The Managed Campus vs. the Governed Campus

The managed campus and the governed campus represent opposing visions of higher education. In practice and by definition, the managed campus is antithetical to both academic freedom and faculty governance. In its extreme manifestation, the managed campus is a graveyard for academic freedom. And it may well lead to the early graves of faculty, staff, and students forced to return to campus without adequate protections. from Rachel Ida Buff's Editor's Introduction to this timely and powerful Volume 11of the AAUP's Journal of Academic Freedom

Abstracts of Several of the Articles from this Important Issue

Trickle-down economics offers the promise that wealth will eventually flow to all sectors of society. I argue that rather than wealth, managerial processes and actuarial practices driven by finance and by big data firms have been trickling down and reorganizing higher education—what I call “trickle-down managerialism.” Financial firms invest in higher education through student loan programs, educational platforms, and for-profit institutions, and oversee the normalization of conceiving education as a return on investment. Nonprofit institutions increasingly emulate the management strategies of for-profit higher education institutions, such as reliance on adjunct instructors and digital platforms and a profusion of managers. The actuarial emphasis on benchmarking and promoting best practices furthers managerial control over curricula and learning, and I contend that it undermines faculty power, governance, and academic freedom. The unbundling of tasks enabled by digital platforms facilitates the outsourcing of faculty decision-making to machine-learning digital platforms, exemplifying digital Taylorism. To critique these operations in concrete contexts, I analyze the reliance on quantifiable metrics of “student success” for measuring curricula and faculty courses and weigh how journal-impact factors and journal ranking lists outsource faculty decision-making on reappointment, tenure, and promotion to automated machine-learning processes.


Public higher education is under threat from state disinvestment, leading to the gentrification of the university through rising tuition rates and increasing reliance on adjunct professors. At the same time, there has been an expansion in the ranks of higher education administrators, who are concerned with improving university rankings and superficial metrics of success at the cost of educational equity and shared governance. The policies and technorational systems of regulation that they champion tend to gentrify the university, making it less accessible to students from underresourced communities. I argue that the growth of academic administrators is not just a drain on university budgets but also works to erode the role of faculty, staff, and students in decision-making. The gentrification of the university depends on the technocratic erosion of shared governance in the name of efficiency and productivity.


Shared governance is not well understood as an aspect of academic freedom. In this essay, I describe my experience in Penn State’s University Faculty Senate, a 200-member body comprised of faculty across all twenty-four Penn State campuses, on and off the tenure track. Detailing some of the major (and a few of the minor) negotiations and initiatives the senate has undertaken in recent years, I argue that shared governance is not merely a matter of faculty and central administration but, rather, a matter of faculty involvement in every aspect of university management, from human resources and risk management to facilities usage and legal affairs.


Two dynamics in contemporary higher education disrupt the relations among boards of trustees, presidents, and campus faculty, and threaten the traditions of shared governance. The first is the way boards of trustees are composed. The second is the evolution of the college and university president’s role from chief mission (or purpose) officer to chief executive officer. Both trends exacerbate the increasingly corporate style of higher education institutions and threaten shared governance.

Board members must be educated for their role; a president must be encouraged and rewarded for service as chief mission officer as well as chief executive officer; and faculty involvement in governance must follow a commitment to the institutional mission above all interests. The dynamics of the corporate university can be changed with appropriate incentives established by accrediting bodies and national associations and by employing the instruments available to train trustees, presidents, and faculty leaders.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the rapid turn to remote teaching and learning this past spring, uncertainty about on-campus and remote teaching and learning this year, dire enrollment forecasts due to lower than expected recruitment and reduced retention, and the curtailment of international student enrollment all contribute to the tense relations and loss of trust among trustees, faculty, and administrators.


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