Whose University Is It Anyway?

By Ron SrigleyFebruary 22, 2018

Whose University Is It Anyway?
TOWARD THE END of his life George Orwell wrote, “By the age of 50, everyone has the face he deserves.” The same is true of societies and their universities. By the time a society reaches its prime, it has the university it deserves. We have arrived there now in Canada, in the middle age of our regime, well past our youth but not quite to our dotage. What do we see when we look into the mirror of our universities? What image do we find there? Lots of smiling students, lots of talk of “impact” and “innovation,” more than one shovel going into the ground, a host of new community and industry partnerships to celebrate. But whose image is that really? Who created it and whom does it serve?

Administrators control the modern university. The faculty have “fallen,” to use Benjamin Ginsberg’s term. It’s an “all-administrative” institution now. [1] Spending on administrators and administration exceeds spending on faculty, administrators out-number faculty by a long shot, and administrative salaries and benefit packages, particularly those of presidents and other senior managers, have skyrocketed over the last 10 years. Even more telling perhaps, students themselves increasingly resemble administrators more than professors in their ambitions and needs. Safety, comfort, security, quality services, first-class accommodations, guaranteed high grades, institutional brand, better job placements, the market value of the credential — these are the things one hears students demanding these days, not truth, justice, and intelligence. [2] The traditional language of “professors” and “students” still exists, though “service provider” and “consumer” are making serious bids to replace them. The principles of collegial governance and joint decision-making are still on the books, but they are no longer what the institution is about or how it works.

The revolution is over and the administrators have won. But the persistence of traditional structures and language has led some to think that the fight over the institution is now just beginning. This is a mistake. As with most revolutions, open conflict occurs only after real power has already changed hands. In France, for instance, the bourgeoisie were able to seize control of the regime because in a sense they already had it. The same is true of the modern university. Administrators have been slowly taking control of the institution for decades. The recent proliferation of books, essays, and manifestoes critiquing this takeover creates the impression that the battle is now on. But that is an illusion, and most writers know it. All the voices of protest, many of them beautiful and insightful, all of them noble, are either cries of the vanquished or merely a dogged determination to take the losing case to court.

So what’s to do? Keep fighting and risk being canned? Admit the world has changed and join them? Concede defeat and quit?

These are all plausible responses, some uneasy mixture of which is likely what most of us use each day to survive. Personally, I’m less strident than the activists but more active than the pessimists. My own proposal is thus old-fashioned but also mildly seditious: I suggest we think about this change in the university in order to reach some understanding of what it means. Then we can act as we see fit, though without any illusions about consequences.

In order to do this I propose a test. A favorite trope among the administrative castes is accountability. People must be held accountable, they tell us, particularly professors. Well, let’s take them at their word and hold them accountable. How have they done with the public trust since having assumed control of the university?

There is more than a little irony in this test. One of the most significant changes initiated in Canadian universities by the new administrative caste is precisely a reversal of traditional roles of accountability. In the traditional university, professors were “unaccountable.” The university was a sacred space where they were at liberty to pursue with students and colleagues their fields of inquiry without coercion or interference. This doesn’t mean they were free without qualification, of course. Professors were deeply accountable, but in a sense that went far beyond the reach, ambition, and perhaps even the interests of the administrative caste — they were accountable to discover and then to tell the truth, and to encourage their students to do the same. Assessing their abilities and accomplishments in this regard was a matter of judgment and so could not be quantified; it could be exercised only by those capable of it. A mechanism was therefore introduced to ensure this judgment was reached before the university committed to a faculty member permanently. After roughly 15 years of undergraduate and postgraduate study, and then a long period of careful professional observation and assessment, in most universities lasting five to six years, only those professors who proved themselves worthy were granted tenure and allowed to continue their teaching and research in pursuit of this beautiful goal

Administrators, on the other hand, were always held accountable precisely because their responsibilities were administrative in nature and therefore amenable to measurement and regular public audit. They were responsible to ensure the activities of students and professors were not interfered with and to manage the institution’s financial affairs. They were, in this sense, stewards of the sacred space, not its rulers.

In the contemporary university these roles have been reversed. Faculty members are the ones who are now accountable, but no longer to their peers and students and no longer regarding mastery of their subjects. Instead, they are accountable to administrators, who employ an increasingly wide array of instruments and staff to assess their productivity and measure their performance, all of which are now deemed eminently quantifiable. In place of judgment regarding the quality of their work we now have a variety of “outcomes” used as measures of worth. Student evaluations and enrollments (i.e., popularity), learning as determined by “rubrics,” quantity of publications, amount of research dollars, extent of social “impact” are the things that count now. In other words, only things you can quantify and none of which require judgment.

The administrators who protested so vociferously the lack of accountability of professors have now assumed the position themselves. Administrators are virtually untouchable today. Their value to the institution is assumed to be so great that it cannot be measured and cannot be subject to critical assessment. This explains in part their metastatic growth within the institution. University presidents having trouble “transitioning” to their new positions? Administrators having trouble administrating? No problem. What we need is a “Transition Committee” — that is to say, more administration — and for them all to be given ever more power in the governance of the institution. [3]

Ask about virtually any problem in the university today and the solution proposed will inevitably be administrative. Why? Because we think administrators, not professors, guarantee the quality of the product and the achievement of institutional goals. But how is that possible in an academic environment in which knowledge and understanding are the true goals? Without putting too fine a point on it, it’s because they aren’t the true goals any longer. With the exception of certain key science and technology programs in which content proficiency is paramount, administrative efficiency and administrative mindedness are the true goals of the institution. Liberal arts and science programs are quietly being transmogrified through pressure from technology and technological modes of education so that their “content” is increasingly merely an occasion for the delivery of what the university truly desires — well-adjusted, administratively minded people to populate the administrative world we’ve created for them. The latent assumption in all this is that what is truly important is not what students know or how intelligent they are, but how well and how often they perform and how finely we measure it.

If you think I exaggerate, consider the deliverables universities are forever touting to students today: “collaboration,” “communication,” “critical analysis,” “impact.” All abstract nouns indicating things you can do or have, but not a word about what you know or who you are. No promise to teach you history or politics or biology or to make you wise or thoughtful or prudent. Just skills training to equip you to perform optimally in a competitive, innovative world.

Western capitalist societies have come into an inheritance in this respect. Friedrich Engels infamously remarked that in a truly communist state “the government of persons” would be replaced by the “administration of things.” The West has done the East one better and achieved its goal without the brutality that was the East’s undoing. We are now all happy, efficient, administrative objects producing and functioning within the Western technocratic social organism.


The extent of administrative power can be perceived in part in the responses one receives when challenging administrators or even engaging them in constructive, collegial debate. Argue with an administrator that she may be mistaken about a given policy or practice, say that you and your colleagues have come up with good reasons to reconsider or revise it, and you can prepare yourself for the empty stare, the subsequent conversation-killing nod, and the condescending assurance that your suggestion will be taken under advisement. Robert Buckingham at the University of Saskatchewan knows how it works. He was fired, stripped of tenure, and frog marched off the campus for what, in the real world, should have been an entirely benign and even welcome act — criticizing an administrative restructuring plan. [4] The fall of the faculty indeed. What makes this sort of thuggishness possible in an institution ostensibly devoted to inquiry and free debate?

In the modern university, administrators are the ones who are no longer accountable to anyone and who therefore act without restraint, their protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. Administrators will insist that they are in fact deeply accountable to their institutions’ many stakeholders — the community, industry, the board of governors, and government. Unlike professors, they must answer to these bodies directly as they govern and promote the interests of their respective institutions.

This claim is true in one sense and untrue in another. It is true that university presidents, for instance, are answerable to their boards of governors. It is also true that boards may on occasion terminate a president, though it is difficult to know the real reasons for these dismissals due to the inevitable non-disclosure agreements. Nonetheless, one has the impression they are most often due either to differences in the management of the institution or some particularly egregious violation that could not be managed politically. As to the former, Glen Jones, dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, recently suggested in an interview with University Affairs that one of the main sources of tension is that presidents are not free to act as quickly as their boards might wish because of the “limitations to the office.” For Jones those limitations are the inability of university presidents to “fire people” and make changes to “staff and funding” due to the existence of things like “tenure” and “collective agreements.” [5] Jones says boards must keep these things in mind in order to assess presidents’ performances “reasonably and fairly,” but I think the accommodation is going the other way: Canadian universities have been very creative in suppressing if not eliminating entirely the vestiges of collegial governance and the traditional restraints on corporate and market influences in the academy.

As to the matter of violations, how egregious must they be? Pretty egregious, as it turns out. Consider just three examples. In 2014, Amit Chakma of the University of Western Ontario collected his salary ($479,600) and his administrative leave stipend ($444,400) without UWO’s Board forcing him to resign. [6] (If you are a faculty member, just imagine asking your VP Finance to pay you your salary and your sabbatical stipend in the same year.) And in 2012, Alaa Abd-El-Aziz of the University of Prince Edward Island had two separate sexual harassment charges brought against him in a single year, both of which led to formal human rights complaints that ultimately had to be settled through mediation. Yet he is still president of UPEI, even though these charges were brought against him prior to his mid-term review for renewal. [7] No reason to pause there? Just some disgruntled women? Even the local CBC seems to have been willing to help manage appearances. Of the mediated settlements it wrote: it did not “necessarily mean the complaints were found to have merit.” [8] Of course, neither does a mediated settlement mean the complaints were found not to have merit. But the CBC didn’t mention that. Finally, in 2012, Elizabeth Cannon, president of the University of Calgary, was receiving “significant remuneration” from Enbridge, one of the University’s corporate donors, while also collecting her salary from the U of C. All well and good. A president merely using her economic and social capital to benefit her institution. But what happened when the donor became “unhappy” with the university and the center it had supported? Cannon to Len Waverman, dean of the Haskayne School of Business at U of C:

Enbridge is not very happy […] We need content and strategic leadership and that is what Enbridge is looking for. […] They are looking for success and they are not seeing it. I will be frank and add that they are not seeing your leadership on this file and are feeling that once the funding was committed, the interest from you was lost. This is not good for you or the university. I want to have a good relationship with Enbridge given that Al Monaco is incoming CEO and our grad (and I am on one of their Boards!). Our interest is well beyond HSB.

A Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) investigation of the matter summarizes the situation this way:

[S]enior U of C officials were more concerned about procuring corporate donors and “leveraging opportunities” than defending and modeling academic integrity and administrative transparency. At times, they used threats or intimidation in an effort to keep Enbridge happy […] We have a distinct impression — based on the email record, multiple interviews, and media coverage — that there is a culture of silencing, and at worst intimidation or reprisals, at the U of C. [9]

I believe it was Mr. Chakma himself who responded to Michael Enright’s query about hefty university president salaries by saying “if you want top talent, you have to pay competitive market [sic].” [10] Is this what “top talent” means at these administrative heights?


When it comes to the real mandate of the modern university, boards of governors, government, and industry are all in agreement. That mandate is well known to all of us who live and work within the non-ivied walls: more industry partnerships, more technology, more STEM subjects, more money for research and development in these areas, more administrative review bodies and measures, more students, more student services, and more student satisfaction. And because the administrative university is a zero-sum game, there is a reverse side to the mandate: fewer tenured faculty, less faculty control over curricula, fewer humanities and pure science programs, less support for humanities and pure science research, and the erosion of collegial governance.

There is no serious debate about this mandate among the key players in the university administrative hierarchy, so the assertion that administrators are accountable to it in the way they insist faculty must be is a red herring. The administrators are the mandate. There may be internecine conflicts over turf and authority within the ruling elite, and there may be different levels of decorum required in executing the mandate depending on the pedigree of the institution and the sophistication of its market. But as for fundamentals, everyone understands and agrees about the path to be taken: administrators are free to govern the university in whatever way they see fit so long as the mandate is furthered. If this requires some rough play to get the job done, so be it. If it requires, say, serially violating collective agreements to assert dominance and set precedent; or creating new review bodies to undermine existing faculty review bodies and then populating them with administrative plants to get the desired results; or tampering, directly and indirectly, with administrative and faculty hiring committees; or cultivating and compromising Faculty Association leadership; or badgering and abusing recalcitrant professors until they quit or can be fired, or buying off critics of the administration through generous funding of their programs and starvation of others — so be it. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. But as Albert Camus once remarked, the quality of an omelet has nothing to do with how many eggs were broken to make it. And in this instance the “eggs” in question are not negligible. They are the very foundation of our universities — the hard-won principles of collegial and democratic governance, of a dedication to truth, fair play, and reasonable debate, of freedom of thought, and of the long tradition of our collective wisdom that is now being cavalierly dismantled by people who do not have the wit to understand its meaning or significance for our civilization.

If you think I overstate the consequences of this erosion of the university curriculum, consider the 2016 US presidential debates as barometers of the culture. Many people were horrified by the debates, regardless of partisan interests. But if you want to appreciate the full extent of the horror and understand just how far we’ve fallen, watch the first ever televised presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon in 1960. The extent of our new barbarism becomes immediately apparent in the contrast and it’s quite a shock, and this without even claiming that Kennedy and Nixon were themselves in any way high-water marks of political culture. If you think this decline has nothing to do with the decline of genuine liberal arts education, through which students are taught to think deeply and meaningfully about the real human problems of government, justice and reason, and the rise of the all-administrative university in which they are not, think again. As one Canadian university president I know said to a colleague who had expressed an interest in Montesquieu’s political thought, “Why study him? He’s dead.” So much for history. So much for political wisdom. And so much for magnanimity and breadth of understanding. We now have intellectual philistines settling the matter of what our children need to know. Where in this miasma of deculturation will they ever find an image of a genuine statesperson or citizen or of a truly just human being? Nowhere, if the modern administrative university has its way.

How did this happen? What qualifies administrators to occupy a position of such power? What test have they passed that warrants entrusting them with this level of freedom to act? Why would we deny that freedom to one caste on grounds of potential abuse only to give it to another that lacks the disciplinary context and institutional commitment to ensure it exercises it responsibly? And why would we do so knowing this new caste is hierarchical and managerial by nature and thus lacks the checks and balances of collegial governance that were created precisely to safeguard the university from just this type of administrative encroachment? Collegial governance is a rule of equals that works by persuasion rather than power and has been the foundation of Canadian university governance for decades. Why throw it out and open up our institutions of higher learning to the very forms of coercion we so actively fought to resist when we founded them?

The short answer to this question is that we wanted to. We wanted to because the things we acquired through this new arrangement matter more to us than the things we gave away or lost. The long answer is more difficult to explain, but perhaps it will become clearer as we tally up how administrators have actually done over the past few decades. To use an admittedly arts-based measure in a decidedly non-arts-based environment, “you shall know them by their fruits.”

Four areas of the all-administrative university stand out for comment: students, the university curriculum, university governance, and administrative salaries.



There is no clearer indication of the nature of the all-administrative university than the condition of its primary constituents — students. By all available metrics, student intellectual performance has declined precipitously as the university administration has ballooned. Good anecdotal evidence of the trend can be had simply by talking to those who know and love students best — their teachers. But Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, is the definitive study of the phenomenon. It paints a deeply troubling picture of dwindling student capacities for analytic thought, complex reasoning, critical reflection, and writing. And the takeaway numbers regarding the university’s role in the decline are shocking: 45 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” during the first two years of college, and 36 percent “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” after four years of college. To the question “How much are students actually learning in contemporary higher education?” Arum and Roksa reply flatly: “not much.” [11]

The scandal of the diminished condition of our students is only exacerbated by the fact that ever more money is being extorted from them to pay for it. From 1991 to 2016 Canadian post-secondary tuition fees increased a whopping 263 percent. [12] Student debt grew apace. In 1990, the average Canadian university student owed roughly $8,000 upon graduation [13]; by 2016, that number had risen to over $28,000, [14] and there is evidence that the real number is even higher once private and provincial loans are added to the calculation. [15] Where is all the money going? In 1970 in the United States, 268,952 administrators and staffers supported the work of 446,830 full-time professors. Today, the proportions have almost flipped. Now we have 675,000 professors being “supported” by 756,595 administrators and staffers. [16] This isn’t support any longer; it’s a coup d’état, one that students have been bamboozled into paying for.

In the all-administrative university we cheat students of a real, substantial education, the most deleterious consequence of which is the erosion of their ability to speak, think, and write seriously about themselves and their world. Then we saddle them with a stifling debt that only further diminishes the likelihood they’ll exercise these capacities fully, particularly when assessing their universities, because most of their time will be spent just trying to get a foothold in that world. And to complete the picture of the future we’ve prepared for them, we glibly warn them they better get ready for “job churn” and “precarious employment” and the likelihood of returning to us repeatedly for retooling in order to meet the needs of the ever-changing and omniscient market. [17] What this system produces isn’t robust citizens and thoughtful human beings. It doesn’t even create genuinely skilled people because excellence of any kind requires real intellectual freedom, vibrant classrooms, and serious attention to the object of study. Pandering and cell phone distraction just won’t cut it. What it produces instead are obedient, docile “workers” concerned almost exclusively with their survival and largely unaware of the forces that shape their world and actively encourage them to accept it as “the way things are” rather than as someone’s decision or choice, though there may be evidence of a growing disaffection with the role in recent protests on campus. [18]

So why do they and their parents keep paying when the substantial return on investment is so negligible?

What the all-administrative university offers them is not an education but a credential with a market value and ample statistical evidence to demonstrate the necessity of having one if they wish to prosper economically. [19] All the celebrations of ever-increasing achievement, all the new programming about culture and communication and learning, all the technological systems and improvements to student facilities and services are merely cover for this brutal calculation. We don’t mind if you become illiterate. We don’t mind if you can’t read or write. And we don’t even mind if important parts of your humanity wither completely. Let’s just call it the price of progress and our overwhelming economic and military dominance. You like that too, right? You like the perks — the world travel, the cell phones, the cheap sweatshop clothes, Netflix and the other opiates, the general comfort? All right then, we have an understanding. What we will do for you is ensure our credential affords you an adequate seat at the economic table that will get you your fair share of the plunder. After all, that is in both our interests.

One exception to this grim story is how elites educate their own children. The Waldorf School of the Peninsula, which teaches the kids of many who work for Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo, and Hewlett-Packard, doesn’t allow computers or cell phones or iPads in its K-12 classrooms. There it is all about real human contact, free conversation, and tactile, intellectual, and emotional engagement. [20] And when it comes to elite universities, things are similarly oriented. The children of the wealthy and powerful are not reading half-page op-eds for their weekly course content and then pressing a clicker to indicate whether they like it or not; they’re reading Plato’s Republic, Machiavelli’s Prince, and Arendt’s Totalitarianism with uncompromising faculty and engaged colleagues in order to reach some understanding of our human condition. I have friends who teach in such schools and they tell me the decline there too is now “irreversible.” But as Dante taught us, hell is not a single place. It has circles that run from the comparatively delightful home of the philosophers and writers to the darkness of the ninth circle, Cocytus, where the betrayers suffer for their crimes.

Students come to us today ravaged by the irresponsible exploitation of their deepest desires and needs by the economic and technological elites of our world. If they haven’t already been broken by cynicism, they quickly learn to their horror that we don’t care about them either. All the terrifying, heartbreaking, and wonderful human rumblings they feel within themselves starve to death in our classrooms. We’ll give them a certain technical education (more about that in a moment). But we’ll make sure they don’t think about it too much, and we’ll keep them busy and teach them, along with the whole culture, to fear silence, delight, boredom, and unhappiness and the rest of what Dennis Lee calls the “ache of the real.” Instead we’ll stuff our classes full of cell phones and laptops and bells and game-show-style quizzes so they wouldn’t be able to recognize a real experience if they had one (and they do … all the time). It is in those darker interstices of experience that people become human beings worthy of the name and begin their long conversation with the world, from which no one knows what beautiful new insight might emerge. Perhaps it is still so. But the all-administrative university hates silence and reflection and wants students fast and pliable and efficient.


The University Curriculum

Evidence has been mounting that the administrative concern with productivity and commercial application has done as much to ruin science as it has the humanities. Today scientists are forced by administrators and government funding bodies to produce new, exciting research with immediate economic benefits. Unfortunately, the natural world is not nearly so forthcoming with its “products” as the administrators would like and appears to operate according to a different schedule from their own in offering up its insights.

In place of genuine scientific knowledge, useful technical applications, and vibrant classrooms, the all-administrative university encourages meaningless scientific hair-splitting, irrelevant findings, technological gimmicks, and research that is frequently unrepeatable and often simply false. So great is the administrative pressure to produce “results” that scientists are driven to such tactics merely to survive. Daniel Sarewitz cites Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, to indicate shape and extent of the crisis:

[M]uch of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. [21]

To survive in this milieu scientists have to juke the stats. And to do that, something has to give, and that something is the truth. This may not require peddling out-and-out falsehoods, though that too is happening. But at the very least it requires “playing the game,” which in biomedical research, for instance, is said to cost taxpayers and governments $28 billion per year in “unreproducible” results. According to Sarewitz, modern academic “science isn’t self-correcting, it’s self-destructing.”

Contrary to this type of research there is what John Polanyi calls “fundamental science.” [22] Fundamental science is not coerced or coercive, nor is it obsessed with short-term results. Rather, it aims at genuine insight into the natural world. Its objects range from a unified field theory to epigenetics to the biophysical life-world of plants. Compared to this type of inquiry, a driverless car or a face-recognition cell phone is merely a technological gimmick — expensive to develop, profitable to sell, requiring lots of very smart people to create, and having far-reaching social implications, but in the end offering little real new insight into life apart from how it might be further exploited.

My guess is most university scientists would prefer to do fundamental research if only they were given the choice. And for those more inclined to technical applications, I’d bet they’d rather work toward ends they and their colleagues judge socially and scientifically important rather than forever running on the “innovation” treadmill. What happens instead? Both are forced to work in a compromised system that kills fundamental science and trivializes technical applications in the name of the administrative (not scientific) principle of productivity. “Can bad scientific practices be fixed?” asks Horton. “Part of the problem is that no one is incentivised to be right. Instead, scientists are incentivised to be productive and innovative.” [23]

Insight in science, as in any other discipline, requires leisure and a free mind. If you rob scientists of these things and instead badger them about productivity and impact, you won’t get insight or even science, but gimmicks and people adept at spinning their importance.


The destruction of the humanities is both similar to and different from that of the sciences. For Arum and Roksa, one cause of the decline is “lack of rigor.” Students can’t do things they used to be able to do for the simple reason that we no longer insist that they do them. And why is that? “Student success becomes an institutional priority when leaders make it so.” “Presidents, deans, provosts” — these are the people who determine the culture of the institution. If students cannot think, read, or write any longer, it’s because administrators don’t care if they can or can’t.

One reason for the negligence is simple corruption. Rigor is difficult and unpopular; pandering is easy and pleasant. And since the whole world panders to students in order to extract from them a portion of their considerable resources, why resist the flow? It’s the world they live in and have come to expect, after all. Better simply to repackage pandering as rigor — e-learning, digital literacies, competency-based programming, personal learning agendas — and simply deny there is a problem.

Another reason for the decline is more ideologically driven and more calculating. In management circles there is a movement afoot called “post-bureaucratism,” which takes its inspiration from the big data analytics and real-time monitoring of Silicon Valley. Post-bureaucrats are anti-administrative administrators. Like Trump and the Brexiters, they pose as caring populists fighting against establishment professionals, but they’re not. They seek to “streamline” economic, political, and educational systems by removing expertise and content management from their operation, not by improving them. As Alan Finlayson describes the ambition in a recent article in the London Review of Books, their politics “doesn’t prize knowledge of society (there is no such thing). It values the generation and interpretation of facts about individuals’ behaviours and interactions — what they signify or might herald, how to manage and manipulate them.”

The new administrative elites want to mine and control the economic, educational, and social resources of society in order create a state that operates not according to the critical, agonistic spirit of traditional democratic politics but the smooth, frictionless movement of a search engine in which all are affirmed in their private dreams without the slightest question being raised as to the personal and collective meaning of these things.

The implications for education are staggering, the first of which is the abandonment of its principle aim: “In this world, the people do not need to know and understand things about themselves: they are the things to be known about.” [24]

There is perhaps no clearer explanation of the current emptying of post-secondary education. In the traditional world education was necessary to form character and deepen insight so people would be able to act thoughtfully in relation to one another and the world. That was back when the world was a place full of things with natures that had to be contended with, not a virtual space or “internet of things” comprised of data and manufactured objects open to endless manipulation. In that traditional world, who you were and what you knew mattered. The fact that the all-administrative university no longer cares about these things is not an accident. In the post-bureaucratic world of big data no one is concerned to educate students in the traditional sense because that type of knowledge is no longer what guides decisions, and university administrators know it. No more “hegemonizing” authorities (professors) trying to persuade or inform you; no more criticism or even “critical thinking”; and no more Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) curriculum as preparation for public life. Just marketing, algorithms, and fun.

The irrelevance of knowledge and insight for participation in the culture is already plainly visible. Not even the limited political activity of elections, in which the aim is ostensibly to debate rival policies in order to reach some decision about which might be preferable, still exists. A report from the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University on media coverage of the 2016 US National Conventions found that public discussion of policy issues was vanishingly small when compared to polling, scandal, and other campaign matters. Trump’s legislative agenda received more attention than Clinton’s — 13 percent opposed to 4 percent — but the report makes it clear that this was not because of the “content” of Trump’s campaign so much as the fact that Trump made for better TV. [25] Leslie Moonves, CEO of CBS, understood what it meant. “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS […] The money’s rolling in […] It’s a terrible thing to say. But bring it on, Donald.” [26]

Thought and criticism belong to a previous dispensation, which is now over. Books, curricula, professors, students, dialogue, classes — all antiquated features of the content-driven structure of the old university. They are all disappearing for the simple reason that students are no longer in universities to study or to know anything; they are being observed and known. And this is not to “understand” them in the sense of knowing who they are so as to help them to flourish. Finlayson: “In the emergent system of communication and information” power instead “rests on the ability to read the ebbs and flows of mood and opinion so as to anticipate what is coming, find a wave that it is useful to amplify, and capitalise on the temporary force and intensity of numbers.” [27] Humanities education is vanishing from the academy because what we want from students is no longer their insight or character, but merely an electronic footprint of their most immediate and unconsidered desires from which to craft a custom consumer world for them to inhabit.

Or in the contemporary ed-speak of Contact North, an Ontario distance education network:

The shift from institutionally determined programs to skills and competency-based programs determined by labour market needs or individual learner preferences will reduce the reliance on formalized program structures and increase the ability of learners to mix and match their learning activities against their learning agenda. Some of these agendas will be set by the professional bodies and accrediting organizations, while others will be set by individual learning interests, passions and commitments. [28]


The one bit of genuine achievement in this otherwise grim accounting of the university curriculum is technology. The all-administrative university produces very good technology — biotechnology, digital technology, environmental technology, all types of technology. [29] And the push is on to get even better at it. [30] Technology is the name of the game in our world, so much so that our global standing and material prosperity depend on it almost exclusively. Why wouldn’t we use all tools at our disposal to develop it, including the university?

There is nothing wrong with technology per se. But there is something wrong with technological people. The difference between the two is that “technology” is merely a tool used to pursue substantial human ends, whereas technological people abandon human ends in favor of exclusively technological ones. The former view is classical, the latter that of Silicon Valley dataists and transhumanists for whom human beings are themselves merely “obsolete algorithms” soon to be replaced by synthetic ones far superior to them in every way. [31]

The humanities and sciences traditionally understood are both opposed to the latter view, which is why they are being marginalized or eliminated from the university curriculum. But they are not opposed to the former. Even an arguably lopsided obsession with technology such as ours does not by itself entail the denigration and elimination of other forms of inquiry. That happens only when technological ends replace substantial human ends ideologically and economically, as they have in the all-administrative university.

This is an essential distinction and it strikes me that here one must choose. In a sense the promise of technological people has always been freedom from the normal mess of human life, with its cycles of birth and death, growth and decay, plenty and want, joy and despair — in short, its deeply troubling and profoundly beautiful imperfection. [32] Classical technology sought to ameliorate those things but not to escape them because human nature was for the ancients insuperable. This is why traditional humanities programs have always encouraged humility, reflection, and wisdom. The world has limits it’s essential for us to understand and respect. Not so for technological societies such as ours. We are very bold these days. Since human beings are merely algorithms that can be altered and superseded at will, the technological world promised by our contemporary prophets is much cleaner and efficient than our own — and much more inhuman. Humanities education is necessary only if you wish to be human. If not, then some other type of formation will be required.

If technologists are right and such a world is possible, then the stupidity and decline I’ve described are merely holdovers from our antiquated humanity, soon to disappear into the brightly shining sun of the supreme data set. But if they’re wrong, then human beings aren’t being changed or perfected at all; they’re being destroyed, first by being treated like machines and second by having their humanity systematically neglected. As Jaron Lanier says, the reason AI seems human to us is not because machines are becoming more human, but because we are becoming more like machines. [33] Machines are inhumanly fast and efficient precisely because, unlike people, they have no “other.” We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting close.

Universities used to help students understand and assess such intellectual and political movements. No more. Now they’ve got a horse in the race and are using their considerable influence to ensure students dutifully assume their places in front of the screen, pressing the appropriate buttons, whether to refine the system or to further the plunder of its denizens.

Is this all we really want for our children? The promises are wearing pretty thin: promises of easy money and endless comfort if we only tech up, forget about wisdom, turn science into a circus, stop the criticism, and focus all our energies on big data and algorithms. And the existential costs are mounting. Young people aren’t doing very well these days. Mental health numbers are off the charts for a generation of kids that has effectively been raised and educated by screens. They’re having trouble speaking, thinking, and making sense of the world. And yet the barbarity of the culture and universities is not lost on them. The belief we can continue reaping the economic and technological benefits of that barbarism while pasting some “soft skills” and some “social and emotional learning” on top of the existential mess we’ve made of our kids simply isn’t going to work. We’re at the point now where we need a serious intellectual and emotional intervention. Nothing less than Shakespeare, Woolf, and Tolkien will do if we’re going to save our children.


University Governance

Not all corporations act thuggishly; nor do all universities, which now behave like corporations. Nonetheless, there has been a significant change in the manner in which the all-administrative university comports itself that is rougher, more centralized, less free, and less democratic than that of the community of scholars and students it replaced. There are several reasons for this decline.

As long as the university was primarily about what scholars did — teaching and research in the sciences and humanities — scholars themselves were the ones best suited to administer its activities. And that was how the university used to function. Administrators arose from the general faculty, served their terms in office, and then returned to their home departments. Once the mandate changed to supplying the economy not with “skilled” labor — universities have always done that — but with a certain technically minded human being, scholars were deemed not merely unqualified to execute the mandate, but antithetical to it. And they were, stated in this way, which is why they were removed from university governance and academic decision-making.

That removal was an undertaking that could not be done nicely. A first step in the process was to hire senior managers from outside the local university so boards of governors could vet them for agreement with the new corporate ethos. These managers were in turn empowered to duplicate themselves within the institution through the appointment of like-minded colleagues and staff. This cohort of the corporate-minded has grown at a rate such that it has outpaced all other university appointments — in the United States a 240 percent increase from 1985 to 2005 compared to a mere 50 percent for faculty. [34] It is now the dominant power on campus.

Why do calls for austerity and downsizing apply to everyone except these people? Isn’t the point of good administration that it’s done efficiently and cheaply? In Canadian universities, part-time faculty now do 60 percent to 70 percent of the teaching because full-time faculty have been cut so dramatically. [35] Teaching is the core deliverable of the university, yet we don’t mind getting that done on the cheap. But not the administrators, who at the same time that faculty have been decimated have grown exponentially both in number and proportion of budget.

Together with this administrative take-over came the creation of an artificial crisis of confidence in universities, an attack on their effectiveness and relevance to the culture that would push the federal government to claw back transfer payments to the tune of almost 50 percent, thus forcing the institution to seek other sources of revenue. Students provided some of the revenue, but most of it came through partnerships with private corporations. This was in large part the work of the Business Council on National Issues (BCNI) and the Corporate-Higher Education Forum (CHEF), the latter comprised of 25 Canadian CEOs and 25 university presidents. [36] This is the group that would in large part guide the restructuring of the university.

At the same time, sponsored research in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects connected to industry began to increase substantially. The National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), all began to rejigger their funding guidelines to require that research serve and in many cases be tied explicitly to business and industry partners. For a time even the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) — one of the few defenders of serious social scientific and humanities research in the country — fell into line by focusing its funding on “business related degrees.” All the while monies for teaching and research in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences with no obvious connection to industry, which is to say, most of it, began to dry up. [37]

The fall of the faculty was virtually complete. All that remained was to remove professors from their proper sphere of influence — the curriculum — through the introduction of new academic review bodies that, though said to complement existing review committees, were actually designed to replace them. One such vehicle was the Program Prioritization Process that was making the rounds in Canadian universities a few years ago. Structures to assess the soundness of academic programs already exist within the university. If you want to assess a program’s quality, they work very well. If you don’t want to do that, but wish rather to discontinue programs you’ve judged unwanted on other grounds, then you’re going to need different metrics. Enter the PPP crowd. According to their formula, humanities and science programs judged to have no demonstrable commercial or popular viability were deemed untenable (“ranked”) and cancelled (“yanked”). [38]

That is how the reorganization worked structurally. Practically, with each successive change in governance, administrators acquired ever-greater power over the institution, a power they quickly used to silence all debate about the change itself. Criticism of the all-administrative university is not tolerated in the all-administrative university. Freedom of speech is granted only within the mandate, not to speech about the mandate. Which means that all discussion of foundational questions is denied.

Administrators silence dissent mostly by playing white-collar hardball. “New policy directions,” “program prioritization,” and “restructuring initiatives” rather than cleats and elbows are the preferred methods for taking care of critics. But not always. When you get a little bit further from big academic markets things can get pretty rough, because fewer people are watching and therefore less subtlety is needed in execution.

There have been many stories reported of compromised and destroyed careers. Let one stand for them all. I have my own, which I won’t share here. There is no mystery to my unwillingness: these people frighten me. Or as David Layzell, fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, said to the National Observer when asked about the administrative culture at the University of Calgary: “‘I really don’t feel that I can talk with you about this.’ He added: ‘Maybe that says more than us actually talking’.” [39]

In the story I do share, identities have been concealed to protect the innocent. That’s how dangerous the all-administrative university can be.

A professor I know taught at an American university in which the vice president, Research sought to institute bibliometrics as a performance measure for faculty. Bibliometrics tend to equate quantity with quality. Faculty members with lots of publications and grants are successful; those with few, or perhaps just fewer, are not. It’s a highly problematic measure for a variety of reasons, but that’s not the point of story. The point is how the administration responded even to a hint of criticism.

The professor wrote to several colleagues suggesting they should raise their concerns about the measure. He gained little support because, he said, most “were petrified of losing their positions.” And so the whole thing petered out. But not for the administration. It wasn’t long before he was summoned by the president, who informed him that he was naïve to think his university email account was not “transparent” to his “managers.” End of meeting. No discussion, no context, no actual accusation, and no reprimand. Just a thinly veiled threat that if he didn’t watch out he’d find himself at the bottom of the academic East River.

He learned subsequently that his email account hadn’t been compromised at all; he’d simply been betrayed by a fellow-traveling faculty member. Which means the president was just having a little fun threatening him, while also ensuring that there would be complete silence the next time he and his tribe decided to do the faculty some dirt.

This colleague has become so morally troubled by his work in the all-administrative university that he is seeking employment elsewhere. “For me,” he said, “having a family and a life outside of the academy is increasingly an ethical lifeline.” I can think of no greater condemnation of the all-administrative university, and no more profound betrayal of its fundamental mission — to discover the truth.

Would you want to send your children to this place? What sort of education do you expect they’d get?


Administrative Salaries

University presidents today think and act like CEOs rather than as leaders of a community of scholars and students. And they insist on being paid accordingly. Maclean’s has been tracking the numbers over the past few years, and they are truly shocking.

In 2011, David Johnston, president of the University of Waterloo, made $1,041,881. [40] Indira Samarasekera of the University of Alberta had a total compensation package of over $1.1 million in the final year of her contract. [41] Elizabeth Cannon of the University of Calgary and David Turpin of the University of Alberta banked $897,000 and $824,000 respectively during the 2016–’17 academic year. [42] Even presidents at small- and medium-sized universities now routinely receive between $300,000 and $500,000 in compensation, this not including additional forms of remuneration that combined can reach as high as $200,000 per year. [43]

What’s even more troubling is how expensive these people are once they leave their institutions. Former president of Dalhousie University, Tom Traves, received $1.3 million in compensation in the three years following his retirement in 2013. [44] Peter George netted $1.4 million after leaving his position at McMaster University, $99,999 annually, or one dollar less than the salary limit prescribed by the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act (PSDA) so McMaster wouldn’t have to reveal the amount publicly. [45] And this doesn’t include the tens of thousands of dollars George received in additional compensation for insurance, health care, car allowance, and travel — all after he’d resigned! But these packages don’t compare to the one received by Harvey Weingarten, former president of the University of Calgary, who stands to collect as much as $4.75 million in pension monies after serving as president for only eight years. [46] The discovery of Weingarten’s remuneration package came to light just as he was warning the University of Calgary community that up to 200 jobs would have to be cut in an effort to address a budget shortfall of $14 million.

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The facts are so compromising that universities go to great lengths to conceal such agreements. But when word does get out and criticism comes, the excessive compensation is usually justified in two ways. First through appeals to fairness: presidential salaries must be in line with market values. But “market values” in this case are other presidents’ salaries, so the argument is a shell game. A second justification is that if you want talent, you have to pay for it. This was Chakma’s defense of his own extraordinary compensation. It too is an illusion, however, a bit of corporate sophistry on the part of the money-hungry that’s now made it’s way into the academy.

It is, I think, simply untrue that the best, most qualified people for leadership roles in the university are also those who insist on lavish salaries. The opposite is more likely the case. The best people tend to subordinate low personal interests like career advancement and wealth to substantial concerns like meaningful work, the integrity of their institutions, and the well-being of its constituents. And the best people generally don’t want power, knowing that power is dangerous both for themselves and others and carries with it far more responsibilities than perks. Hence Plato’s warning: Never give rule to someone who wants it, only to one who does not. We’ve not merely ignored this warning but built a system that actively encourages its opposite.

Regardless of one’s thoughts about education or the direction the university should take, the assumption that a single, corporate-minded CEO surrounded by staffers and other administrators, not colleagues, is better positioned to understand and serve the institution’s interests is a rather extraordinary one. Though there’s been some decline in recent years, universities still tend to be full of a lot of very smart people who genuinely love their students and know their fields of study. They used to run the place quite well. The fact that we’ve sidelined them in preference of a small, quite differently motivated group of corporate wannabes is something that stretches one’s credulity.

Selfishness has become socially respectable these days, but hopefully its hold over us does not completely blind us to the ugliness and stupidity of what we’ve done. In addition to the waste and the political imprudence, it is simply grotesque that our university leaders now profit so excessively from a public institution dedicated to teaching the young at a time when the young struggle beneath historically unprecedented levels of debt and precariousness. That universities are reproducing the worse economic excesses of the culture is one important indication of how far they’ve strayed from their true mandate.


I’d like to conclude by addressing our university administrators directly. So far I’ve written about you; now I want to talk to you.

Though the types of decline I’ve described have occurred during your tenure at the head of the institution, that doesn’t mean you’re solely responsible for them. You do bear responsibility, but as I’ve written elsewhere, my colleagues and I are also to blame. And so are students, and so are their families, and so are the corporations and industries we all patronize.

For our part, we juke the stats, we give in to pressures to pass students and make them happy. We stupidify our courses and water down our disciplines to survive. And worst of all for everyone, we ourselves have become intellectually and pedagogically second-rate through our participation in the decline.

For us the pressure to do and become these things comes largely from above, which is to say, from you. Yet we know that once you sign up, you too are pressured — by government, the Board, industry — to get in line with the mandate. And then there are pressures from below. Students want things, and they tend to vote with their feet, which can harm you through decreasing enrollments. And there are parents too. They’re realists, so they want their children to be successful now, in the world and university as they are. But not exclusively. Most parents also want their children to be thoughtful, beautiful, and wise, which are simply not the same things as credentialed, skilled, and rich. Thus do expectations and demands work themselves through the system from top to bottom, at each level reinforcing the status quo, but also raising wondering little doubts about the whole business and how it may have failed us.

So while it is true that we’re all responsible for the decline, we’re not all equally responsible for it, and not all in the same way. Some of us are forced to it, and some of us go to it willingly, whether for money or power or through a lack of imagination as to what it all means. To the willing participants, I have nothing more to say, and in any event, I imagine you stopped reading long ago, or have continued only for the sake of strategy. But to those with whom that doubt resonates and who feel themselves compromised and betrayed as we do, this is what I’d like to say.

The first thing faculty expect from you is some honesty about the situation. The data is in and all credible sources agree that our students are in trouble and so too is our curriculum. We can’t get anywhere if you continue to deny what’s actually happening. The university in this regard increasing feels like a government in permanent damage control, where nary a word against anything can be spoken and no admission of failure is permitted. If you’d simply drop the facade we might be able to get somewhere.

The second thing we want from you is a little courage. No more hand wringing in private about the decline. No more lamentation as a substitute for action. And no more cooperating with any person or body that wishes to justify and perpetuate the institution’s decline. That’s not good enough anymore. I don’t mean to be uncharitable, because I understand the cost. Some of us have spoken up without any protection at all, and have paid dearly for it. You can’t expect empathy with your difficulties when you have parachute clauses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and pensions, sometimes even two, that stagger the imagination. [47] If you’re in this for real, then you’ll have to act like it. Otherwise, how can we be sure about you?

Another thing we insist on is the return of real freedom and debate about fundamental questions. Administrative authoritarianism is effective in the short term for silencing criticism, but deleterious in the long term and a sign of weakness. Strong cultures and institutions, like strong people, can take criticism without crumbling. Indeed, they desire it because it makes them more robust and their insight more ample. Beyond this free and open institutions and people are more interesting and creative. Great artists, scientists, and business people are almost always unorthodox in outlook and disposition. If you want great universities, find these great people and let them do what they want, and get the things that prevent them from doing so out of their way, yourselves first of all. Of course there will be free riders. You have them too, so why wouldn’t we? But they are a price worth paying for the greatness we may yet discover and cultivate.

Finally, you must drop the childish and short-sighted sidelining of sciences and humanities not obviously related to your commercial interests. This is going to come back to haunt you, and no doubt already has. You can have all the technology you want to be competitive. But if you allow it to co-opt everything, you’re going to destroy the kids. Despite the prognostications of the technocrats about our transhuman future, no human society we know of has flourished without serious reflection on what is just and true and beautiful. And ditto for science. There is nothing like a scientist’s sober insight into the natural world to calm passions and check ill-considered political ambitions. You should be promoting both things vigorously, not allowing them to be eroded by cheap intellectual fashion and the myopia of the markets.

This list is far from comprehensive, but it’s a good place to start. If you were simply to talk with us honestly about these fundamental issues, instead of harassing, silencing, or firing us for reminding you of them, there is no telling what we might accomplish together and how many new friends you would have standing with you. It’s your choice.


Ron Srigley is a writer. His work has appeared in The Walrus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and L’Obs, as well as in a variety of scholarly journals. He teaches philosophy and religious studies at Laurentian University and in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Humber College, Toronto. He is author of Albert Camus’s Critique of Modernity and translator of Albert Camus’s Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism.


[1] Benjamin Ginsberg, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters (Oxford University Press, 2011).

[2] Frank Bruni, “In College Turmoil, Signs of a Changed Relationship with Students,” The New York Times, June 22, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/23/education/in-college-turmoil-signs-of-a-changed-relationship-with-students.html?_r=0.

[3] Rosanna Tamburri, “Why grooming the next line of university presidents matters more than ever” University Affairs, August 3, 2016. http://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/grooming-the-next-line-of-university-presidents/.

[4] “Returned U of S Prof. Robert Buckingham gets hero's welcome,” CBC News Saskatoon, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/returned-u-of-s-prof-robert-buckingham-gets-hero-s-welcome-1.2650317.

[5] Rosanna Tamburri, “Why grooming the next line of university presidents matters more than ever.”

[6] “Amit Chakma, Western University president, earned $924K last year,” CBC News Toronto, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/amit-chakma-western-university-president-earned-924k-last-year-1.3012070.

[7] “UPEI settles sexual harassment complaints,” http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/upei-settles-sexual-harassment-complaints-1.1323425.

[8] “UPEI settles sexual harassment complaints,” CBC News, July 11, 2013. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/upei-settles-sexual-harassment-complaints-1.1323425.

[9] Drs. Allison Hearn & Gus Van Harten, “Report of the CAUT Ad Hoc Investigatory Committee Into the Enbridge Center for Corporate Sustainability at the University of Calgary, October 2017.” https://www.caut.ca/sites/default/files/caut-ahic-report-calgary-enbridge-centre-for-corporate-sustainability_2017-10.pdf.

[10] “Have Canadian Universities Lost Their Way? Part 2 - Follow the Money” CBC Radio, The Sunday Edition.

[11] Richard Arum & Josipa Roksa, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011).

[12] Jamie Brownless, “The Role of Governments in Corporatizing Canadian Universities,” Academic Matters, January 2016, http://academicmatters.ca/2016/01/the-role-of-governments-in-corporatizing-canadian-universities/.

[13] Joseph Berger, “Student Debt in Canada” in The Price of Knowledge: Access and Student Finance in Canada, Fourth Edition, The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation (Quebec, 2009), https://library.carleton.ca/sites/default/files/find/data/surveys/pdf_files/Price-of-Knowledge_4th-edition_2009-11_chapter-7_en.pdf.

[14] Op. Cit. Jamie Brownlee.

[15] Pam Davies, “As student debt climbs to an average past $25K, schools invest in battling the mental-health issues it causes,” National Post, May 30, 2016, http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/as-student-debt-climbs-to-an-average-past-25k-schools-invest-in-battling-the-mental-health-issues-it-causes/wcm/d6a4e21c-44d1-4455-8802-fa0b69f38b49.

[16] Benjamin Ginsberg, “Administrators Ate My Tuition,” Washington Monthly, September/October 2011, https://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/septoct-2011/administrators-ate-my-tuition/.

[17] “Get used to the 'job churn' of short-term employment and career changes, Bill Morneau says,” National Post, October 16, 2016,http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/get-used-to-the-job-churn-of-short-term-employment-and-career-changes-bill-morneau-says/wcm/ee7ad4d0-688d-44cb-b3dc-8901377f1bc9.

[18] Jack Dickey, “The Revolution on America’s Campuses,” Time, May 31, 2016. http://time.com/4347099/college-campus-protests/.

[19] Martin Hicks and Linda Jonker, “Still Worth It After All These Years,” Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, January 6, 2015, http://www.heqco.ca/en-ca/Research/ResPub/Pages/Still-Worth-It-After-All-These-Years.aspx.

[20] Matt Richtel, “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute,” The New York Times, Oct 22, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html.

[21] Daniel Sarewitz, “Saving Science,” The New Atlantis, Number 49, Spring/Summer 2016, pp. 4–40. http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/saving-science. Sarewitz’s article is a compelling and exhaustive discussion of the state of modern science.

[22] John Polanyi, “Separating Science from Innovation: And Important Task,” The Globe and Mail, September 29, 2016. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/separating-science-from-innovation-an-important-task/article32110983/.

[23] Richard Horton, “Offline: What is Medicine’s Sigma 5? The Lancet, Volume 385, No. 9976, p1380, 11 April 2015.http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)60696-1/fulltext.

[24] Alan Finlayson, “Brexitism,” The London Review of Books, Volume 39, no. 10, May 18, 2017. My emphasis.

[25] Thomas E. Patterson, “News Coverage of the 2016 National Conventions: Negative News, Lacking Content,” The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, September 12, 2016. https://shorensteincenter.org/news-coverage-2016-national-conventions/

[26] Eliza Collins, “Les Moonves: Trump's run is 'damn good for CBS',” Politico, February 29, 2016. http://www.politico.com/blogs/on-media/2016/02/les-moonves-trump-cbs-220001.

[27] Alan Findlayson, op. cit.

[28] “A 2016 Look At The Future Of Online Learning,” Contact North, https://teachonline.ca/sites/default/files/toolstrends/downloads/2016_look_at_online_learning.pdf.

[29] Research Matter, Game-Changers, Ontario Council on University Research, http://yourontarioresearch.ca/game-changers/.

[30] Elizabeth Cannon, “Canada Can’t Afford to Lose a Generation of Top Research Talent,” The Globe and Mail, April 28, 2017. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/canada-cant-afford-to-lose-a-generation-of-top-research-talent/article34847865/.

[31] Pernille Tranberg, “From Humanism to Dataism: A Future Scenario,” Dataethics, April 25, 2017. https://dataethics.eu/en/humanism-dataism-future-scenario/.

[32] W. Patrick McCray, “Silicon Valley’s Bonfire of the Vainglorious,” Los Angeles Review of Books, July 17, 2017. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/silicon-valleys-bonfire-of-the-vainglorious/.

[33] Jaron Lanier, “The First Church of Robotics,” The New York Times, August 9, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/09/opinion/09lanier.html.

[34] Ginsberg, 2011.

[35] “Part-time Faculty: What We Know, and What We Don't” Academica Group, February 25, 2015. http://www.academica.ca/blog/part-time-faculty-what-we-know-and-what-we-don’t.

[36] The best study of these changes is Jamie Brownlee’s fine book, Academia, Inc.: How Corporatization is transforming Canadian Universities (Nova Scotia: Fernwood Publishing, 2015). I am indebted to his analysis for this discussion.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Chris Herhalt, “U of G prioritization report puts low-scoring programs on alert,” Guelph Mercury Tribune, October 4, 2013. https://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/4140165-u-of-g-prioritization-report-puts-low-scoring-programs-on-alert/. Josh Dehaas, “Saskatchewan isn’t the only school doing ‘program prioritization’,” Maclean’s, May 22, 2014. http://www.macleans.ca/education/university/saskatchewan-isnt-only-school-doing-program-prioritization/

[39] Christopher Adams, “Teachers Investigate whether University of Calgary is in bed with Big Oil,” National Observer, August 10, 2016.https://www.nationalobserver. com/2016/08/10/analysis/teachers-investigate-whether-university-calgary-bed-big-oil.

[40] Jacob Serebrin, “Top 10 Highest Paid University Officials in Canada,” Maclean’s, July 4, 2011. http://www.macleans.ca/education/uniandcollege/top-10-highest-paid-university-officials-in-canada/.

[41] Trevor Howell, “Compensation of Alberta’s Top University and College Execs Reignites Calls for Review,” The Calgary Herald, January 13, 2015. http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/compensation-of-albertas-top-university-and-college-execs-reignites-calls-for-review.

[42] Janet French, “Alberta top university salaries 'out of line,' advanced education minister says,” Edmonton Sun, http://www.edmontonsun.com/2017/07/17/


[43] Op cit. Jacob Serebrin.

[44] “Tom Traves retirement package not unusual at Canadian universities,” CBC News, August 10, 2015. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/tom-traves-retirement-package-not-unusual-at-canadian-universities-1.3185501.

[45] “President’s $1.4-million Golden Handshake,” Maclean’s, June 26, 2008. http://www.macleans.ca/education/uniandcollege/mcmaster-president-to-get-nearly-14-million-after-retirement/.

[46] “U of Calgary President Eligible for $4.5M Pension,” CBC News, September 21, 2009. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/u-of-calgary-president-eligible-for-4-5m-pension-1.850905.

[47] Teresa Wright, [“Premier Wade MacLauchlan file disclosures,” Journal Pioneer, April 14, 2015, http://www.journalpioneer.com/news/local/premier-maclauchlan-files-disclosures-55681/.

LARB Contributor

Ron Srigley is a writer. His work has appeared in The Walrus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and L’Obs, as well as in a variety of scholarly journals. He teaches philosophy and religious studies at Laurentian University and in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Humber College, Toronto. He is author of Albert Camus’s Critique of Modernity and translator of Albert Camus’s Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism. Photo by Elliott Tilleczek.


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