EdMedia Commons Archive

Up For Debate: Does the UVA Controversy Signal the Corporatization of Higher Ed?

The fallout over University of Virginia’s decision to force out its president has unleashed a cascade of opinion pieces bemoaning what some see as the increased pressure on higher learning institutions to elevate business concerns over their academic missions.

Over at Slate, professor Siva Vaidhyanathan accused university boards of giving in to the “whims of the wealthy:”

 “The biggest challenge facing higher education is market-based myopia. Wealthy board members, echoing the politicians who appointed them (after massive campaign donations) too often believe that universities should be run like businesses, despite the poor record of most actual businesses in human history.”

And over at CNN, professor Jeremi Suri criticizes the notion that higher education can be boiled down to a sequence of efficiencies:

“Anyone who has taught writing, for example, knows that there is no substitute for the instructor sitting with the student and going line-by-line through each sentence. The same is true for theoretical physics, medicine, law and many other fields. You need extended time and personal contact for young minds to mature as effective thinkers. That is expensive, but it is money well spent for the good of the society.”

The fiercest language arguably came from liberal blogger Jamelle Bouie of The American Prospect:

 “Reporters in Charlottesville and at the Washington Post have done a great job of covering the scandal … What they found is that—far from incompetence or mismanagement—Sullivan’s sin was that she acted as a university administrator and not as a business person.”

Are these commentators right or wrong? And do you see similarities, or differences, between this debate and the one unfolding in K-12 education over the influence of well-heeled reformers?

This post originally appeared on EWA’s now-defunct online community, EdMedia Commons. Old content from EMC will appear in the Ed Beat archives.