Academic Duty: Part I

Justine Hernandez Download as MS Word file

(Or, "Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It …")

Goal: to "engage future faculty members with a vision of academic duty that includes the responsibilities to put students first and to restore the values of institutional commitment and loyalty" (vii). The problem: duty is not clearly defined by academics or by the public. Does Kennedy give us a vision in which Kerr's horizontal (community) and vertical (disciplinary, guild-oriented) systems "coexist and complement each other" (Kerr, 148)?

Approach: Kennedy places the burden of responsibility upon faculty, which he claims constitutes the university (23). How does this, and his position as president, frame his approach to academia's duties? Kennedy does not fall easily into the Newman/Hutchins camp, and yet, he returns continually to the importance of a shared "moral" sense and to a "social contract" approach to leadership: this overarching theme frames each chapter. Though he is a scientist (and considers research largely through this lens), he seems not be interested in "survival" in the same way that Kerr predicts presidents will be. Does the "mission" of a president from a major public translate well enough to those in the trenches?

Chapter 1: Academic Freedom, Academic Duty

The unspoken duty: rethink academic freedom. Defines academic freedom as "the insulation of professors and their institutions from political interference," essential protection of intellectuals and ideas (1). But what are we required to give in exchange? The U. needs "both its independence from the society around it and the support and understanding of that society" (15). Familiar with public scrutiny and mistrust, Kennedy feels we must open the black box in order to legitimate ourselves; we must also reconcile our expectations with the public's (17). Faculty are expected to be both amateurs and professionals. Is it possible, or even desirable, to be both?

See in particular … pp. 19-21 Responsibility v. ethics. Responsibility is duty to "deliver full support to a set of institutional objectives." To do so, one must be clear about what the objectives are. The public expects more than just intellectual development of students. Kennedy defines professional ethics as a subset of responsibility. Who charges us with this responsibility? What is their responsibility?

Chapter 2: Preparing (Future Faculty)

The Duty: "to prepare students realistically for productive and rewarding lives" by respecting the diversity of vocation in higher education and instilling a sense of "duty" to the institution, to colleagues, to undergraduates, to the public (57). "The way they train the future faculty for the whole enterprise sets its values. No more leveraged version of academic duty exists anywhere" (58). Kennedy suggests that those preparing for academia don't respect the full range of institutions; in part the problem stems from mentors who "have a rather firm image of what is an appropriate academic destiny for their scholarly offspring. An institution may be viewed as unsuitable if orientated … toward undergraduates, or if it … lacks conventional prestige" (57).

See in particular … p.24 Despite institutional diversity, all have one thing in common: "the primary mission of educating students." But what does it mean to educate? And who are the students? Kennedy's brief history of the U. provides a frame for what he describes as the "cohort effect" (37). Competition for funds significantly affects experience of training and expectations of the future. pp. 28-32, 37 on faculty and institutional prestige, both based on quality of research (as we saw in Lombardi's "engine" model last week). How does Kennedy reconcile his statement that "enlarging and disseminating knowledge … [is best] done in the same place by the same people" with the drive to research? Are we satisfied with his advice to younger faculty, his answer to the question "what are the opportunities," and with his treatment of the issue of reputational currency?

Chapter 3: To Teach

The Duty: to educate undergraduates, promote generational improvement. Kennedy frames undergraduate education in moral terms, argues that faculty aren't prepared for it during graduate training, thus the "secular decline of professorial civic virtue" (63). Like it or not, the university teaches values (not simply 'about' them). Consider Kennedy's statement that faculty function "as moral teachers, making a difference in the way students choose to conduct their lives" (60). How is this complicated by Lombardi's and Kerr's portrait of the modern research university and by what we're led to believe about time we'll spend on scholarship? Kennedy forecasts a "new balance in which the university' primary products are people, with technologies secondary, and in which research and scholarship are more tightly interwoven with our responsibilities for educating young men and women" (59). Does he help us bridge the divide between research and teaching?

See in particular … pp. 60-64 teaching "load" and expectations, pp. 71-72 the "corporate model" of training, p. 77 on students giving instant feedback, p.81 exams as teaching tools and dialogue. What kind of demands does this make on work time? Will these teachers have time to engage in traditional research? Given our recent class conversations about shaping the humanities for the 21st century, are we satisfied with teaching as research (65, 78)? See also … Kennedy on the power dynamic of the classroom and professorial viewpoints (à lá Rutgers 1000) pp. 67-69

Chapter 4: To Mentor

The Duty: to provide nurturing one-on-one relationships through which "the academic profession reproduces itself" (97).

Power differential becomes evident in situations where mentors and advanced students dispute ownership of "data, ideas, experiments, theories" (98). Does student work have its own viability? What does the culture condone? Kennedy calls for clear understandings about these issues (105). "Faculty members have a special obligation to foster intellectual development and independence … they fail" when they give students an 'agenda,' when they "use student for routine support" rather than fostering independence, and when they fail to share credit (107).

Chapter 5: To Serve the University

The Duty: to "be involved in … institutional governance," not simply to maintain "academic freedom" but "because faculty is the heart of the institution, and if its members are not active participants and stakeholders in any proposed change, then change is unlikely" (144).

Who owns/governs the institution? Is authority lodged in the administration, to make future-oriented decisions taking into consideration the counsel of the professional network (the "fiduciary vision")? Or does authority belong to faculty members (the "communitarian vision")? Does the Franklin case (pp. 132-134) unite both functions in the faculty? What are the incentives for institutional loyalty, and do they outweigh the "guild" liabilities?

See in particular … pp. 118-119 Powell/Brennan, pp.125-127 de jure and de facto responsibilities of the president, pp. 134-138 the future of tenure, pp.139-140 exhortation to "revive the social contract."

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