Many other site pages contain reflections about the deleterious effect of appointing businessmen to senior administrative positions, a wide-spread practice at Boston University, where many of the Chairmen and Deans and other administrators appointed first by President John Silber and subsequently by his successor President Robert Brown spent their entire previous careers in the fields of business, law, or finance, and have, not surprisingly, internalized for-profit corporate understandings, values, and measurements of achievement, which they then bring to the faculty appointment, evaluation, and promotion process. The result, in many cases, is an educational institution that, administratively speaking, knows everything about finances but almost nothing about education. Considerations of profit and loss, budgets and fund-raising, student application numbers and enrollment figures, and projections about how to maintain and increase tuition income and alumni-giving take precedence over actually improving the curriculum and the student educational experience.
For related reflections on this subject, and references to many other site pages that discuss it, see the discussion of the acquiescence and cooperation of the Boston University Board of Trustees and many middle-level and upper-level university administrators in a long-standing series of administrative efforts to monitor, control, censure, and where necessary outright suppress faculty speech at BU – in the classroom, in emails faculty write to their students, in media interviews they give, and in faculty publications – and to threaten, professionally punish, and financially retaliate against faculty members who are viewed as violating the de facto censorship guidelines – in "Censorship, Punishment, Abuse, Threats – Being Banned in Boston," available in the side menu under March 2013. –– Ray Carney
All of these things have been done in my College, particularly the radical lowering of admission standards and the crazy grade inflation, especially at the graduate student level, to keep the tuition dollars flowing in. Faculty sit around and compare notes about how awful their students are (and about how most of the grad students they have shouldn't ever have been admitted in the first place), even as they continue to give almost all As to the grad students and almost all As and Bs to the undergrads. Though the students are too young and innocent to take in the big picture, it's they who are the victims in this situation, of course. It's they who are the losers--and the greatest losers are the few truly talented students who deserve much better for their tuition dollars than spending their class time sitting next to peers who should never have been allowed in the classroom to start with (or who should have been failed out after their first semester). They are paying a heck of lot of money (and incurring debts that will take them half their lives to repay) for a pretend education, a fake degree. They are being cheated--financially and pedagogically. The good students are being defrauded of a top-flight educational experience and the untalented ones are being willfully, knowingly misled about where their real talents lie, and deceived about their actual career prospects. Academics are fond of pointing the finger elsewhere in our society, endlessly complaining about political corruption and corporate malfeasance; but what many of them are doing in the admission and evaluation process is just as unconscionable and unethical as anything that takes place in the boardrooms of corporate America.
A university should not be run like a supermarket. Courses are not cans of soup. The goal is not to give everyone what they want, but what they need, even if they don't know they need it. The customer is not always right, and, in fact, does not usually know his or her own best interests.
I’ve also seen several business-trained administrators in my university do things to game or rig the review system and assert their authority over which faculty members will be promoted—or not. (This is connected with their reluctance to let faculty members whom they perceive to be under them have what they view as being undue input into the process.) They have “accidentally” failed to forward to committees above them memos by faculty members who came to different conclusions from their own. They have attempted to discredit the input of faculty members who disagreed with them, at administrative levels above the Dean’s or Chairman’s, by arguing that the faculty member is a “disgruntled professor” whose views do not deserve to be taken seriously. They have picked friends and former associates to be “outside” referees, while concealing not only the fact that the referee has a connection with them, but that he or she has pretty much been told by them what line to take on a given candidate.
And, though they don't realize it, in making things run smoothly, in minimizing disagreements and discouraging dissent, in working to force out (when they can't outright fire) faculty who see things differently from them, in helping to make the university function as efficiently and harmoniously as a well-organized business, these administrators are destroying everything of value in it.
The heart and soul of the university is the cultivation of, and supreme respect for, minority positions, minority views, minority culture--not in the racial or ethnic sense of the terms, but intellectually and emotionally. The university exists precisely to give voice to understandings that mainstream culture ignores and marginalizes, to entertain and advocate positions that are not, and may never be, even remotely popular, successful, or dominant in the rest of the culture. It exists to make a safe place for positions that are doomed not to be "popular," not to be "successful," not to be "profitable" in the commercial senses of the words; to make a safe place for positions that are, in short, doomed to fail, always and forever, in the business understanding of the concept.