Academic Duty-part 2

Matthew McGowan
2/20/02
The Business of Higher Education

Chapter 6: To Discover

Kennedy's primary concern here is with the various roles, costs, and values of research in the university today. Much of his discussion in this chapter has to do with the sciences, the humanities and social sciences getting for the most part just brief nods or asides.
While he believes that competition in the realm of the academy-on both the institutional and individual level-is generally a good thing, he questions the value of universities, i.e. their faculties, focusing so much time and energy on research (see147-148).
A large part of this chapter discusses the ins and outs of funding research in the sciences- the problems with the current "peer review" system of deciding who gets what grants (153), the somewhat unique demands of "Big Science" (vs. the demands of "small, individual projects"), and the complicated and twisted relationships (with all their problems of accountability, product ownership, project control, etc.) between the university and entities like government agencies (e.g. the Department of Defense) and various (science funding) foundations. (Kerr can likely come into play in a discussion of many of these above issues.) Much of his illustration here is by hypothetical situation.
Kennedy also spends a good amount of time here talking about the tricky economics of "indirect costs" at a university. By way of his own experience with an indirect cost controversy at Stanford, he considers the difficult positions universities have found themselves in of-late: spending scarce time and resources on defending themselves-to the government, the press and the public- from accusations that are, almost exclusively, big misconceptions. Where Kennedy does see the academy at fault is in not anticipating that issues like indirect cost recovery might become a problem of accountability-to the communities universities are parts of-one day (175).
The passage I personally found most compelling starts at the bottom of 180 and goes to the bottom of 181; the first paragraph I found the most troubling in this chapter (is it just me, or is that a hell of a lumping together he does there at the end?), the second the most close to-academic- home (should/could we talk about Alan Sokal and the Social Text article? Also see the bottom of 279).

Chapter 7: To Publish

This chapter is primarily concerned with the problems of contemporary scholarly publishing-and again, Kennedy is talking almost entirely about the sciences (and particularly about biomedicine; though see191 for a mention of the humanities and social sciences). As he thinks there's simply too much research going on (and not enough attention being paid to undergraduate teaching), Kennedy thinks there's simply too much publishing in the-scientific-academic world. (Might we relate this to Larson?) He bemoans the state of too many journals-many of poor quality-flooding the market, thereby making it economically tough in the end for everyone-the authors, the publications, and the universities that (feel they) have to subscribe to them.
He also revisits the problems of multi-authored works (again, in the sciences) and, in particular, the dangers of "complimentary authorship" (196-197). By way of furthering his discussion of the problems of scholarly information/data getting out into the world before it's officially published, Kennedy talks about the opportunities and challenges presented by the advent of computer and Internet technology.
Akin to his discussions of the problems of peer review, Kennedy muses on the complexities of anonymity in the reviewing of scholarly publications (see 204 for a brief passage on his humanities considerations in this realm).
His discussion of secrecy and trust-as a necessity-in the university (206-209 and elsewhere, really) I found to be pretty interesting.

Chapter 8: To Tell the Truth

This is mainly a chapter about plagiarism and other related, questionable academic practices and stories. He makes some mention of plagiarism-by-accident ("unmarked notes") and what "copying" traditions there are in American culture today (215-216), but the better part of this section is devoted to some particular/well-known cases of academic fraud and the difficulties/ particulars of dealing with such cases.
He also makes an interesting case for why it might not be best if/that the investigation and prosecution of such cases are handled exclusively by academics-i.e. why bringing lawyers into the picture might not be such a bad thing (231-232).

Chapter 9: To Reach Beyond the Walls

Kennedy here discusses the particulars, opportunities and pitfalls related to academics participating in activities, i.e. doing work outside or away from their "home" university, referred to as "offshore commitments." The difficulty is, of course, in maintaining the balance between having academics garner prestige for a university by disseminating their expertise and influence in the world-at-large, while still making sure that they're fulfilling their duties to/at the university. (Can/should we talk about the recent Cornel West-Harvard events here?)
Again through another extended hypothetical situation, and again in the realm of the sciences, Kennedy also spends a good deal of this chapter exploring the problems of conflicts of interest (as well as of public perception) when academics have relations with and successes in the business world.

Chapter 10: To Change

Simply put, Kennedy says that the university-in all its variations in America-has to change with the times if it's going to function well for and with society. He also talks about the trend (inevitability?) of "corporatization" (see 266-267 and 273). Related to this is the notion that the graduates of universities today are going out into a job market that will require them to be flexible in how/where they apply their knowledge (268, 275-6).
He writes here a bit about the possibilities (and shortfalls) of computer technology in education (268-269), the potentialities and challenges for interdisciplinarity (276-277), and the challenge put to the university in the question: "'Can the universities really make a difference with respect to the Big Problems facing us?" (277). (Surely, we'd need to talk about Newman here, as well as Hutchins.) He also notes the-inherent-conservatism of most universities, which tend to change more incrementally than on a broad scale.
As we have in class, Kennedy notes the incredibly tough job university presidents have in contemporary society, and considers what role a university president might have in the "institutional redesign" (287) he thinks the university is in need of at present.

Some general questions for consideration:

What do we think of Kennedy's infinitive chapter titles?
And, considering what it's arguably "really about," shouldn't Chapter 6 really be called something like "To Fund (Scientific Research)"?

To what extent can we tie the various attacks on various universities (or, should/could we say, the "cultural elite"?) that Kennedy traces in the mid-late-80's and early 90's to the political climate of the times? Have "we" recovered (sufficiently?) from such assaults and bad P.R.?

What would it take for Kennedy's calls-for increases in things like trust and a focus on undergraduate education, and for decreases in things like research and publication-to happen? Would such movements-have to?-come from "the top down" or from "the bottom up"?





 
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