students: they are supposed to be academic centers to which students apprentice themselves as intellectuals. Not profit centers, not credential dispensers that provide an “asset” (degree) to enhance the future earner’s “portfolio,” and certainly not factories for the production of more like Mark Zuckerberg. Zuck dropped out because he was more interested in making money and running a business than in the life of the mind. It was an appropriate decision, because universities exist to nurture the life of the mind, not to help people make money. Arguably society does need some Mark Zuckerbergs to keep us moving forward (though it would be nice if he paid his fair share in taxes, to support the society that enabled his meteoric rise). But we need thinkers as well — people for whom university is NOT a waste of time, but a valuable intellectual experience. The university is indeed NOT designed to produce Zuckerbergs — which is to its credit. We stand for a different, but equally important and necessary, set of values.

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Stephen Diamond 06.23.12 at 3:42 am

JW, since my question was too silly for you (perhaps the complexities of life under capitalism escape you, perhaps you are independently wealthy and can ignore them), but as the rest of us must grapple with these complexities let me pose a few tougher ones: do you think the bondholders who have invested hundreds of millions in UVA bonds expect the university’s revenues to exceed its costs? Do you think the stewards of UVA’s multi-billion dollar endowment should invest University funds in entities where revenues exceed costs?

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Dave2 06.23.12 at 3:55 am

Stephen Diamond: You’re using an awfully high-handed tone for someone who doesn’t know what a reductio ad absurdum is.

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Stephen Diamond 06.23.12 at 7:07 am

Dave2, Now people are putting ideas (mistaken, of course) into my head. The level of intellectual imperialism on this site is laughable.

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Stephen Diamond 06.23.12 at 8:29 am

Was the firing of President Sullivan legal?

See my blog post at LUN.

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Praxidike 06.23.12 at 3:20 pm

Brilliant and hilarious. Thanks very much for writing this.

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What a Site 06.23.12 at 3:41 pm

Jerry Vinokurov: YOU are MY hero. Thank you for being witty and thoughtful; and thank you for doing the necessary work of eviscerating the idiotic arguments–well, rambling assertions–of Stephen Diamond.

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Tom Bach 06.23.12 at 4:39 pm

Stephen:
Raya is a 100% correct about universities’ purposes and, consequently, the answer to your question concerning investing is yes. So long as the money goes to improving a college or university’s ability to serve its core mission, which rules out — I think — climbing walls and better paid administrators.

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Jerry Vinokurov 06.23.12 at 10:04 pm

Dragas talked about cutting departments and programs that she deemed “unprofitable.” That’s corporate-speak right there, and you can read the rest of her 10 points to find more. She really does think that universities should be run like businesses.

As for the the question, universities should have enough resources to fulfill their mission. That mission includes doing things like teaching classics and German (and physics, and psychology, and philosophy too), and doing the sort of thing that Raya talked about above.

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John Quiggin 06.23.12 at 10:07 pm

“Now people are putting ideas (mistaken, of course) into my head”

It would appear that these mistaken ideas will find plenty of company in the existing contents.

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lupita 06.23.12 at 11:21 pm

It seems like a Dragas was just pulled off in Paraguay.

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Tom C 06.24.12 at 12:10 am

Interestingly, in spite of Dragas’ talk of cutting classics and German, UVA is required by Virginia law to teach Latin Greek and German:

§ 23-63. Branches of learning to be taught.

The following branches of learning shall be taught at the University:
the Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and
Anglo-Saxon languages; the different branches of mathematics, pure and
physical; natural philosophy, chemistry, mineralogy, including
geology; the principles of agriculture; botany, anatomy, surgery, and
medicine; zoology, history, ideology, general grammar, ethics,
rhetoric, and belles lettres; civil government, political economy, the
law of nature and of nations and municipal law.

(Code 1919, § 817.)

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Sandra P 06.24.12 at 12:48 pm

Although this is essay is brilliant and funny, I sense that the severity of this attack on the University hasn’t registered yet. The ability of the University’s students to reach a point where each and every one of them would grow capable of writing a polished piece of satire like this is precisely what is being attacked by this swift-moving dynamo corporate assault. Any clown can evaluate a University by sheer numbers. It takes years of exposure to cultural ideas, values, and history, however, to be able to think independently enough to write meaningful thought-provoking prose like that found in this article. Eliminating the cultural side of the class experience at the University (by removing the Classics, for example) isn’t about money – it’s about depriving students of a chance to develop the ability to think independently. Consider yourself warned!

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Jon 06.24.12 at 2:50 pm

should a university’s revenues exceed its costs?

The whole point of public education is that the revenues supplied by students and donors fall short of costs. The disappearance of that model in the U.S. is a bad thing, not a good one.

I’ve known Paul Mahoney for a long time, btw, and — while I haven’t spoken to him about l’affaire Dragas — I think it’s a fair assumption that he opposed the firing because he believes that universities should be run by people who know something about them, rather than people who don’t.

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curious monolith 06.24.12 at 4:41 pm

The cross-talk in this discussion thread about UVa reminds me, in some ways, of one of the complicating issues within the more general cultural discussion about higher ed–specifically, the question of change and its relationship to the identity of the university. Team Dragas is identified with business interests, with a particularly aggressive form of corporatizing the university. Team Sullivan is identified with defending against this assault–except that it seems generally to be recognized that universities everywhere have already been transformed by business interests, operating more incrementally but nevertheless quite effectively over time. So while the faculty’s defense of Sullivan has been important and valuable, what version of the university does this defense really represent, other than an opposition to the really aggressive version of the business model? Is there a legitimate progressive alternative to the business model of the university out there? Is the main alternative a diminished, watered-down business model? Is there an alternative that imagines undoing the effects of the business model that have already transformed higher education? Should change just be resisted as a way of holding onto an older model, or does another kind of change need to be imagined altogether?

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Stephen Diamond 06.24.12 at 10:33 pm

The distinction some try to draw here between a business and a university is a false one. Both are capitalist institutions. Both serve the larger purposes of a capitalist society. One organizes and exploits labor, the other trains labor and future bosses for their place in the system. For a helpful discussion see Hal Draper’s essay The Mind of Clark Kerr.

A small handful try to exploit the relative openness of a university environment to promote alternatives. I am sceptical that life for such advocates would be materially different under a Sullivan/Yudof regime than under the kind of regime one finds at Stanford or MIT.

The UVA situation is a battle among two competing factions of capital trying to deal with the combination of a fiscal crisis and a technological challenge to the established university structure. Anyone no matter how “progressive” trying to lead such an institution will have to bend to the will of the larger context. Just as the multiculturalist social democrat Obama ends up masterminding drone/special ops warfare to maintain US global power, the Canadian social democrat chancellor at Berkeley Bob Birgeneau ends up calling the cops to crush student/faculty protest. Sullivan would likely do the same under similar circumstances.

The goal must be to change the wider context. At the level of the university, one way forward is to use this situation to promote alternative forms of governance of the university, such as mandating faculty and staff representatives on the board of trustees. That at least would provide some potential for arguing for the values that some here think ought to govern a university.

At UVA, of course, promoting the end to right to work laws would also help. I wonder what the sociologist of work, President Sullivan, has tried to do about that.

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Peter T 06.24.12 at 11:56 pm

Stephen Diamond seems to apply to academia the logic of the refusal of a united front in the 30s.

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Watson Ladd 06.25.12 at 12:14 am

Raya, the high priest of an Egyptian temple would also describe his job as protecting human civilization. The costs of doing so rose exponentially and eventually bankrupted the New Kingdom. Not every enterprise with nobly described aims is good, especially in higher education. One need only think about “expanding access” and the way it becomes a smokescreen for avarice.

Jerry, the costs of Berkley are increasingly administration. The obvious remedy is not less profit orientation but more: noting that administrators generally add nothing to the sum of human knowledge, despite costing quite a bit. Arguing that we shouldn’t consider how our means relate to our ends is a nonstarter.

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JW Mason 06.25.12 at 12:20 am

The distinction some try to draw here between a business and a university is a false one. Both are capitalist institutions.

God, if there is one thing I hate it’s this kind of lefter-than-thou defense of privilege and the status quo. Hey, it’s all capitalism, so why pick sides?

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Stephen Diamond 06.25.12 at 2:42 am

Ah JW you’re back. Tell me then which side are you on: do you support the proposal to include faculty and staff on university boards? If not what do you propose as a constructive step forward in the face of this crisis?

Peter T – you were for a united front in the 30s, really?

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Stephen Diamond 06.25.12 at 3:38 am

By the way that much vaunted “local consensus” took a huge hit today when the student council decided to remain neutral in the controversy over Sullivan.

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Geoffrey 06.25.12 at 1:53 pm

This was brilliant. I’ve come back to reread it several times. Thanks.

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Tom C 06.26.12 at 7:36 pm

Sullivan’s been re-hired.

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JW Mason 06.26.12 at 7:46 pm

Fantastic. The good guys win for once.

Maybe CT should find someone to write about what went right here. We on the liberal/left political world have a bad habit of dwelling on our defeats and not learning from our successes. Obviously the Board sabotaged themselves here, but I’m sure there are still things to learn from what made the response effective.

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lupita 06.26.12 at 8:07 pm

what went right here

The Faculty Senate and many others were strategically dynamic.

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Substance McGravitas 06.26.12 at 8:11 pm

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Steve LaBonne 06.26.12 at 8:25 pm

Maybe Stephen Diamond will STFU now. Though I doubt it.

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Stephen Diamond 06.26.12 at 9:47 pm

Phil Ochs said it all:

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Substance McGravitas 06.26.12 at 10:23 pm

You know what Phil Ochs would say? THIS:

The point is simple, Gates, Jobs and Zuckerberg all dropped out. What used to be considered “counter-cultural” is now being made a norm. In Social Network a clear theme is the irrelevance of traditional 4 years of college (with its stuffy wasp rituals and heavy student debt loads) to the reality of business today. That theme is now being taken to a new level by people like Peter Thiel, an early investor in Facebook, who now recruits people to drop out of graduate school and begin businesses. Entities like Udacity and Singularity are attracting thousands of people around the world and are rewriting the rules and structures of higher education. In other words, what Gates and Jobs did back in the day is increasingly being legitimized, even institutionalized. And the smart universities like Stanford and MIT see the change are trying to get ahead of it. RCM appears to be the way that some schools defend their model while trying to stay afloat fiscally.

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Stephen Diamond 06.26.12 at 11:05 pm

No, Substance, that’s what any rational objective person would say if they tried to sort out what is happening in higher education. Two models are battling for control, with liberals naively picking sides – the lesser evil, one might say.

I put a concrete proposal for an alternative approach on the table here and have not yet seen any response to it or any other way out of this crisis.

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Substance McGravitas 06.26.12 at 11:14 pm

No, Substance, that’s what any rational objective person would say

So not Phil Ochs?

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Cranky Observer 06.27.12 at 12:00 am

Question for the academics: would you take that job back after what has occurred? In the corporate world a general career management principle is ‘never go back’; would that be good advice here?

Cranky

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Jerry Vinokurov 06.27.12 at 12:10 am

No, Substance, that’s what any rational objective person would say if they tried to sort out what is happening in higher education. Two models are battling for control, with liberals naively picking sides – the lesser evil, one might say.

That is clearly not what any rational, objective person would say, because rational, objective people do not evaluate long-term trends based on three data-points spaced decades apart and a fictionalization of one of those data-points, plus the rantings of a noted Randroid.

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Tom C 06.27.12 at 1:31 am

I’d take the job–the jet is perk that i couldn’t pass up.

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