From the Editor: To Market, To Market - and Back
—David Waldstreicher, Faculty Herald Editor
“Should universities have presented a firmer counterweight to economic irresponsibility? Have universities become too captive to the immediate and worldly purposes they serve? Has the market model become the fundamental and defining identity of higher education?” These challenging questions come from Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University. They appeared last month in the New York Times Book Review, no bastion of radical thinking. (“The University’s Crisis of Purpose,” New York Times Book Review, September 6, 2009)
It is a sign of our times that such questions are being asked. And if they are being asked by the academic power elite, you can bet that some version of them is in the minds of our students. If a Temple education is worth the loans and hardships our students endure, is it less so if the immediate prospects of a better job have diminished?
Or is Temple – is higher education at our level – something less easily defined in terms of dollars?
During the decade and a half we now see in terms of “economic irresponsibility,” the nation also spent huge amounts of money on warmaking. Drew Faust chose not to raise that issue, though as the author of This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, you can be sure she knows something about the costs of modern warfare. Now we know that at least some of that expense, which we will all be paying for a long time to come, was not entirely necessary. Where were the voices of dissent among the faculty? I would not go so far as to say they were not heard. Yet I suspect that the critics were also intimidated by the fear of what could happen if campuses once again emerged as peculiar sites of skepticism.
What if we add ever more market imperatives to the need, at a public university, to emphasize the practical? Temple will feel the pressures of the economic downturn more than many institutions, and perhaps less than some others. Even Harvard is bemoaning the loss of a third of its endowment (though without reminding anyone how many times its endowment doubled in recent years). At a time when we all will feel even more pressure to define what we do in terms of its immediate marketability, we must remember that the good will Temple has in this community does not necessarily derive from the specific job training some of our alumni received here. In the larger scheme of things, we are supposed to stand for truth, and learning how to find it, more than financial success. “Excellence” is nice but it sometimes fudges the key distinction between what is right and what is merely winning right now. Precisely because the market rules elsewhere, we need to remain skeptical about its workings here.
Letters to the Editor
—Looking Back, Looking Forward: A Forum on the Long Haul of Getting a Contract
"In the wake of the agreement between the university and TAUP, the Faculty Herald sent out an open call for reflections on the process of negotiations and the results. We hoped not so much to rehash past events as to learn from them and provide some closure."
—Steve Zelnick, Professor of English Literature, College of Liberal Arts
"As unofficial record keeper of the Herald Board’s minutes, I noted the following set of topics that arose at our last meeting. The question was: “What do Faculty really care about?” – A critically important topic for the Herald, and all of us, to consider."