[EAS] University Inc.

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Jun 9 14:02:37 EDT 2004

Subject:   University Inc.

The article below is a review by Alice Daniel of the book,
"Shakespeare, Einstein and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher
Education," by University of California professor, David Kirp,
Harvard Univ Press; (November 2003) ISBN: 0674011465.  It is from
the March 2004 issues of ASEE Prism, Volume 13, Number 7.
<http://www.asee.org/prism/>. Copyright © 2004 ASEE, all rights
reserved. Reprinted with permission.



By Alice Daniel

Before David Kirp became an acting dean in the public policy school
at Berkeley, he knew relatively little about the financial
operations of the university. When the provost spent half an hour
talking about the university seal at a council of deans meeting,
Kirp was initially confused because he knew the university's mascot
was a bear. Then he realized the discussion had to do with copyright
and how to make money from Berkeley's brand.

My puzzlement "sounds unbelievable but it's true," says Kirp, a
professor of public policy at Berkeley and an author of 14 books on
topics ranging from AIDS to housing issues. "I spent lots of years
writing, pursuing my bliss, picking topics and stories that really
intrigued me and I knew amazingly little about how universities were
run. There's a tacit deal [among professors and administrators] in
which you leave us alone and we'll leave you alone." His curiosity
piqued, Kirp decided the only way to satisfy it was to venture out
and learn. The result, Shakespeare, Einstein and the Bottom Line:
The Marketing of Higher Education, is an exploration of how the
values of the academy are affected by the rising dominance of the
marketplace, a subject of vital interest to anyone in academia. In
his latest book, Kirp takes readers from the complex world of Ivy
League admissions to for-profit universities that could actually
teach the Ivy League a thing or two, from business schools that have
sold their soul in the midst of privatizing to high-tech companies
that both help and hinder the intellectual strides of the academy.
As the book notes, tension has historically existed between the
university and its sources of funding, including the church and the
crown; however, the controlling factor these days is the

Kirp doesn't deny that schools have to sell themselves, but he
believes the demand should be based on something substantive. "Do
you know what you're selling and why you're selling? Is there a
value to this that makes you proud? That's something that colleges
will often forget as they focus on the bottom line. I don't think
survival is worth it at any cost," he says.

The bottom line has prompted universities to sell courses on the
Internet; privatize schools; shrink the liberal arts; hire marketing
consultants to provide identity makeovers; and collaborate with
industry, which Kirp warns, can restrict freedom of inquiry. Kirp
focuses on two of his own university's enterprises to showcase the
best and worst of industry alliances. The Gigascale Silicon Research
Center-part of a partnership among the federal government, higher
education, and a Silicon Valley company known as MARCO, the
Microelectronics Advanced Research Corp.-has benefited the
university greatly, especially its graduate programs in engineering
and computer science. The collaboration is considered a success
because it allows world-class researchers from many universities to
work together on solutions to high-tech problems while encouraging
openness toward knowledge. It is that openness that can be lost,
Kirp says, if a university "sells the store," an accusation directed
at Berkeley's College of Natural Resources, which signed a five-year
contract with the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis in 1998.
Because the company owns a huge database of plant genome material,
it required confidentiality agreements from faculty working with the
database, a smart move for a corporation, but a controversial one
for academia, where openness in the public interest is a bedrock

Hiring academic superstars at oversized salaries is another risk
some universities take in the name of increasing enrollment and,
ideally, private funding. Kirp puts the magnifying glass on New York
University (NYU), which dramatically reversed its "record of
mediocrity" in the 1980s by raising money to bring in star
professors. Still, Kirp notes, there is a price to be paid. Faculty
stars can create a narrow intellectual agenda for a department,
especially if they bring in like-minded colleagues. But more
importantly, senior professors often demand modest teaching loads,
leaving poorly paid adjuncts and graduate assistants to make up for
the shortfall in instruction. At NYU, 2,700 adjuncts teach 70
percent of the undergraduate classes. This is higher than at most
universities. Still, teaching has become the responsibility of
adjuncts nationwide who, by 2002, accounted for 43 percent of all
university faculty.

				THE TOP 25

School rankings can also drive the marketing efforts of a college.
U.S. News World Report's annual survey of "America's Best Colleges"
has huge influence in how some colleges make decisions. The guide
places great importance on a college's selectivity-the percentage of
applicants it admits as well as the percentage of those admitted
that enroll-leaving colleges to play the numbers game. Kirp writes:
"Admissions officers encourage as many students as possible to
apply, knowing that the more applicants the college rejects, the
more selective it appears to be. For the same reason-looking good to
U.S. News-schools like Emory University and Franklin and Marshall do
not accept their very best applicants, because the admissions office
believes they won't actually come. By rejecting or wait-listing
them, the school makes itself look harder to get into." Meanwhile,
students whose families are well-off can afford to play their own
admissions game. One company, Ivywise, charges $29,000 to help
students get into the college of their dreams. There is even an
Ivywise Kids, "geared to the highly competitive process of admission
to selective kindergartens and elementary schools. For ambitious
parents, it is never too soon to start marketing one's offspring."

The battle to maintain scholarly integrity in the face of major
financial deficits, decrepit buildings, and too few applications is
particularly evident in Kirp's description of the University of
Chicago, an institution that prides itself on its intellectual
atmosphere. In 1994, the trustees hired Hugo Sonnenschein, a
distinguished economist and the provost of Princeton, to save the
university. But as soon as his marketing efforts and suggestions of
core curriculum reform became apparent, 74 professors sent a letter
to the trustees warning that the "intellectual tradition and
academic organization of our university are being put at risk by its
present leadership."

Sonnenschein resigned in 2000, but not before he increased
enrollments, added new buildings, and increased the size of some
undergraduate classes. The core curriculum, however, remained
essentially intact. Kirp writes: "Hugo Sonnenschein may someday be
hailed in Hyde Park as a hero, the leader who saved an institution
by dragging it into modern times. The ultimate question, though, is
whether what the traditionalists refer to as the soul of the
institution, its singularity, can withstand this transformation."
Ironically, this dilemma occurs across the board, even in the
corporate world of Hamburger University, which Kirp can't resist
comparing to the University of Chicago, a 30-minute drive away. The
faculty and alumni at Hamburger U rebelled against a suggestion to
develop regional sites instead of flying McDonald's store managers
from around the world to the company's corporate college for
training. "The cost-cutters, said one instructor, don't realize that
coming together at the flagship campus builds a sense of membership
in the enterprise because they can't capture its value in a tidy
cost-benefit calculation. As one instructor said, 'They are ignoring
the iconic importance of the campus experience.' When Saul Bellow
inveighed against the University of Chicago's efforts to reduce the
size of its core curriculum, he couldn't have said it any better."

That struggle between the forces of the market and the values of the
academy is perhaps no more apparent than at the Darden Graduate
School of Business Administration. In 2003, Darden became formally
self-sufficient from the University of Virginia (UVA). The pursuit
of money, writes Kirp, is Darden's main objective, and one method of
bringing in cash is to offer executive education programs, which
take faculty energy away from scholarship and research. Darden pays
a "franchise fee" to UVA for the "drawing power of the brand," or
"the Thomas Jefferson mystique" of the University of Virginia.
Otherwise, the school operates as if it were a stand-alone
institution. Because of the time it takes to run the executive
programs, Darden faculty publish far less than their counterparts at
other well-known universities, and that "troubles those who see the
creation, not just the transmission, of knowledge as vital at a
great university."

But Kirp is no knee-jerk reactionist to the marketplace. He
recognizes its importance and even applauds it, especially in the
case of for-profit DeVry University, an efficient operation that
delivers on its limited promises and provides a solid education in a
number of fields, including engineering, at 25 campuses. It doesn't
offer any illusions of social reform, but what it does it does well,
even catering to the specific workforce demands of each community.
Still, Kirp concludes, the public at large loses out if the market
reigns in general over higher education because the market is not
concerned with maintaining communities of scholars or delivering
access to students who need financial help. For Kirp, the ultimate
question is: "Can the public be persuaded that universities
represent something as ineffable as the common good-more
specifically, that higher education contributes to the development
of knowledgeable and responsible citizens, encourages social
cohesion, promotes and spreads knowledge, increases social mobility,
and stimulates the economy?" Kirp's work begs the question: "If
there is a less dystopian future, one that revives the soul of this
old institution, who is to advance it -and if not now, then when?"

Alice Daniel is a freelance writer based in Fresno, Calif.

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