Higher Education and the Corporate
Paradigm: the Students are the Losers

Zuleyma Tang-Martinez
0.1. As institutions of higher education throughout the US and
abroad have adopted the corporate model, "efficiency" and profit
have been emphasized, while students have been redefined as
"customers", "consumers," and "clients."  In reality, what we are
currently witnessing, as the result of this corporate paradigm,
is the destruction of American higher education.  University
presidents and administrators take on the roles of Chief
Executive Officers, and business managers have not supported
greater diversity or inclusiveness in academia, whether in terms
of faculty or students.  The bottom line has become making money
rather than educating students or fostering an environment
conducive to free intellectual inquiry and development.

0.2. Although faculty often object to the corporate paradigm,
because of what it does to our profession and to us as
individuals, it is important to keep in mind that ultimately it
is the students and their education who suffer the most and have
the most to lose.  There are three trends, dictated by the
corporate approach, that profoundly affect the quality of the
education our students receive.

The Profit Motive in Teaching

1.1. The requirement for profits under the corporate model
frequently results in the cancellation of classes when not enough
students (measured by administration formulas) sign up.  Thus
critically important courses may not be offered.  As the
corporate takeover has proceeded, minimum enrollment numbers 
have risen significantly.  Thus a course that in the past might have
been offered with four to five students may now require a minimum
of ten students, or run the risk of being cancelled.  The needs
and desires of the students that have signed up are simply

1.2. A corollary and frequent consequence of this policy is
overcrowding of those courses which are offered, so that students
receive much less individualized attention from instructors. 
Laboratory courses, particularly in the sciences, are a good
example of what happens under these circumstances.  Rather than
creating new lab sections when the demand for a lab course
increases, all too frequently the response has been to keep the
same number of sections and stuff more students into the lab.  As
a result, a lab that twelve years ago had a maximum of twelve to
fourteen students may suddenly be taught with 24 or more
students.  Quality of teaching inevitably suffers but, in
addition, students may have to share equipment, and there may not
even be enough room for all students to have bench space and
suitable seating arrangements.  The profit motive mandates this
solution, since opening up new sections and hiring additional
faculty to teach the extra sections is considered too

1.3. Another manifestation of the profit motive is that, at the
same time university administrators push faculty to obtain more
external grant funds--with overhead going, of course, to the
university, grants without overhead hardly even count, so far as
most universities are concerned--they also withdraw subsidies for
teaching and research.  It is not unusual now for faculty and
graduate students to have to pay for all photocopying, phone
calls, and mailings out of their own pockets, even when these
costs are related to their teaching and research.  Travel funds
that help defray the costs of attending professional conferences
have been drastically cut back or completely eliminated at many
universities.  And subsidies for animal research--e.g. to
maintain animal colonies used for research by faculty, graduate,
and undergraduate students--have been eliminated likewise.  As a
result, teaching suffers, and certain types of student research
opportunities are seriously curtailed or eradicated.

Threats to Tenure

2.1. The current trend is for universities to impose post-tenure
review or eliminate tenure altogether.  The party line is that
these measures emphasize "accountability" and guarantee
excellence in education.  Unfortunately, the results are likely
to have highly detrimental effects on the ability of faculty to
do quality teaching.  Doing away with tenure or implementing
post-tenure review will inevitably have a chilling effect on
academic freedom.  Although tenure is a guarantee of job security
for faculty, academic freedom also protects the student's right
to hear diverse and uncensored opinions from their instructors. 
The freedom to be exposed to different points of view, and to
information on controversial topics, is essential if students are
to have the freedom to think.  Learning to think, and to hear
views that may not accord with those of the majority, is at the
heart of scholarship--it is precisely what higher education is
all about.  Threats to tenure and to academic freedom are, at
their very core, about intimidating faculty, thereby preventing
them from engaging students in meaningful discussions about our
society, about social injustice, and about the means to redress
societal problems.  Rather than being a potentially "subversive
activity" that could lead students to question and challenge the
powers-that-be, teaching would be reduced to the communication of
formulaic, censored, safe information that promotes the
viewpoints and agenda of the dominant segments of society, rather
than conveying the realities faced by its less powerful and
oppressed members.

Distance Education

3.1. Distance education is promoted as the cheapest way for
universities to offer courses and degrees, but the reality is
quite different.  Some universities (if they can be called
universities at all) give all their courses as "distance courses"
taught on the internet.  Other, more traditional universities
have turned to the internet to a lesser extent.  Students
enrolled in such courses never have to attend a lecture, and
their interactions with the "instructor" are completely through
the internet and e-mail.  Instructor and student may never meet,
or even see, one another.  Some distance courses offer limited
opportunities for discussions with a faculty member and/or other
students in a chat-room type format, but most long-distance
courses do not include this option.  As distance education
becomes increasingly common, it will be possible for a student to
go through an entire four year course of study without ever
having any meaningful contact with a faculty member and other
students.  Hands-on experiences, such as are necessary in many
laboratory settings, will be impossible.

3.2. One is left with the question: "Is this education?"  I
suggest that long distance courses, at best, allow students to
memorize a lot of facts.  Memorization, however, is not
education.  From my perspective, the student-faculty relationship
is critical and essential for intellectual growth and development; 
true education requires that faculty and students together and face-to-face have the opportunity to explore new areas of 
thought and engage in a dynamic exchange of views and ideas. 
Seen from this perspective, cyber-education is an oxymoron.

4. In summary, the current corporate takeover of higher education
brings to mind the story of Faust.  In contrast to Faust, who
sold his soul to the devil for knowledge, many current university
administrators and managers are in the process of selling the
soul of knowledge and higher education for "big bucks"; and in
the process both faculty and students are being damned to hell. 
The pretense and pretext proclaim that the corporate paradigm is
about efficiency and guaranteeing high quality performance of
faculty.  The reality is that it is being used to co-opt faculty
into creating "products"--the students--who will be apologists
for the powerful, and who will generate more profits by taking
their place as unthinking cogs in the wheels of our society's
corporate machinery.

Zuleyma Tang-Martinez (azarembka@compuserve.com) is Professor of
Biology and Women's Studies, University of Missouri, St. Louis,
and Vice-President of the AAUP chapter at UMSL.












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