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‘Whose University is This?’ Forum To Explore Corporate Model of Higher Education Held on ASU Monday, Nov. 10

By Jesse Wood

Nov. 6, 2014. “Whose University is This?” is the title of a forum held on the campus of Appalachian State University on Monday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. in Room 114 of the Belk Library.

The forum, which will include an open discussion after the panel of speakers talk, is open to the public, and students, in particular, are encouraged to attend and participate in the dialogue.

The forum is organized by the ASU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and will explore “how the adoption of the corporate model in American higher education is affecting the lives of students and faculty” across ASU, according to a release announcing the event.

Among the issues to be addressed by the panel are student fees, student debt, the handling of sexual assault cases, the status of non-tenure-track faculty and faculty governance.

Michael Behrent, an Associate Professor in the ASU History Department and member of the ASU Chapter of the AAUP, said the impetus for this forum came about after Henry Giroux, a noted scholar, educational theorist and public intellectual, gave a talk on the campus in late September titled “Disposable Features: Neoliberalism’s Assault on Higher Education.”

Giroux’ appearance on the campus was organized by the ASU Chapter for the explicit purpose of triggering campus dialogue on the corporatization of higher education institutions in America.

“I would say in the past 20 to 30 years universities have moved away from thinking of themselves as primarily public institutions and have increasingly thought of themselves as corporations or as businesses,” Behrent said. “I think you can see this in a number of ways.”

Behrent said that, most notably, public institutions are no longer financed with public money but with student tuition and donor fees and so forth.

“I think that has meant public universities have had to adapt to that situation and had to think about its core mission – education, research and so on – in terms of cost-benefit analysis and they’ve also adapted a sort of corporate model of governing – meaning less and less emphasis on faculty governance, which is what I call campus democracy, and increasingly relying on administrators, which are typically highly paid and rewarded based on data-driven activities.”

The release from the ASU Chapter of the AAUP noted that the goal of this event is to “identify concrete ways to mobilize greater student and faculty cooperation around major campus issues and to find solutions that meaningfully involve those who contribute to the university’s core mission.”

Behrent noted that many people on campus – students and faculty – have what may seem to be individual concerns with higher education.

“But they only express to one another and don’t connect the dots in a sense,” Behrent said. “These may seem to be individual concerns but they are in fact common concerns rooted in common shared problems.”

Read Behrent’s recent letter to the editor, “What every student should know about the modern university,” in The Appalachian, the college newspaper, for more on this issue.

The mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to advance academic freedom, to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education and to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good.