Comment of the Day:”Catawba Valley Community College vs. FIRE, Free Speech and Fairness”

"Being courageous, challenging authority and exercising your right to free speech is no way to go through life, son."

Michael supplies an answer to my question, “What is going on with colleges and universities?” to begin the recent post about yet another example of a college trying to strangle inconvenient free expression on campus. Here is his Comment of the Day on Catawba Valley Community College vs. FIRE, Free Speech and Fairness:

“Colleges used to be run by faculty. Senior faculty members would be promoted to department heads, then deans, then provosts, and finally presidents. Their whole career, they would teach and be in contact with students. The faculty used to have a strong voice, including the ability to remove a sitting president if they felt it was necessary.

“Today’s administrators often have little to no experience teaching. They also have almost complete power over the schools. The faculty have been reduced to powers similar to those of the Queen of England “the power to be informed, the power to be consulted, the power to advise”. The administration has also made it so that any faculty member, tenured or not, can be removed by the president (often the last step in a dismissal appeal is that the President gets to decide the outcome). The Boards of Trustees that govern such institutions are packed with businessmen and prominent people from the community who are given such positions as a political favor. The presidents know such boards don’t dig deeply into the affairs of the school, they only see enrollments and how much money the school has. As a result, the administration’s goals are keep the board happy, have a large enrollment, and keep a positive cashflow through any means necessary.

“As you can see, this leads to a situation where the administration goals have little to do with the traditional goals of institutions of higher learning (education, exploring new ideas, original research) and is, in fact actively hostile to several of them.

“Now, what I have written generally doesn’t apply to the major universities. Their faculty have generally been able to hold on to some power over the school and their presidents are usually eminent scholars. At the smaller schools and community colleges, you often have the situation where a local businessman is put in charge to ‘clean up the school” and ‘make it more efficient’. Such people are used to having their ways, having their orders obeyed, and firing those who don’t comply. This tends not to work well with students.”

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