Willem Halffman & Hans Radder ~ The Academic Manifesto: From An Occupied To A Public University

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may68Abstract: Universities are occupied by management, a regime obsessed with ‘accountability’ through measurement, increased competition, efficiency, ‘excellence’, and misconceived economic salvation. Given the occupation’s absurd side-effects, we ask ourselves how management has succeeded in taking over our precious universities. An alternative vision for the academic future consists of a public university, more akin to a socially engaged knowledge commons than to a corporation. We suggest some provocative measures to bring about such a university. However, as management seems impervious to cogent arguments, such changes can only happen if academics take action. Hence, we explore several strategies for a renewed university politics.

The Occupied University
The university has been occupied – not by students demanding a say (as in the 1960s), but this time by the many-headed Wolf of management.1 The Wolf has colonised academia with a mercenary army of professional administrators, armed with spreadsheets, output indicators and audit procedures, loudly accompanied by the Efficiency and Excellence March. Management has proclaimed academics the enemy within: academics cannot be trusted, and so have to be tested and monitored, under the permanent threat of reorganisation, termination and dismissal. The academics allow themselves to be meekly played off against one another, like frightened, obedient sheep, hoping to make it by staying just ahead of their colleagues. The Wolf uses the most absurd means to remain in control, such as money-wasting semi- and full mergers, increasingly detailed, and thus costly, accountability systems and extremely expensive prestige projects.
This conquest seems to work and the export of knowledge from the newly conquered colony can be ever increased, but inland the troubles fester. Thus, while all the glossed-up indicators constantly point to the stars, the mood on the academic shop floor steadily drops. The Wolf pops champagne after each new score in the Shanghai Competition, while the university sheep desperately work until they drop2 and the quality of the knowledge plantations is starting to falter, as is demonstrated by a large number of comprehensive and thorough analyses.3 Meanwhile, the sheep endeavour to bring the absurd anomalies of the occupation to the Wolf’s attention by means of an endless stream of opinion articles, lamentations, pressing letters and appeals. In turn, the Wolf reduces these to mere incidents, brushes them aside as inevitable side effects of progress, or simply ignores them.

Read more: http://link.springer.com/

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