In the introduction of A Free and Ordered Space, Ruminations on University Presidency, Giamatti parodies his experience as president of Yale University, and the university broadly, foreshadowing the rise of the corporate university. Through his parodies, he pokes at the corporatization of the university, some of the relationships between the university and society, and the character of the university presidency in the late 20th century. This is the first part of a two part sequence that is followed by Ruminations on University Presidency: The University Voice.
SOME TIME AWAY
PREPARING AS PRESIDENT & MANAGER
- casting about;
- soliciting data, forecasts, projects, and models;
- doing comparative and longitudinal studies;
- making a flowchart, and convening a taskforce.
To the members of the University Community:
In order to repair what Milton called the ruin of our grand parents, I wish to announce that henceforth, as a matter of University Policy, evil is abolished and paradise is restored.
I trust all of us will do whatever possible to achieve this policy objective.
THE PRESIDENT'S CAST OF CARICATURES
The responses to Giamatti’s first policy are playfully prepared to illustrate a profound lack of understanding from a variety of archetypes, to lay bare a cast of predictable characters / caricatures, and to flaunt his misguided trust. Most of the characters either do not recognise any evil, see it, but do not want to change anything, or feel that Giamatti himself and others like him are the source. Eventually though, toward then end of his tenure, evil is recognised by a small group of “clergy from in town” who act on behalf of campus academics and engage in thoughtful conversation with the intent of making things better.
THE PRESIDENT & AN UNFRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT
Giamatti then tells of his visit with an elected representative, Congressman Phlange, from the third district of a state we call Grace, in what I assume is his collective experience with the political environment and how it represents our public. Once again, by implication, it is the sentiments articulated during this visit that fertilise the growth of corporatization as it has taken its shapes in the American University. During his visit, the congressman briefs President Giamatti, and during the business end of the briefing the President is informed by the Congressman that:
- We think that NIH cuts should go through.
- We are not impressed with your fatuous argument that we can’t change the rules half way through the game.
- We believe that student aid benefits only the rich and the poor; rather than stopping abuse, we’d rather do away with everything.
- We are for cutting out charitable deductions, instituting for the 2 percent floor, and for forbidding gifts of appreciated assets.
- We do not believe in a federal science facilities fund or in the nonprofit postal subsidy.
- We think it would be the height of fraud and abuse to fund the Humanities.
- We intend to uncap retirement, cap technology transfer, cut the NEA and NSF, get rid of the Library of Congress, and slash the Health Manpower act.
And the punch line to this familiar joke is that these positions are held because the Congressman and his public want to get this country moving again. Taken together, these internal and public perspective-holders are the unofficial self-appointed “university owners” as discussed by Henry Rosovsky in The University, an Owners Manual. Rosovsky’s description of these constituent groups is probably worth introducing in a future post as well.
NEED FOR A PURPOSEFUL CONVERSATION
The Corporate Analogy Unravels, Chronicle of Higher Education
Say first—for Heaven hides nothing from thy view, Nor the deep tract of Hell—say first what cause Moved our grand Parents, in that happy state, Favoured of Heaven so highly, to fall off 30
From their Creator, and transgress his will For one restraint, lords of the World besides. Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?
ABOUT THE FEATURED IMAGE
The Shepherd’s Dream, from ‘Paradise Lost’ 1793 by Henry Fuseli 1741-1825
Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)