5.2.15

LOSING THE GOOD OF THE INTELLECT.

As part of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's plan to reduce state spending on the University of Wisconsin system whilst granting the universities greater autonomy, he or someone on his staff proposed to amend the purpose statement for the university system, substituting "workforce development" in place of any mention of  "search for truth" or "improving the human condition."  The governor and his handlers are spinning the revised language as "drafting error" or perhaps as "blank, simple mission statement."  The drafting of mission statements, and the latest corporate assault on clear thinking, re-visioning the vision, is just another administrative time suck for a downsized and demoralized faculty being called upon to deliver more credit hours to increased numbers of unprepared, disengaged, or intoxicant-addled students.  Here's the Inside Higher Ed observation thereon, if more moderately.
“In recent years university mission statements tend to be revised so that they lean dangerously to the omnibus fallacy -- trying to be so encompassing that they become generic and saccharine in tone and content,” [University of Kentucky historian John] Thelin said in an email. “I think that is a function of two things: probably reliance on external public relations firms and marketing consultants, and, second, a reflection of the growth, diversity and complexity within an institution -- especially a large state university and its system.”
In other words, deanlets and deanlings go off strategizing and meeting and retreating and revisioning for the same reason economists offer quarterly interest rate forecasts: because others expect them to do so.  It has nothing to do with improving the learning conditions for the students or the working conditions of the faculty.  Here's Wisconsin-Milwaukee English professor Richard Krusin
If these proposed changes succeed, [University of Wisconsin system president Ray] Cross will have sold the University of Wisconsin System’s birthright to Scott Walker for less than a mess of pottage, and is likely to go down in the history of public higher education as a modern-day Esau, the System President on whose watch a once-respected public University System was reduced to a second-rate “public-benefit corporation.”
The late Richard "Underground Grammarian" Mitchell put it directly.  And that’s what a university is, if it is a university, and not a jumped-up trade school, or a conditioning station for docile citizens, or a pulpit of ideology. It is a place devoted to the study and preservation and nurture of whatever human wisdom can be found that pertains to everybody who lives, or has lived, or ever will live, on Earth." Indeed.

I wonder, though, whether in striking any reference to truth, the governor's wordsmiths didn't get in a dig at the impostors who insist on referring to "truth".  To wit,  the humanities types only become protective of the ancient traditions when their budgets are at stake.  Otherwise it's business as usual, interrogating hegemonic phrases.

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