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The Cultures of University Governance

Professor Donna Pennee
Winter Half Course.

Just as "theory" was once thought to be too difficult, even inappropriate, for undergraduate students and thus best left to graduate studies, so knowledge of university governance seems to be left to the tenured professor who steps forward (or backs into) various service roles, as a university Senator, for example, or a department Chair or Dean, or a union steward.

Yet understanding the current scene of the "corporatization" of the university requires knowledge of the history of the university as an institution, its relations to the state, the public, and the private, its constitution and funding arrangements, and the "mission drift" which is lamented by many members of the profession, particularly, but not only, in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Responding to the current scene from within the academy and engaging with issues and actions that have a bearing on the profession’s future, provides an education in the discipline and "training" for disciplinary and other practices.  This course, then, is part "professionalization" (one of the keywords that we will study) and "cultural studies" (understanding university and disciplinary environments as cultures that operate/are operated through the materialization of keywords).

Some of the keywords particular to the academic environment, to be pursued as both content and method for this course, include "academic freedom," "self-governance," "peer review," and "autonomy."  Additional keywords, while they are not particular to the academic environment, include "corporatization," "globalization," "governmentality," "management," and "leadership."  Such keywords will be studied for the ways they have become embedded in university governance.

We will study selected scholarship on the university as an institution (for example, Bill Readings’ The University in Ruins [1996], which unpacks the changes wrought by the keyword 'excellence' in the 1990s academy, and George Fallis’s Multiversities, Ideas, and Democracy [2007], which traces the shift of mission from 'uni' to 'multi,' particularly in the context of York University in the early 2000s).  We will study scholarship on English and the humanities (for example, Gerald Graff’s Professing  Literature:  An Institutional History [1987] and more recent journal articles on the effects of globalization and corporatization on humanities disciplines).  We will compare mission statements of selected universities; parse strategic plans; historicize university-faculty collective agreements; trace the evidence of fiscal restructuring in curricula; and mine other documents as resources for understanding keywords at work in governance of the academy.

View the syllabus here: English 9089B.

Department of English - The University of Western Ontario
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