A Machiavellian Guide to Destroying Public Universities in 12 Easy Steps

Reblogged from the Chronicle of Higher Education

By Steven Ward

As a general rule those who wish to win favor with a prince offer him the things they most value and in which they see that he will take most pleasure; so it is often seen that rulers receive presents of horses, arms, pieces of cloth of gold, precious stones, and similar ornaments worthy of their station. So, in my desire to offer myself to Your Magnificence, with some proof of my obligation to you, I have found nothing among my possessions that I cherish more or value higher than I do my knowledge of the actions of great men, gained from long experiences in modern affairs and continual reading on ancient ones. Having for a long time thought over and examined these matters with great diligence, I have finally put them into a little volume, which I send to Your Magnificence.

—Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

In order to destroy public universities, it is important to:

(1) Denigrate public education, and public institutions in general, as drains on private wealth and “job makers” to the point that no one would dare ask for increased support. This will assure that public universities are relegated to second-rate status with inferior facilities and loads of part-time faculty members, and will forever have a negative stigma placed on them relative to private universities.

(2) Take advantage of economic downturns to instigate “taxpayer outrage” in order to remove support from public universities so that they must either raise tuition or cut back on their programs. Afterward, condemn those institutions for raising tuition in order to support lazy, socialist professors teaching irrelevant subjects like anthropology and philosophy.

(3) As state support recedes, encourage a student-loan system that will create a “market for higher education.” Saddling students with lots of debt will make them enterprising and rational consumers of educational products and will encourage them to safeguard their economic interests. Refer to these changes as “empowering students.”

(4) Install new public-management tactics borrowed from public-interest theory to wrestle control from faculty governance systems. However, to quell widespread discontent, keep university senates in place as giant, irrelevant “suggestion boxes.” Be sure to talk a lot about the importance of shared governance as these tactics are introduced. Label the faculty cynicism that will undoubtedly emerge as “consensus.”

(5) Put into place various “oversight instruments,” such as quality-assessment exercises, “outcome matrices,” or auditing mechanisms, to assure “transparency” and “accountability” to “stakeholders.” You might try using research-assessment exercises such as those in Britain or Australia, or cheaper and cruder measures like Texas A&M’s, by simply publishing a cost/benefit analysis of faculty members. If you run out of ideas, just contact the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

(6) Increase the reliance on part-time faculty members and one-year contracts to teach most courses. Those faculty members are more vulnerable and amenable to administrative control (you should also drastically increase the number of administrators in order to manage those disempowered professionals). Afterward, criticize the quality of college graduates. This will enable even more managerial oversight and assessment.

Read the rest of this post on the Chronicle of Higher Education.


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