Monday, March 12, 2007

A Captain of Erudition

In his 2002 State-of-the-University address Spanier explains that his return to in loco partentis, i.e. the student-center university, is a response to market forces and fear of lawsuits.

Students are demanding more for their money. Although I know that many of us in higher education do not like to think of ourselves in business models, the fact is that many students and their parents do. They see themselves as consumers purchasing a service, and they expect it to be delivered to their specifications. While academics recoil at the thought of running academic institutions like corporations, the plain truth is the rest of America sees it differently, and we cannot ignore this perception, no matter how much we may scorn it.

I'd love for you to catch a glimpse of my daily mail. Many of the sentiments from students are delivered as ultimatums or carry with them a threat of retaliation, such as this recent note: "I'd appreciate your help in reversing this blatantly unfair decision. I think you owe me that much since I pay your salary."

Or my favorite: "I thought I would give you the opportunity to resolve this matter before I turn it over to my attorney." And I used to think an A- was an excellent grade! I know that some of you have stories of your own. Is it possible that Mark Twain could have been right when he mused, "Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach the age of 18."

Many parents today not only want their children to obtain a first-rate education, they are increasingly seeking tighter supervision of their children's private lives. Ironically, many of those who are lobbying for new policies to protect their children, even some who have filed lawsuits, are from the same generation that, as students themselves, rallied against "in loco parentis" - the notion that the University should exercise parental-like authority over the personal lives of students.

Many parents want notification of alcohol violations, call us to intervene in their sons' or daughters' roommate disputes, and want to argue about exam scores. Students, on the other hand, want what they have always wanted: the freedom to make their own choices. Yet some of those same students end up pointing to the University as responsible if their academic careers are derailed by poor choices.

That explains everything. Whenever Spanier takes away power from the students, he is not being an autocratic control freak; he is a businessman responding to his customers. I guess this means that whenever he takes away power from the faculty, he is not being an autocratic control freak; he is a businessman dealing with his employees. Welcome to our brave new world.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

powered by performancing firefox

No comments: