sexta-feira, abril 30, 2010

A blow to philosophy, and minorities

Axing Middlesex's top-rated department is a step back to when philosophy meant white men discussing formal logic over sherry.
Under the banner of the financial crisis, recent months have seen management threaten departments and jobs in post-92 and Russell group universities alike. Although no clear national pattern of cuts has emerged, philosophy has been singled out by several institutions. Threats to philosophy at Liverpool and King's College London were greeted with international outcry and management retreat. Recent news that philosophy recruitment at both undergraduate and postgraduate level at Middlesex University will be terminated is a particularly terrible blow, both to the standing of philosophy in the UK and to the future of critical thought in our universities as a whole.

The decision to cut philosophy at Middlesex appears not to be motivated by any of the "obvious" reasons: economic rationale, falling student numbers or poor research standing. Middlesex philosophy has one of the largest MA programmes in the country, has experienced increasing postgraduate recruitment, and was the highest-scoring department in the university in the recent research assessment exercise. It is ranked 13th out of 41 institutions teaching philosophy in the UK, ahead of Sussex, Warwick, York, Durham and Glasgow.

Middlesex philosophy has been responsible for bringing contemporary thinkers to a wide audience through numerous international events and collaborations with European and American institutions, as well as cultural venues in London, such as the French Institute and Tate Britain. The postgraduate centre for research in modern European philosophy receives research grants from national funding bodies and there are 63 postgraduate students working on MAs and PhDs. It is an important and unique place – without doubt one of the few philosophy departments in the country where you can study contemporary European thought in any sustained way. It is also one of the only philosophy departments in existence that takes seriously philosophy's relation to other disciplines and to the world at large. The research centre at Middlesex is an institution as important to people not in philosophy as to those within it, and plays a critical role in the intellectual and cultural life of London.

There has been a slew of articles on Comment is Free in recent days lamenting the poor showing of women and ethnic minorities in philosophy and at philosophy-related events (Bidisha, Julian Baggini, Hilary Lawson). Middlesex is one of the few departments whose curriculum addresses this imbalance as a problem for and within philosophy, rather than pretending that the discipline itself plays no role in perpetuating class, gender and racial divisions.

The closure of philosophy at Middlesex will send a terrible message: that philosophy doesn't belong in ex-polytechnics, even when they achieve better results than elite institutions. It implies that philosophy isn't for "non-traditional" students (much of Middlesex's intake comes from lower-income and mature students, who juggle work and families in order to attend). It reflects incredibly badly on the management of Middlesex that it would destroy the long-term achievements and potential of its philosophy department in the name of spurious short-term considerations. To close philosophy there would be to fall in line with the increasingly prevalent, but disastrous view, that newer universities should be little more than holding pens for students channelled away from the study of serious subjects.

Interest in philosophy has in fact grown massively in recent years. This is, in part, due to the increased numbers of students taking A-level philosophy, but is also the result of the widespread desire for critical thought and analysis in the face of an increasingly disorienting world. Closure at Middlesex would be a step back to the bad old days when philosophy meant a few young, white and almost entirely male students at privileged institutions discussing the finer points of formal logic over sherry. Middlesex University must be prevented from dismantling one of the finest philosophy departments in the country: fight to keep philosophy alive.

quarta-feira, abril 21, 2010

Undercover Police infiltrate registered Student Organization at University of Washington

On Thursday April 8, students, workers, and instructors welcomed an unfamiliar face to a publicly advertised meeting for a campus-wide strike May 3rd. A woman who identified herself simply as “Tani" described herself as an "alum" of UW who was passionate about the cuts. She also said that her father worked with Waste Management and she was in the meeting to find out what the May 3rd strike committee was involved in with regards to the Teamsters' recent call for a strike. "Tani" actively participated in the planning meeting for a large-scale action demanding immigrant and worker justice, student access to UW, and smaller class sizes and writing center to improve education. The following week, however, student activists accidently bumped into “Tani” again—this time, though, as Officer Tanesha van Leuven of the UWPD. We have reason to believe that Tani was sent by the University of Washington to spy on the meeting.

Click here to read all text...The University of Washington has made police infiltration and intimidation its primary tactic for retaliating against workers and activists fighting privatization at UW. In the Fall and Winter of 2009, immigrant workers faced continuous harassment from the UWPD for talking with other workers about their working conditions, clearly violating labor law. That September, two women of color journalists and activists—a childcare worker and a pre-nursing student—were arrested after interviewing immigrant women workers during their break time about the challenges they face in the workplace. With layoffs and arbitrary shift changes being enforced by custodial services, many workers have experienced inhumane amounts of extra work and speed up. UWPD officers also often harass students who choose to organize within on-campus registered student organizations while they are handing out flyers, or even just walking on campus going to class. For example, last Tuesday, while passing out flyers and talking with students, two women graduate students were approached by a bike officer of the UWPD who told them “I wish I could arrest people for no reason.” These attacks, the violence perpetrated against activists in Seattle, Portland, and Olympia, the increase in police killing of unarmed people of color, and now the covert infiltration of a student group by UWPD raise serious and alarming questions about possible violence and surveillance against students and workers at the hands of the University and its police force.

Since June of 2009, workers, students, and community members have been fighting against lay-offs of immigrant workers, increases in tuition that exclude working students and students of color, cuts to quality education, and an ongoing process of privatization that favors revenue for some at the top of the university, while taking funds away from students and workers. While the university’s state budget continues to be cut, the reality is this cut is less than 3% of the total UW budget. In fact, most of the budget shortfall—$469 million—came from the university's risky investments, NOT from the cuts from the state. Since 2004, the UW Treasury has been investing in hedge funds, and hiking tuition, from $4968 in 2003 to $8800 in 2010, to back up these investments should they default. Rather than cutting from the top, and changing its spending focuses, the university continues to perpetuate the myth that tuition hikes go toward ameliorating the state cuts.

On March 4th, while over 700 students and workers were protesting budget cuts on and off campus, and many more were protesting across the country, the UW met with the UAW 4121, Academic Student Employees (ASE’s), bargaining team to start contract negotiations. At this meeting, the UW told UAW negotiators that because they opposed a tuition increase bill in the legislature in February, the University would retaliate against all ASE’s by taking away lay-off protections, increasing healthcare premiums, and firing all tutors and writing center instructors, among other take-aways. Many UAW members are pushing their elected representatives to call a strike, which was already authorized by membership, to begin the first day after contract negotiations if the University continues to bargain in bad faith. The May 3rd student strike was planned to correspond with this day, and to support custodians and other state workers facing cuts.

Through its actions, the University PD has shown itself to be unaccountable to students and the UW community. It does, however, do the work of controlling student movements on behalf of the UW administration. The UWPD and the UW administration seek to curtail organizing by workers and students, but they will not succeed.

UW Student Worker Coalition

terça-feira, abril 20, 2010

For-profit Universities not welcome in India

India plans to shut its doors to the world’s public and private universities that operate for profit, thus blithely believing that the move would keep the education sector free of rampant commercialisation. So the University of Phoenix, of the US, or the aggressively expanding Monash University of Australia, or Britain’s first private company-university BPP College of Professional Studies, would not be permitted to set foot in the country.

This fine-print is the third restrictive clause the Union Human Resources Development (HRD) ministry has introduced in the Foreign Education Providers’ Bill, which aims to allow international universities to set up campuses in the country. The other two conditions include forbidding foreign universities from repatriating funds to their home country and setting up a minimum corpus of US $11 million.

Click here to read the full text...Sources said the Bill, passed by the Cabinet, would be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament. "We are not going to permit every foreign university to come in. For one, universities listed on any stock market as well as for-profit universities would not be allowed to set up campuses in India," said a senior official in the HRD ministry.

Ever since the Cabinet approved the bill with the financial curbs, sceptics have been asking why an Ivy League institution would come to India. Universities have often spoken of India as being an "interesting place", but have not committed to anything more than setting up a research centre or starting joint programmes with domestic institutes.

Optimists believe that international universities are merely waiting till the full picture on India’s stand—together with its kickers—is out. "Not allowing for-profit colleges and universities would narrow the scope of institutes that can come in, but they are clearly in the education sector for financial gain and we are not very comfortable in allowing such players," added the HRD official.

There is no actual count of how many for-profit varsities there are. Experts around the world say it’s difficult to separate the for-profit universities from the private ones in countries where government supervision is shoddy.

"How do you differentiate the not-for-profit from the under-the-table for-profit institutes? And India should know this is a tough zone," said Philip Altbach, director of the Center for International Higher Education, Boston College.
What would make India’s job even tougher is that, globally, several universities are setting up corporate entities that are for-profit in nature. "Other types of for-profit activity are emerging, as universities based in the US, UK, Australia and elsewhere establish profitable cross-border partnerships with private local partners. Universities that may be public in their home country operate as private enterprises abroad," noted Altbach.

At the most recent World Conference on Higher Education in Paris, the book ‘Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution’ points out that though for-profit institutes constitute a small subsector in the higher education space, there is a notable growth among them as government spending is shrinking. "Moreover, the for-profits represent the fastest-growing sector within US higher education, already incorporating some 8 to 10% of private higher education total enrollment, or more than one-third of total private enrollment, though this is concentrated in programmes of just one to two years."

segunda-feira, abril 19, 2010

Ocúp(arte) @ Rio Piedras, University of Puerto Rico

Students in the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, have announced their plans to occupy both faculties on April 12th.

“Throughout the day we will have performances, music, poetry, art, work-shops and concerts. We will occupy against funding cuts, decrease of students rights and moratorium on tuition waivers.”

Click here to read «Ocúp(arte): The Humanities Manifesto»...The Humanities faculty is yours, his, hers, and ours. Let’s transform it then, into an active and dynamic space filled with participation and collaboration. Let’s modify the State and the Administration-fed attitudes of competition and anxiety, and replace them with cooperation, compassion and youthful jubilation. As existing power structures have already started to crack and shown their anti-humanist agendas; so let today and tomorrow be filled with love and a call to action. Our academic spaces are under siege from the powerful, and must be reclaimed as tools for liberation. As humanists we can imagine and create all sorts of possible worlds. It is time to realize them.

We are occupying our faculty in order to find ourselves, to cast aside any attempt to separate and alienate us. Instead of this kind of death, we have decided to un-muzzle our mouths and let the world know that a new world has taken shape from our hearts. We are a multitude which thinks, reflects, and criticizes; a generation whose heartbeat is steeled by the shared interaction between the fist and a kiss.

This is not a call to defend the University, but to redefine it into something new: one that is horizontal and non-hierarchic, participatory and democratic. Our action is a call for diversity, to the plurality that defines our educational space. It is the whole of all the types of rich knowledge that contributes to new and different worlds, countries, cities, multitudes and spaces. Such a colorful melody of difference and respect, solidarity and love, echoes along the halls of our faculty.

We are the children of crisis and marginalization, of an economic system that represses and plunders. We are the descendants of a political system that condemns participation and decides unilaterally, from the top down. But we are also the heirs of a long tradition of people that blazed a path for those rights that we now enjoy, that paid with sweat and blood for those benefits that face annihilation today. Therefore, we are retaking the UPR, so that those that follow tomorrow possess what we have endeavored to build: a multiplicity of knowledge, of perspectives that allow us to think freely in the world we live in, and the world we choose to create.

The fiscal fetish shared by the State and the university’s administration conceives education as a production line of consumer goods. As it seems that the humanities do not offer this, they are targeted for gradual elimination. What the humanities do provide, and they choose to ignore, is the opportunity to be critical, to reflect and question, to give shape to worlds of sounds, of color, performances and of the written word, distinct from our own. Education cannot be seen through capital’s narrow gaze or the market’s whims. Such an education merely reproduces docile subjects and uncritical automatons. Let us smash the machine!

We propose a liberating and edifying education that generates autonomous and critical minds, in a collaborative bond between professor and student. We want an education where everyone involved participates as those who teach and those who learn. Yet let us not confuse these verbs with the assigned roles of teacher and student, for they apply to everyone. Such an education by definition must include marginalized communities as subjects of study: immigrants, people of the LGBTQ community, women, men, old and young. In order to achieve this participatory and democratic education, we must build strong ties of solidarity between study and its subjects.

Solidarity is not built vertically, from the top down, but sideways. Embrace the one next to you and whisper into his or her ear that you affirm their existence, and that you will not abandon him or her. Let us intertwine our bodies as roots in a fertile soil that will bear the fruit of imagination and change. Paint our arms with landscapes of dignity and respect.

Don’t just worry and stand by, occupy!

domingo, abril 18, 2010

Balanços possíveis da implementação de Bolonha

  • Roberto Carneiro, ex-ministro da Educação (PSD), defende que as licenciaturas pós-Bolonha são muito generalistas e não dão grande qualificação profissional: “A licenciatura [de Bolonha] vai ser uma espécie de ensino secundário avançado”.

sábado, abril 17, 2010

Bologna calls against Bologna process: May 6 and 7

Connecting transnational struggles, building alternative Universities

  • Bologna transnational meeting on May 6 and 7, 2010

Why meeting in Bologna ten years later?

Click here and read all text...Over the last few years, university struggles have spread all over Europe, strongly opposing and throwing into crisis the university reforms made under the Bologna Process.

We the students, researchers and precarious workers from European universities have definitely shown that we don't want a privatized and low-quality education system and that we will reclaim the power to make decisions regarding our own education and lives.

In March 2010, the “Bologna Burns” counter-summit in Wien was a very important moment for everyone who is fighting against the Bologna Process.

We met thousands of other people from all across Europe, we disrupted the Ministers' celebration, we shared our experiences of struggles and decided to connect ourselves on a self-organized and transnational basis.

Now is the moment to continue, not only opposing the Bologna Process, but also trying to imagine together how to transform, collectively and from below, the education system we all are involved in; how to create a different university, made up of our struggles and our desires.

That's what we'd like to start at the Bologna meeting, that's why we are inviting all of you here on May 6,7 2010.

Bologna is, of course, the city where European ministers declared war against public university, the symbol of deskilling, hierarchisation and exploitation in the education system.

However, Bologna is also a university and a city where students and precarious workers have rebelled with force – just like in many other Italian universities – against these disastrous education reforms; in 2008-2009 we took part in “Anomalous Wave” movement and we still maintain a space of resistance against the Bologna Process.

We want to create a European network of struggles for a different and better education.

We think it is important to meet in Bologna today, to bring all the struggle experiences from everywhere in Europe here and subvert the meaning of the Bologna Process.

Ten years ago, the Bologna Process of privatization and standardization of European universities started. It has completely failed, we made it fail.

Ten years later, we have the chance to start a new Bologna process of struggles and movements that aims to liberate production and knowledge sharing, empower students to gain new rights for themselves, researchers and precarious workers all over Europe.

Our Bologna meeting in May will be simultaneous with many other movement meetings taking place – in Madrid and Barcelona, in Paris, London, and Bochum as well, and will be another step towards our self-organization.

Wien's final common paper is starting point and a landmark, in Bologna we will discuss these issues in depth: sabotaging privatization processes and tuition fees, different and critical knowledge sharing, democracy and self-organization inside (and outside) universities and, more in general, how to create and strengthen common claims and practices.

We propose a seminar, two thematic workshops and a plenary assembly as to discuss our issues from many points of view.

We hope that many of you will share this moment with us.

See you in Bologna!

Let's build another university! Let's start it now!

sexta-feira, abril 16, 2010

Nouveau livre: «La grande mutation, Néolibéralisme et éducation en Europe»

L’avenir de nos écoles et de nos universités se décide de plus en plus à l’échelle européenne. Encore mal connue, la politique de l’Europe en matière d’éducation reste peu visible alors même que son influence s’accroît. Connaître le sens de la « stratégie de Lisbonne » et du processus de Bologne », c’est se donner la possibilité de mieux comprendre la grande mutation de nos institutions d’enseignement. C’est aussi comprendre le projet de société que l’Union européenne met en œuvre au travers des réformes nationales en se servant de relais multiples et parfois inattendus à l’intérieur de chaque pays.

Cliquez ici pour continuer la lecture du texte...L’enjeu de cette politique néolibérale est considérable. En rupture avec les bases humanistes de l’école, elle fait de cette dernière un instrument au service exclusif de la compétitivité économique dans le cadre du capitalisme globalisé. Par là, elle menace la formation de citoyens libres et le développement de la pensée et de la science.

De la mise en concurrence des écoles à la pédagogie des compétences, de l’évaluation quantitative à l’augmentation des droits universitaires, du pouvoir managérial à la professionnalisation généralisée des cursus, une cohérence s’impose par touches successives à tous les niveaux de l’enseignement : le projet de construire un « marché européen de la connaissance ».

Partout en Europe les mêmes réformes régressives engendrent des mobilisations qui demandent aujourd’hui à être coordonnées. Dans toutes les langues de l’Europe, les mots d’ordre disent un même refus de l’« école-entreprise » et de la « connaissance-marchandise ».

Le message de ce livre fortement documenté est clair : mieux connaître la politique européenne en matière d’éducation et de recherche, c’est se donner les moyens d’engager la lutte sur le terrain transnational où seule désormais elle peut être gagnée.

domingo, abril 04, 2010

Contra Cumbre de Ministros de Educación Europeos

La ContraCumbre se desarrollará del dia 8 al dia 14 de Abril [en Madrid], durante toda la semana habrá acciones...

Calendario de actividades

  • Jueves 8 de Abril
Mañana: Bienvenida/ Alojamiento

Tarde: Bienvenida/ Alojamiento

  • Viernes 9 de Abril

11h: Charla Presentación del libro: La Escuela en la Europa Occidental. El nuevo orden y sus adversarios. Con el colectivo Baltasar Gracián

12h: Bolonia no existe. Carlos Fenandez Liria (más otrxs autores por confirmar).


18h: Educación y Neoliberalismo. Área de Educación, Exclusión y Menores de Madrid (Asociación Cultural Candela, Club de Amigos de la Unesco (CAUM), Plataforma por la educación pública y laica de Alcalá de Henares, Movimientos de Renovación Pedagógica).

19.30h: Charlas de las Agencias de Calidad de la Enseñanza.

  • Sábado 10 de Abril

12h: Taller: Alternativas a la Educación establecida


17h: Educación y Género. (Charla+Taller). Organiza Colectivo MANTIS.

19h: Taller: Taller Abierto. (En este espacio, personas que no se les haya podido incluir en la programación, tendrán tiempo para hacer un taller.)

Haz clic aquí para continuar leyendo...
  • Domingo 11 de Abril

11h: Asamblea de Coordinación Internacional


16h: Asamblea de Coordinación Internacional

  • Lunes 12 de Abril

12h: Debate Abierto: El futuro del Movimiento Estudiantil (Nuevas formas de lucha, las Universidades Libres de Catalunya, las contracumbres, los ciclos en el movimiento…)


19h: Manifestación. Colón-Ministerio de Educación

  • Martes 13 de Abril
Mañana: Reunión de Ministros de Educación Europeos

Tarde: Reunión de Ministros de Educación Europeos.

20h: Bicicletada contra la cumbre de Ministros.

  • Miércoles 14 de Abril

12h: Asamblea de Valoración

sábado, abril 03, 2010

Defend Student Activism @ UC Berkeley (USA)

In solidarity with the students facing sanctions for recent political activities at UC Berkeley in defense of public education in California

We call for the UC Berkeley administration to drop all charges and disciplinary actions against the students involved in the Architects and Engineering building sit-in on November 18, 2009, the November 20, 2009 Wheeler protest, those arrested in Wheeler Hall on the morning of December 11, 2009, and the students facing sanctions for flyering on campus.

Click here to read all the text of this Call for Solidarity...We the undersigned are opposed to the university's disciplinary position regarding the students involved in the Architects and Engineering building sit-in on November 18, 2009, the Wheeler Hall protest November 20, 2009 , the arrests in Wheeler Hall on the morning of December 11, 2009, and the students that are facing sanctions for flyering. Over 100 student activists are facing a variety of charges related to recent protests. UC Berkeley is an institution that widely advertises its activist past and prides itself on its commitment to the principles of the Free Speech Movement, but the university is using the recently revised student code of conduct in a manner that is arbitrary in order to intimidate and punish student activists who continue to challenge the increasing privatization of California public education in the UC, CSU, and community college systems.We reject the accusations that the students involved in the Wheeler Hall protest put the safety of other students and community members into question. The November 20, 2009 protest was supported by students and community members; it was a call to the university to change the way that it engages with those upon whom its continued operation depends. The administration not only ignored this call, but is now attempting to silence student dissent on the campus by physically removing students from the campus. The December 11, 2009 arrests of over 60 students in Wheeler Hall were made in bad faith and without a dispersal order. The administration has defended its decision to threaten two students with sanctions for flyering by saying that there are clear rules about posting flyers. This use of the student code of conduct is a tactic of intimidation to silence opposition to the university administration's position on its direction. We find this unacceptable and demand that all sanctions against these students be dropped immediately.

sexta-feira, abril 02, 2010

Britain: The Disgrace of the Universities

British universities face a crisis of the mind and spirit. For thirty years, Tory and Labour politicians, bureaucrats, and “managers” have hacked at the traditional foundations of academic life. Unless policies and practices change soon, the damage will be impossible to remedy.

As an “Occasional Student” at University College London in the early 1970s and a regular visitor to the Warburg Institute, Oxford, and Cambridge after that, I—like many American humanists—envied colleagues who taught at British universities. We had offices with linoleum; they had rooms with carpets. We worked at desks; they sat with their students on comfy chairs and gave them glasses of sherry. Above all, we felt under constant pressure to do the newest new thing, and show the world that we were doing it: to be endlessly innovative and interdisciplinary and industrious.

British humanists innovated too. Edward Thompson and Eric Hobsbawm, Frances Yates and Peter Burke, and many others formulated new ways of looking at history for my generation. But British academics always admitted, as we sometimes did not, that it is vital to preserve and update our traditional disciplines and forms of knowledge: languages, precise interpretation of texts and images and objects, rigorous philosophical analysis and argument. Otherwise all the sexy interdisciplinary work will yield only a trickle of trendy blather.

Continue to read this article...There was a Slow Food feel to British university life, based on a consensus that people should take the time to make an article or a book as dense and rich as it could be. Good American universities were never exactly Fast Food Nation, but we certainly felt the pressure to produce, regularly and rapidly. By contrast, Michael Baxandall spent three years at the Warburg Institute, working in the photographic collection and not completing a dissertation, and several more as a lecturer, later on, writing only a few articles. Then, in 1971 and 1972, he produced two brilliant interdisciplinary books, which transformed the study of Renaissance humanism and art, remain standard works to this day, and were only the beginning of a great career. Gertrud Bing, E.H. Gombrich, J.B. Trapp, and A.M. Meyer, who administered the Warburg in those days, knew how to be patient. Their results speak for themselves.

From the accession of Margaret Thatcher onward, the pressure has risen. Universities have had to prove that they matter. Administrators and chairs have pushed faculty to win grants and publish and rewarded those who do so most successfully with periods of leave and other privileges that American professors can only dream of. The pace of production is high, but the social compact among teachers is frayed. In the last couple of years, the squeeze has become tighter than ever. Budgets have shrunk, and universities have tightened their belts to fit. Now they are facing huge further cuts for three years to come—unless, as is likely, the Conservatives take over the government, in which case the knife may go even deeper.

Administrators have responded not by resisting, for the most part, but by trying to show that they can “do more with less.” To explain how they can square this circle, they issue statements in the Orwellian language of “strategic planning.” A typical planning document, from King’s College London, explains that the institution must “create financially viable academic activity by disinvesting from areas that are at sub-critical level with no realistic prospect of extra investment.”

The realities that this cloud of ink imperfectly conceal are every bit as ugly as you would expect. Humanists who work on ancient manuscripts and languages or write about premodern history or struggle with hard issues in semantics don’t always make an immediate impact or bring in large amounts of grant money—even when other scholars around the world depend on their studies. If you don’t see the point of their work, why not eliminate them? Then you have room for things that pay off immediately.

At King’s College London, the head of arts and humanities has already informed world-famous professors—one, David Ganz, in paleography, the study of ancient scripts, and two in philosophy—that their positions will be discontinued at the end of the academic year. All three are remarkable scholars who have had remarkable students. Paleography—to take the field that I know best—is to the study of texts what archaeology is to the study of cities and temples. Paleographers lay the foundations other humanists build on. They tell historians and literary scholars which texts were written when and what they say, which scripts were used where, and why, and by whom. Training in the analysis of manuscripts is central to the world-famous programs in medieval studies that are among the glories of King’s College. That is why Jeffrey Hamburger, the Harvard art historian who is one of the world’s leading experts on medieval manuscripts, has helped to organize a worldwide campaign to reverse the decision. (Similarly, the Chicago philosopher Brian Leiter has publicized the cuts in philosophy on his widely read blog).

The cuts are not intended to stop with the first victims. All other members of the arts and humanities faculty at King’s are being forced to reapply for their jobs. When the evaluation is finished, around twenty-two of them will have been voted off the island. Even the official statements make clear that these faculty members will be let go not because they have ceased to do basic research or teach effectively, but because their fields aren’t fashionable and don’t spin money. When criticized, the principal of King’s, Rick Trainor, complained that foreign professors don’t appreciate the financial problems that he faces. He’s wrong. All of us face drastic new financial pressures.

But we also appreciate a principle that seems to elude Mr. Trainor—as well as his colleagues at Sussex, who have begun similar measures, and the London administrators who seem bent on turning the Warburg Institute from a unique research center, its open stacks laden with treasures uniquely accessible to all readers, into a book depository. Universities exist to discover and transmit knowledge. Scholars and teachers provide those services. Administrators protect and nurture the scholars and teachers: give them the security, the resources, and the possibilities of camaraderie and debate that make serious work possible. Firing excellent faculty members is not a clever tactical “disinvestment,” it’s a catastrophic failure.

Are academic salaries really the main source of the pressure on the principal? Vague official documents couched in management jargon are hard to decode. The novelist and art historian Iain Pears notes that King’s has assembled in recent years an “executive team with all the managerial bling of a fully-fledged multi-national, complete with two executive officers and a Chief information officer.” The college spent £33.5 million on administrative costs in 2009, and is actively recruiting more senior managers now. These figures do not evince a passion for thrift. Moreover, the head of arts and humanities proposes to appoint several new members of staff even as others are dismissed. Management probably does want to save money—but it definitely wants to install its own priorities and its own people, regardless of the human and intellectual cost.

Universities become great by investing for the long term. You choose the best scholars and teachers you can and give them the resources and the time to think problems through. Sometimes a lecturer turns out to be Malcolm Bradbury’s fluent, shallow, vicious History Man; sometimes he or she turns out to be Michael Baxandall. No one knows quite why this happens. We do know, though, that turning the university into The Office will produce a lot more History Men than scholars such as Baxandall.

Accept the short term as your standard—support only what students want to study right now and outside agencies want to fund right now—and you lose the future. The subjects and methods that will matter most in twenty years are often the ones that nobody values very much right now. Slow scholarship—like Slow Food—is deeper and richer and more nourishing than the fast stuff. But it takes longer to make, and to do it properly, you have to employ eccentric people who insist on doing things their way. The British used to know that, but now they’ve streaked by us on the way to the other extreme.

At this point, American universities are more invested than British in the old ways. Few of us any longer envy our British colleagues. But straws show how the wind blows. The language of “impact” and “investment” is heard in the land. In Iowa, in Nevada, and in other places there’s talk of closing humanities departments. If you start hearing newspeak about “sustainable excellence clusters,” watch out. We’ll be following the British down the short road to McDonald’s.
Anthony Grafton teaches the history of Renaissance Europe at Princeton University.

quinta-feira, abril 01, 2010

Constituição da República Portuguesa... é peta?

Artigo 76.º
Universidade e acesso ao ensino superior

1. O regime de acesso à Universidade e às demais instituições do ensino superior garante a igualdade de oportunidades e a democratização do sistema de ensino, devendo ter em conta as necessidades em quadros qualificados e a elevação do nível educativo, cultural e científico do país.

2. As Universidades gozam, nos termos da lei, de autonomia estatutária, científica, pedagógica, administrativa e financeira, sem prejuízo de adequada avaliação da qualidade do ensino.

Constituição da República Portuguesa... é peta?

Artigo 75.º
Ensino público, particular e cooperativo

1. O Estado criará uma rede de estabelecimentos públicos de ensino que cubra as necessidades de toda a população.

2. O Estado reconhece e fiscaliza o ensino particular e cooperativo, nos termos da lei.

Constituição da República Portuguesa... é peta?

Artigo 74.º

1. Todos têm direito ao ensino com garantia do direito à igualdade de oportunidades de acesso e êxito escolar.

2. Na realização da política de ensino incumbe ao Estado:
  • c) Garantir a educação permanente e eliminar o analfabetismo;
  • d) Garantir a todos os cidadãos, segundo as suas capacidades, o acesso aos graus mais elevados do ensino, da investigação científica e da criação artística;
  • e) Estabelecer progressivamente a gratuitidade de todos os graus de ensino;

Constituição da República Portuguesa... é peta?

Artigo 73.º
Educação, cultura e ciência

1. Todos têm direito à educação e à cultura.

2. O Estado promove a democratização da educação e as demais condições para que a educação, realizada através da escola e de outros meios formativos, contribua para a igualdade de oportunidades, a superação das desigualdades económicas, sociais e culturais, o desenvolvimento da personalidade e do espírito de tolerância, de compreensão mútua, de solidariedade e de responsabilidade, para o progresso social e para a participação democrática na vida colectiva.