The Business of Higher Education
Chapter 6: To Discover
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
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
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
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
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"?