So Chris Kennedy, chair of the UIUC BoT, says the decision to fire Steven Salaita would be a “no brainer” outside academia. But since Salaita was actually fired inside academia I find myself asking who would think “this is how it is done outside academia” ought to be a winning claim here.
I venture outside academia from time to time – the pickup soccer and hockey is more fun out there — so I get that many in fact do think like that. I assume this is because we have pointy heads and say vaguely incomprehensible (but actually contextually useful) things like “operationalize” and “subaltern” and “neo-Polanyian.” Some of us also benefit from an insider-outsider dynamic that gives us more freedom and money than the average worker, which engenders mistrust for obvious reasons (the solution is to level theirs up rather than ours down, please).
Still, when the “ought” part comes from people (like Kennedy) assigned to stand with one foot in and one foot out, that seems [redacted-for-civility] up and frightening not just for us privileged insiders but for the system as a whole. Even if one recognizes that there are all sorts of problems with American universities, they are – by just about any ranking system or study out there – a normative model that people the world over try to copy in some form or other (or, at the least, choose most often to attend or take jobs at when they are able and looking globally). To the extent that the same can be said of others’ adoption of American corporate governance, it’s been less copied than jammed down their throats under threat of capital flight (leading to more financialization, slower growth and increases in inequality). And while we have certainly seen plenty of corporate principles jammed down our throats in the academy, the evidence does not suggest this has been helpful to the things that made American universities into a normative global model.
To put it another way: the argument seems to be that people outside academia wouldn’t be able to tweet like that without getting fired (though actually the 1st amendment says they can if they work for parastatal bodies like UIUC). And though the right to speak freely has served the American academy well,* we should apply the rules of corporate America this time. Because no brainering to corporate rules gave you the University of Phoenix and ITT Tech. And that’s working out well for all involved (where “all” means execs, not student/consumers or taxpayers). Or something.
Or to put it as a question: Why is Kennedy’s statement not a nobrained (if perhaps rhetorically effective in anti-intellectual circles) argument on even a moment’s reflection? Why is this not a way of screaming “I am bad at my appointed job”? Am I missing something?
*yep, well aware that right has long been and is still differentially granted on the basis of the usual suspects; again, level up not down…