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Ken Kyle

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To See or Not to See the Crisis in the Academy: A Call for Action

This article contends that the academy is faced with economic, political, and cultural threats that are having deleterious effects on the university as an institution and on academicians as individuals. Despite these threats and ill effects, some academicians appear unconcerned with these trends or even welcome them. This essay addresses two possible reasons for this disconnect: (1) some academicians may not fully appreciate the challenges facing the academy, and/or they may not fully appreciate how responses to these challenges affect their own work-a-day lives, and (2) some academicians may be concerned, but feel that many others are not. To address the first possibility and to support the essay’s first contention, this essay illustrates how current economic, political, and cultural trends in society foster strains in higher education that challenge not only the academy as an institution, but also the academic freedom and economic livelihoods of individual academicians. To address the second possibility, this essay outlines four different general sets of assumptions and goals (models) about academia’s purpose. These models are designed to capture the majority of views on the topic. It reviews these models in light of the external trends and university responses, and in doing so, it demonstrates that no matter which model one subscribes to, there is reason for concern and a need for collective action in response to these threats. This essay sets the groundwork for a discussion of the appropriateness of organizing collective action in response to these external challenges and deleterious internal policy responses.

higher education, privatization, academic freedom

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 32, No. 3 (2005): 128-147.