Battling the Neoliberalization of University Life: A List of Strategies

Posted on Updated on

- from:  anarchist.academics mailing list

"My sincere thanks to all who responded to my query. The tips that you sent
were wonderful, and really quite inspiring.  Below is an initial
compilation, divided under the six subheadings of: "On Unions and
Organizing," "On Faculty Rank," "On Bureaucracy and Governance," "On
Teaching," "On Student Tuition, Fees and Support," and "General Advice."  A
shorter top ten list will be published in the January 2008 edition of
Anthropology News.  I can already imagine that it will be difficult to edit
down the expanded list of strategies that are included below.  The
below list has no copyright or individual authorship and you should feel
free to distribute it widely, to post it to wiki sites and blogs, to invite
your friends and students to expand upon it, and of course to encourage
your departments and colleagues to implement its contents."

   ------------------- Wikified here:
Battling the Neoliberalization of University Life: A List of Strategies

On Unions and Organizing:

* The No. 1 way is faculty unionization.  Unionize tenure-track faculty,
adjunct faculty and graduate students who teach.  Your efforts will not be effective
if adjunct and graduate teaching staff are not organized.

* Resist the destruction of solidarities (e.g. see David Harvey, The History
of Neoliberalism).

* Support unity. As an adjunct instructor and a graduate student, I can tell
you that management is WELL AWARE of the contempt that most full-time
faculty has toward us part-timers.  During contract negotiations, I've also heard
GA's and adjuncts undercut the contracts of the full-timers.  Management
disciplines full-timers with the knowledge that they can be replaced
instantly by the army of the underemployed.

* Invite part-time and adjunct faculty, as well as support staff and
research staff, to departmental meetings. Make the minutes available to the
entire community.

* Join professional organizations that will lobby in opposition to the
lobbyists for privatization: NEA higher education organizations, AAUP, AFT.
Pay your dues or be prepared to be sold out.

* Participate in faculty governance and advocate strongly for resolutions
and policies that promote an academic community built on shared values and
scholarship instead of a corporatized institution built on entrepreneurship
and external overhead.

* Form parallel autonomous institutions that meet people's needs in a
collective, non-hierarchical fashion.  At my old school, SUNY-Binghamton,
the campus was served by an excellent bus system that was owned and run by a
collective of the drivers, funded by student fees.

On Faculty Rank:

* Reject the implementation of "benchmarks" or any other form of "standards"
for merit raises or promotions that are predicated on quantified output.
Rather, draw upon such ideas as those of Ernest Boyer (Scholarship
Reconsidered) []

* Reject merit raises all together and rather spread the total raises due
the entire faculty of a department evenly to all faculty.

* When 65% of the professoriate is part-time, why have tenured positions at

* Refuse to sell ourselves as "stars" to highest bidding institutions. This
reproduces the neoliberal self-made "man," reinforcing gender and class
hierarchies within the academy.

* Don't refer to enthusiastic younger members of faculty as "junior"
scholars.  It annoys them intensely and makes them feel small.

* Allow complete transparency, re: salaries paid to all faculty in all

* Identify and monitor the behavior all 'frumps' (formerly radical upwardly
mobile professors).

* Use the growing 'sustainability consensus' discourse to push for a
democratization of academia - as sustainability centrally implies

On Bureaucracy and Governance:

* Expose and oppose corporate control of academia.

* Resist the process of turning universities into institutions of management
rather than places of "higher learning" by refusing to accept administrative
positions that are newly created and not really necessary for "learning."

* The university can be run by the faculty, but the faculty must organize in
constant vigilance.  Professors could collectively attend administration
meetings and repeat the demand, week after week, to stop the metastasized
growth of bureaucratic bosses.  Use the saved funds to create more professor
positions, course offerings, and library books, and to establish student
scholarships grants.  The heart of the university is here, not in creating
ever more layers of office managers to govern this and that for a bottom
line value that is set by the new MBA bosses.

* Rip up parking lots. Implode student housing. Stop all construction
projects not related to safety. Make students get gym memberships elsewhere.

* Demand accountability for the university practices in hiring faculty,
labor, etc. in the construction of new campuses abroad (i.e. NYU's global
expansion to Abu Dhabi).

* Resist the temptation to outsource to private companies, especially big
non-local multinationals, tasks which the university could do by itself.

On Curriculum:

* Resist the neoliberal transformation of the curriculum (there is an
excellent article--chapter 6--by Aihwa Ong in Neoliberalism as Exception:
Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty. Durham: Duke University Press,

* Restore a system whereby intellectual inquiry is valued for its own sake,
and not just seen as a means toward increasing capitalist productivity.  If
the government's current proposal to fund all research on the basis of
"relevance" were carried out, it would be the end of virtually all
Humanities research as we know it.

* Resist the homogenization of university studies that is taking place all
over Europe. Anthropology, in order to survive, is being asked to
demonstrate demand from the job market. And its courses are oriented towards
market demands.

* Avoid strict degree completion deadlines. Returning students bring
valuable professional experience, but they also need the time to balance
professional, work and personal responsibilities.

* Make research findings and publications freely and publicly accessible on
the web.

On Teaching:

* Teach students about neoliberalization (its history, its impacts on
individuals, etc.).  They are the ones who can stop it.

* As teachers, we have a unique opportunity to relate the material we teach
to the everyday lives of our students.  Hold seminars on campus on the
impact of neoliberalism on campus life and learning. Use critical pedagogy -
encourage critical thinking

* Create a course that studies the University as an anthropological project.

* Link with activists, community groups, etc., beyond the academy.  Carry
out critical (including participatory) research. Develop more experience
based learning courses, including internships and community service learning

* Make the world your classroom. Teach in parks, bars, restaurants, homes,

* Offer courses on weekends, evenings, and on-line, so that working students
and students with child and eldercare responsibilities can take courses/make
progress on degrees.

* Encourage team-teaching.

* Conduct and assess instructor evaluations in a manner that reflects that
students are scholars, not consumers.

* Avoid grade inflation.  In a context of grade inflation, instructors that
seek to honestly assess performance find themselves at a disadvantage,
especially if they are adjunct staff.

* Develop undergraduate programs that pay particular attention to
non-anthropology majors, since they are the ones that fill your large
classes.  Increase the pressure for small classes for introductory courses.

* Make classes last as long as they need to be. Stop with the micronization
and fetishization of time. Some days I have a lot to say, some days not so
much. Some days students need to practice and drill, and other times one
profound sentence might do it.

* Quit giving standardized tests and grades. Pass/Fail. Get rid of students
who don't want to be there. Tell them to come back when they know what they
are there for. If we stop treating students like cash cows, maybe they will
actually appreciate learning.

* Assign primary texts instead of textbooks.

* Make your students do the work - have them explain concepts to each other.
Have them create materials they think are useful. Grade them for effort
rather than results - they are there to learn.

* Spend less time preparing, and more time getting to know your students and
their individual needs.

On Student Tuition, Fees and Support:

* Don't use standardized testing as a measure to determine student
admissions or funding.

* Make applying for college more affordable.  Applying to graduate programs
is increasingly expensive. Transcripts (often in duplicate) are required
from each school. The cost of transcripts is inflated (averaging $5-$10 per
order, for regular mail). Applications fees are $50-$95 per school. GRE fees
increase by roughly $10 per year (and this test should be banned, anyway,
since it only tests your ability to learn test-taking strategies, not true
knowledge or ability to succeed in a program).

* Use course packets, blackboard pdfs and next-to-last edition textbooks in
introductory courses to decrease student book costs.

* Fund all students who are admitted into your program equally. Since
Thatcher (and Reagan), efforts to turn higher education into a vocational
finishing school for industry have been much more systematic and blatant.
Under this model, if you're funded you get money to live off, to pay fees,
and to attend conferences etc. If you're not funded, you get nothing and you
have to pay fees.  So one person has masses of help, while another is
hindered and must struggle. This is one of the central ideological maxims of

* Organize student mutual aid networks.

* Do not permit university programs to let graduate student instructors
teach without compensation, merely for the experience of it or for credit.

* Do not burden Ph.D. candidates and recent Ph.D.s with the heaviest
teaching loads.  The abusive practice of using younger scholars as
workhorses keeps a new generation from reaching its potential, in
scholarship and as practioners.

* Pay health care benefits and tuition fees for graduate students, if

General Advice:

* Be a happy person. Stop with the bitterness.


One thought on “Battling the Neoliberalization of University Life: A List of Strategies

    colono responded:
    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 10:36 (483)

    ephemera: theory & politics in organization

    Call for papers for a special issue on:

    Discussing the Role of the Modern University

    To be considered for publication, papers, notes and reviews must be sent
    electronically as an email attachment to the special issue editors by
    1st of February 2008. Please prepare your paper in accordance with
    ephemera guidelines, which you can find at All submission will be
    double-blind peer reviewed. The issue is scheduled to be published at
    the end of August 2008. Preliminary inquiries should be made through the

    Upon entering Berlin’s Humboldt University, one is greeted by the
    knowing words of an intellectual giant. The words of one of the
    university’s former students, emblazoned in brilliant gold upon the
    marble walls of its humbling foyer, are known to many: ‘Philosophers
    have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is
    to change it’. By chastising philosophers’ relative want of relevant
    function, Karl Marx’s Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach remains something
    akin to a gadfly upon the neck of many the would-be intellectual. In
    this regard Socrates would surely have approved. And by fronting itself
    up precisely in terms of the crisis of intellectual functionality
    hypothesised by Marx, the mother of all universities asserts the mother
    of all of its problems: What, if anything, is the University for?

    This is no small question, for sure. Nor is it a recent one. Nor,
    finally, is it a question that has been met with any shortage of
    compelling answers. One might turn towards Immanuel Kant’s Conflict of
    the Faculties and Jacques Derrida’s Eyes of the University for two of
    the more patient efforts to come to terms with the immense challenges of
    a project that would ground the legitimacy of the University upon solid
    foundations. One might also consider Thomas Hobbes’ infamous attacks
    upon the schoolmen, Paulo Freire’s project of an emancipatory pedagogy
    or Max Weber’s scepticism concerning the value of partisan knowledge
    production, to come quickly to the realisation that any discussion
    deriving out of this very question meets with no obvious resolution.

    The very disputability concerning the Modern University’s proper
    function was central to what led Bill Readings to diagnose it as an
    institution in ruins. Already Humboldt’s university has been accused of
    being nothing but a prop for the (Prussian) State Apparatus and its
    nationalist educational programmes. Perhaps the Modern University was in
    ruins from the very beginning. And yet, if it is correct to say that the
    University is no longer for anything in particular, we might still ask
    what, if anything, can be done with or to these supposed ruins of
    functionality. Alternatively, one might counter an argument that laments
    lack of function with an argument that sees something functioning
    despite, or rather precisely because of, its non-possession of any
    pre-determined function. And against such a pragmatic appreciation of
    affairs, one might offer yet another argument that would make lack of
    stated purpose and political conservatism synonymous with one another.
    This argument would in turn bring us right back to where we were in the
    very beginning: within the foyer of a particular university wondering
    about what the University in general is for.

    So it is with this forthcoming special issue of ephemera. In this regard
    we anticipate contributions to what has been and will undoubtedly remain
    a topic of intense debate: we encourage submissions to consider the role
    of the Modern University from any number of directions. A list of
    suggestions is offered below but discussion need not be limited to
    these. What we are primarily interested in receiving is a variety of
    thoughtful discussions concerning the place of today’s University
    alongside provocative proposals for the university of tomorrow. We are
    hence interested in considering many sides of a discussion that is as
    important as it is complex.


    This special issue will be composed of three broad sections: ‘papers’,
    ‘notes’ and ‘reviews’. In all cases, submissions must engage in a
    discussion of what the university is for. Regarding the ‘reviews’
    section, potential contributors should contact the editors in the first
    instance with their suggested items for review. For the ‘notes’ section,
    we are particularly interested in considering essays of no more than
    3,000 words, as well as interviews relevant to the question at hand –
    again, please get in touch with the editors to discuss your potential
    contribution. As for the ‘papers’ section, submissions should typically
    be of between 6,000 and 10,000 words in length. Papers may take the form
    of theoretical discussions, empirical analyses, literature reviews,
    organisational prescriptions, political analyses etc. Contributors might
    want to address one or more of the following suggested topics:

    • The University of Excellence & The Corporate University
    • Academic Labour & Value Production
    • Academic Activism & The Public Intellectual
    • Measurement and Evaluation of Research
    • The Crisis of Legitimacy & Anti-Intellectualism
    • The Pursuit of Objectivity, The Science Wars & The Sokal Affair
    • The Post-Enlightenment or Post-Modern University
    • The University & Its Stakeholders
    • May 1968, Its Effects & Its Heritage
    • The Pedagogy of the Oppressed
    • The Role of Critique & Critical Management Studies
    • The Business School & The Business School of Tomorrow
    • Ideological State Apparatuses, The University & The State
    • Commoditisation of Knowledge and Privatisation of Education
    • The End of Free and Independent Research?

    Deadline and Submissions

    To be considered for publication, papers, notes and reviews must be sent
    electronically as an email attachment to the special issue editors by
    1st of February 2008. Please prepare your paper in accordance with
    ephemera guidelines, which you can find at All submission will be
    double-blind peer reviewed. The issue is scheduled to be published at
    the end of August 2008. Preliminary inquiries should be made through the

    Special Issue Editors

    Armin Beverungen
    School of Management
    University of Leicester
    dab19 AT
    +44 116 229 7420

    Stephen Dunne
    School of Management
    University of Leicester
    sd142 AT
    +44 116 223 1079

    Bent Meier Sørensen
    Department of Management,
    Politics and Philosophy
    Copenhagen Business School
    meier AT
    +45 3815 3768

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