David Duckett - Manifesto

1) Universities should renounce a business and credentialing model of education and commit to distributing knowledge to the public and improving the quality of its dissemination methods.

This principle stresses teaching as the primary purpose of the university and is proffered in the belief that the university has a direct obligation to share information with the public that supports it. It is more important that the greater public have access to information rather than access to degrees. I believe that the university can better serve the interests of the public by disavowing economic interests and focusing on the quality of the information it provides rather than the quantity of credentials granted. By renouncing a business model, the university is likely to develop more slowly and to focus more on the quality of the institution at present rather than its potential for future development. Checking the development of the university may result in making it more manageable and encourage the careful use of current resources. This would also would curb university's current role as a credentialing engine. Another advantage of this proposal is that third-party interests are not likely to appropriate or reorient the research of the university. This suggestion encourages the university's dependence upon the public for support, and I think the public is likely to contribute to the university when they see themselves as direct beneficiaries of the knowledge produced in the university. This principle was drafted mainly in response to the problem of the business model of the university: “The recent drive to have universities mimic business firms as generators of intellectual property amounts to… a campaign of institutional dismemberment, in which the university’s research function is severed from the teaching function… we have seen the emergence of quasi-private ‘science parks’ whose profitable ventures threaten to arrest the normal flow of knowledge” (Fuller 5). Some problems with this suggestion are that most universities are already large and established, the lack of money makes it difficult to buy equipment that might be necessary for research, and the interests of taxpayers may eliminate faculty with deviant ideas. While less people might receive degrees, society would benefit from having direct access to knowledge generated by the university. This proposal would be valuable in the collective manifesto because the current business and credentialing model of education distorts what should be the primary goal of a university: to provide knowledge and education.

2) The Board of Visitors should be replaced by a proportionate mix of esteemed teachers, researchers, staff, officials, undergraduate and graduate students, and alumni, each with equal power to vote on university decisions.

Though not directly related, I devised this principle in reflecting upon the failure of IRBs to represent the social sciences: “medical and psychological researchers have been well represented on every official body that has set IRB policy…. In contrast, official bodies have included at most a token representation from the social sciences” (Schrag 189). I formulated this principle on the idea that governing bodies should equally and fairly represent the populations they serve. I do not think that the governor should have the power to appoint members to the Board of Visitors; this should be the responsibility of the university. The Board of Visitors, as a major governing authority of the university, needs to be aware of how their decisions might affect, or be received by, different groups of the university's population. As it stands, students, staff, and faculty are underrepresented, yet these are the exact groups that must function in the consequences of decisions that were made for them. Decisions that are not conducive to the educational goal of the university or to the well-being as its members are more likely to be approved when a select group makes decisions for the whole. When a variety of groups are able to present their opinions, foresight of how decisions might affect certain groups improves, and there is more of a chance for significant discussion related to the interests of groups that might otherwise be unheard. Members for the Board of Visitors should be voted for by the entire university population. The implications of adopting this principle for the academy are that some university populations may feel that they should also have representation to the Board of Visitors, such as clubs or departments. Some drawbacks of this statement are determining which populations might be missing (or should not belong) on the Board of Visitors as well as how members on the Board of Visitors might carry on with their usual duties while remaining abreast of university issues. Although this principle may be too specific for the manifesto, I think it would be likely to create a better informed decision-making body—one that is more likely to focus on the educational function of the university.

3) We should express published ideas to a public forum for evaluation in the most limpid, transparent, understandable, succinct, and honest ways.

In conducting any sort of academic inquiry, it is important for us to strive for clarity and sincerity in our communication. We should first have a point to make, and then make it in as condensed a form as possible. All written work should be combed and evaluated for quality. In any department where an individual wishes to publish work, it should first be presented in a public forum and seriously questioned. In the end, it is the responsibility of the writer to determine the significance and worthwhileness of their work (so no other party may censor it), but all writers should have to explain and be held accountable for their ideas. In the process of hiring or reviewing academic members' publications, it is imperative that we read and seriously critique one another's work. I adopted this principle because the university needs to protect its integrity and because, in order to best disseminate knowledge and information, we need to evaluate what we write, engage with others in our field of study, and try to make documents as intelligible to the public as possible. This is based on a couple ideas from our readings. The first from Lindsay Waters: “The proliferating publications are the result of an administrative desire for clarity and simplicity in the work of managing…. There may be some departmental colleagues who are incapable or afraid or simply do not want to read each other's work” (14). If we are to have quality information, then it should be the responsibility of each of us to give honest opinions of our colleagues' work. Administrators should not be the sole or most influential judges of a publication's value: the judges should be the entire community. As writers, we should avoid excessive verbiage, dishonesty, and try to make our writing as accessible as possible to the public and avoid confusion; this idea originated from Popper's disgust with Hegel's irresponsible use of language: “Hegel's success was the beginning of the 'age of dishonesty'… first of intellectual, and later, as one of its consequences, of moral irresponsibility; of a new age controlled by the magic of high-sounding words, and by the power of jargon” (28). The positive implications of this principle are that society has more access to the university, and scholars are encouraged to be careful in their thinking and aware of the current knowledge in their field. The negative implications are that there are cases where confusing writing can be used to make a point (postmodernism) or where terminology is necessary to keep writing clear (which means it won't be as accessible to the public). This should be included in the manifesto because it promotes education of the public, interaction with the public, intellectual accountability, and the improved quality of work and ideas.

4) Universities ought to place a permanent cap on the maximum number of enrolled students.

According to this principle, each university would be able to only have a certain number of students university-wide (this would include satellite locations). The permanent cap on the student enrollment would be voted on by taxpayers in the state. I adopted this statement because I believe that curbing the number of students in the university is one way to revalue credentials, to make academics more competitive, to protect the area surrounding the university from over-development, and to discourage the business model of the current university. This is one way to diminish “the role of academics who… can command the time and money of workers in need of credentials for career advancement, usually without transforming the workplace or sometimes even the workers' substantive knowledge” (Fuller 8). Although students provide a source of income, I think the university should focus less on numbers of enrolled students and more on distributing information and resources to the public at large. I adopted this principle because I see it as one way to interrupt the cycle of credentialing, and I think it encourages the university to build and plan for a manageable population. In other words, the faculty will not be overloaded and better able to both teach and perform research. As an aside, maybe there should be no cap on enrollment, but there should be no credentials or grading involved. I think it should be the responsibility of employers to test and assess the knowledge of prospective employees, while the university should be concerned with teaching the public. Rather than have the university function as a credentialing factory, I propose that it become more competitive in terms of enrollment. A major negative implication is that more universities might spring up all over the state (almost like remote campuses of previously established universities), which would defeat the purpose of limiting the student population. For society and the workplace, there would be a population with less credentials, but more access to jobs in which credentials are not required. This assumes that the university seriously undertakes the task of teaching the public at large. I propose this principle because an obsession with development has become one of the main reasons that “educating” has been relegated at the expense of income. The point of this principle is to encourage the university to educate more than just students—degrees are less important than the dissemination of quality ideas.

5) We ought to conduct the pursuit of knowledge as a collective endeavor in cooperation with both the social sphere as well as other universities and in societal rather than commercial interests.

Though competition is one way to encourage and motivate innovation, it often instills a sense of motivation for the reason of winning or being considered “right” by the public instead of finding accurate answers; in other words, competition makes us strive to win, while collaboration encourages us to focus more on problems and solutions. This isn't to say that all work must be conducted collectively, but universities should work with one another instead of in opposition. As with other principles outlined here, economic interests work against collaboration: “business models are forcing universities to gouge other universities in the pursuit of knowledge” (Mirowski 21). Also, universities should work closely with surrounding localities and provide them with both knowledge and the fruits of any useful research. I adopted this principle because I think it is a more efficient and useful model for handling larger problems and for expanding our knowledge of issues within our disciplines. By thinking together, we are more likely to have better solutions and see the implications of our research. I also believe that the university is obligated to share the interests of society since this is the university's source of funding. The negative implications of the collaborative model are that the university might become more half-hearted in its endeavors or grow frustrated by being forced to work with other universities. There is also a risk that societal interests may be dangerous or unethical, yet this is as much a concern with research conducted by individuals or research performed in commercial interests—the difference is that research used by society is likely to have a greater detrimental impact. Despite these drawbacks, this collaborative model has potential to build research relationships and allow academicians to learn from contemporaries outside their own university. There is also the advantage of shared access to equipment between universities as well as shared knowledge. This principle should be considered because I think cooperation has many more advantages than competition in the long run—by combining resources from different universities we are better able to solve problems and, by working alongside society, the university is encouraged to improve the lives and well-being of members of society, while society is more likely to continue funding the university.

6) We ought to ensure a sustained balance between teaching and research.

This is an idea from Steve Fuller: “At its best, the university was a catalyst of social change when its two functions engaged in mutual regulation: teaching curbed the esoteric tendencies of research, while research disrupted the routinizing tendencies of teaching… However, this delicate balance between the two functions is in danger of being lost.” (25). It is up to each university faculty member to ensure a balance between teaching and research: one should be up-to-date in one's field, but keep one's own students up-to-date as well. Fuller identifies the reason for imbalance as academics being driven by the market. I have tried to create principles capable of implementation to counteract this tendency, but I think that adopting a certain attitude and awareness is just as important. The university should improve our knowledge, our understanding of how we gain knowledge, the kind of values we ascribe to knowledge, and the consequences of having certain knowledge. To accomplish this, the university must have improved knowledge (researching) and have effective methods for sharing it (teaching). I adopted this principle because an imbalance of teaching and research runs the risk of inhibiting development of new knowledge or inhibiting distribution of new knowledge—either faculty will fall behind in their own self-improvement and knowledge of their discipline, or they will never share their knowledge. The implications of this for society and students would be that both parties will have access to information while having confidence that this knowledge is being refined and improved upon. For faculty, the act of teaching and research provides intellectual variety and an awareness of how they are shaping future research and researchers. One of the problems with this principle is the responsibility of determining balance; also, I have admittedly conceived of this principle more from the standpoint of scientific research. Another consideration might be to have certain faculty devoted entirely to research while others focus more on teaching. This should be considered for the collective manifesto because it is an attitude that encourages both the improvement of knowledge as well as the spread of improved knowledge.

7) Universities should transition computers over to open-source software operating systems in places where specialized software is not necessary.

I couldn't resist throwing this in (though incomplete) because the university could save money by not making clones of commercial operating systems that require licenses for duplication (paid for each OS) and this could also change students' attitudes towards the tools that they use. Open-source operating systems (OSs) have, in my opinion, proven their ability to develop and match the functionality of other OSs and encourage a community of shared knowledge. The principles behind open-source software, in which we collaborate and improve our creations in order to share them, is a model that I think educational systems should imitate. There is no reason that certain places (such as libraries) cannot use open-source OSs in order to save money and provide users with the same functionality as they had previously. Although, there are specialized programs that will require certain operating systems (although I am willing to bet this will change shortly).

Works Cited

Fuller, Steve. The Sociology of Intellectual Life. Themes and Contestations in Contemporary Academic Inquiry. Jim Collier, 2011. Web. 30 Oct. 2011.

Mirowski, Philip. “The Modern Commercialization of Science is a Passel of Ponzi Schemes.” Themes and Contestations in Contemporary Academic Inquiry. Jim Collier, 2011. Web. 30 Oct. 2011.

Popper, Karl R. The Open Society and Its Enemies: The High Tide of Prophecy: Hegel, Marx, and the Aftermath. Vol. 2. New Jersey: Princeton UP, 1966. Print.

Schrag, Zachary M. Ethical Imperialism: Institutional Review Boards and the Social Sciences, 1965-2009. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2010. Print.

Waters, Lindsay. Enemies of Promise: Publishing, Perishing, and the Eclipse of Scholarship. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm P, 2004. Print.

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