Wannabe U Inside the Corporate University
by Gaye Tuchman
University of Chicago Press, 2009
Cloth: 978-0-226-81529-9 | Paper: 978-0-226-81530-5 | Electronic: 978-0-226-81528-2
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226815282.001.0001
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYREVIEWSTABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

Based on years of observation at a large state university, Wannabe U tracks the dispiriting consequences of trading in traditional educational values for loyalty to the market. Aping their boardroom idols, the new corporate administrators at such universities wander from job to job and reductively view the students there as future workers in need of training. Obsessed with measurable successes, they stress auditing and accountability, which leads to policies of surveillance and control dubiously cloaked in the guise of scientific administration. In this eye-opening exposé of the modern university, Tuchman paints a candid portrait of the corporatization of higher education and its impact on students and faculty. 

Like the best campus novelists, Tuchman entertains with her acidly witty observations of backstage power dynamics and faculty politics, but ultimately Wannabe U is a hard-hitting account of how higher education’s misguided pursuit of success fails us all.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Gaye Tuchman is professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. She is the author of Making News: A Study in the Construction of Reality and Edging Women Out: Victorian Novelists, Publishers, and Social Change, editor of The TV Establishment: Programming for Power and Profit, and coeditor of Hearth and Home: Images of Women in the Mass Media.

REVIEWS

“Gaye Tuchman has managed to weave together both a cogent structural analysis of the corporatizing forces reshaping U.S. universities and a colorful ethnographic portrait of a single aspiring institution. She does this with wit and wisdom, highlighting many of the tensions and contradictions of a system where every unit strives and claims to be well above average.”

— Troy Duster, New York University

“In a compelling case study of Wannabe University, Gaye Tuchman thoroughly traces the metamorphosis of a university. She lays bare the combination of a managerialism focused on chasing status and a logic of compliance among divided and complicit academics that results in a comformist, transformed university.”

— Gary Rhoades, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors

Wannabe U is an exceptional portrait of a state university that desperately wants to play in the big leagues. Tuchman illuminates how universities have not just borrowed tools from the business world but redefined them in ways that have had a far-reaching and pernicious influence on higher education. She deftly captures the careerist ambitions of administrators and the discomfort that these transformations can cause between older faculty and newer arrivals. In the midst of these changes and conflicts, Tuchman also notes how much the day-to-day experience of faculty and students is affected. No other book is as revealing about the revolution under way in American higher education as this one.”—Walter W. Powell, Stanford University

— Walter W. Powell

“Tough, honest, highly entertaining. . . . It raises serious questions about the desirability of the shifts in policy and practice that have changed the landscape of the academy, yet it manages at the same time to be funny and entertaining. . . . This book raises important questions about what kind of higher education we want. Tuchman is passionately engaged, but never loses her sense of humour and leaves us with much to think about.”

— Times Higher Education

TABLE OF CONTENTS

- Gaye Tuchman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226815282.003.0001
[corporate administrators, measurable successes, scientific administration, higher education, centralization, bureaucratization, commodification, Wannabe University, James Whitmore, American life]
The processes of centralization, bureaucratization, and commodification seemed as crucial to the transformation of Wannabe University as the “Points of Pride” proclaimed by President Whitmore, perhaps even more so, for they had a direct impact on the work environment, particularly its atmosphere. This chapter is about how being “business-like” has affected today's public research universities and how the changes in universities are, in turn, revealing emerging aspects of American life. It argues that the new emphasis on business has introduced new sorts of administrators who have different kinds of relationships with the professoriate, increasingly, trying to govern them rather than to govern with them. As a result, the process of auditing has become ever more important, as administrators create situations in which faculty members must account for themselves. Indeed, these administrative actions appear to be encouraging an accountability regime. Thus, when President James Whitmore first declared Wannabe to be a university in transformation and then proclaimed it to be a university that had transformed itself, he had implicitly asserted that the administration had purposively altered the university's culture, assumptions, behaviors, processes, and products. (pages 1 - 24)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Gaye Tuchman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226815282.003.0002
[recognition, public research university, audit culture, corporate administrators, measurable successes, Wannabe University, accountability regime]
Although one can find spurts of institutional ambition throughout its official history, Wannabe University was a “Johnny-come-lately” to the “reputational arms race,” the battle for national and international recognition. In many ways, it is typical of an ambitious American public research university. Some changes have emerged in research universities, as they have immersed themselves in the audit culture and accountability regime that are coming to dominate many American institutions. This chapter situates Wannabe geographically and historically, and also in the context of contemporary American higher education. It records the changes that helped situate Wannabe, such as declining support from legislatures coupled with increasing legislative interest in higher education as preparation for the workforce; an increased emphasis on research that could be transformed into a revenue stream; an emphasis on pleasing customers (undergraduates and their parents); reviews of departments to improve “quality” (or at least ranking in a discipline); an increase in the number of full-time professional staff per full-time faculty; and an increase in part-time instructors. The University also suffered a bad case of “middle-status conformity” as it sought to institute “best practices” that would increase the “three e's” associated with an audit culture: economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. (pages 25 - 47)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Gaye Tuchman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226815282.003.0003
[branding, public research universities, middle-status conformist, audit culture, corporate administrators, Wannabe University, accountability regime]
This chapter highlights Wannabe University as a “middle-status conformist” that simultaneously seeks to conform to what other public research universities do, while developing its own distinctive “brand.” It pays special attention to how Wannabe participates in the corporatization of higher education, transforming the faculty's research into a revenue stream (as other research universities do), and also includes some of the techniques used to persuade professors to earn money for the University and to dissuade them from shirking. These activities involve new relationships among administrators and professors, who were once thought to share the governance of universities. (pages 48 - 68)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Gaye Tuchman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226815282.003.0004
[corporate administration, academic administrator, research universities, audit culture, corporate administrators, Wannabe University, accountability regime]
This chapter reviews the new corporate administration and emerging boardroom idols at Wannabe University. As academic administrators have increasingly followed the corporate pattern of achieving vertical mobility by moving from one employer to the next, professors have reconsidered both the meaning of being an administrator and the relationship between the professoriate and the administration. The chapter argues that many professors feel that the “outside” administrators are “corporate administrators” more concerned with power and their own careers than with the fate of Wannabe. Put somewhat differently, according to many professors, by helping the University climb a rung up the ladder of American public research universities, the “corporate administrators” help themselves clamber up the stairs of a managerial career in academe. (pages 69 - 87)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Gaye Tuchman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226815282.003.0005
[new managerialism, centralization, academic restructuring, corporate administration, academic administrator, research universities, audit culture, Wannabe University, accountability regime]
Adherents of the “new managerialism,” Wannabe University's administrators seek to improve organizational rationality to maximize economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. To accomplish this rationalization, they are modifying the administrative structure of the University by engaging in centralization. Some changes have been accomplished through a gradual concentration of power; others by seemingly sudden fiat. This chapter discusses the politics of centralization. It focuses on the “academic restructuring” (the elimination of three schools), the departure (retirement, firing, and career movement) of most of the deans, and some of the methods that professors use to deal with administrative fiats, which include both direct and indirect bureaucratic methods and ritual compliance. (pages 88 - 111)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Gaye Tuchman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226815282.003.0006
[teaching, learning, rating, ranking, academic administrator, audit culture, Wannabe University, accountability regime, central administration]
This chapter reports how professors reacted when, over a ten-year period, the central administration at Wannabe University began to emphasize the need to improve the instruction of undergraduates. That emphasis on teaching undergraduates, and auditing how instructors perform this task, highlight an essential contradiction in contemporary American research universities. As professors see it, and as has been the case at American research universities since the post-World War II period, research universities stress research. Professors' careers are based on their contribution to the scholarship of their fields. However, to sell the quality of their education to potential students and their parents, research universities boast of how they rank in the annual U.S. News & World Report publication “America's Best Colleges.” To produce its ratings, that magazine uses indicators that stress aspects of undergraduate education, not research. The chapter includes some discussion of the innovations (or “tricks”) involving instruction that Wannabe introduced to improve its ranking. (pages 112 - 130)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Gaye Tuchman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226815282.003.0007
[accountability, teaching, learning, rating, ranking, academic administrator, audit culture, Wannabe University, accountability regime, central administration]
This chapter discusses how the central administration at Wannabe University encouraged instructors to make themselves auditable by introducing techniques for assessing both what undergraduates learn and how well professors teach. To some extent, external forces coerced it to do so. The University's Regional Accreditation Agency not only mandated that it have such business documents as a mission statement and a strategic plan, but also that it institute student outcomes assessment. The chapter asks whether Wannabe is conflating education and lifestyle, and whether its concern for students is simply part of “doing business.” (pages 131 - 151)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Gaye Tuchman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226815282.003.0008
[accountability, higher education, managing, academic administrator, audit culture, Wannabe University, accountability regime, central administration, public research university]
This chapter discusses how the central administrators at Wannabe University tried to implement some of the changes that would improve its ranking, and discusses the impact of these changes of faculty, stressing how the shift of emphasis from one provost to the next leads to inconsistency and confusion. It asks about the mission of a public research university, noting how the characterization of higher education as both a public and a private good produces organizational ambivalence. That ambivalence was particularly clear as Wannabe's specific policies about “managing” diversity shifted when one provost replaced another. (pages 152 - 172)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Gaye Tuchman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226815282.003.0009
[accountability, higher education, managing, academic administrator, audit culture, Wannabe University, accountability regime, central administration, public research university]
This chapter considers some ways of making the faculty accountable, including the use of external reviews and “datamining” about graduate programs to eliminate graduate departments. It discusses how much the faculty at Wannabe University is already being audited, although the professors do not identify the forms that they submit either to be granted promotion and tenure or to receive merit raises as structures associated with an accountability regime. The chapter also contrasts the American accountability regime with the highly centralized system introduced to British higher education in the 1990s. Although the centralization and rationalization being imposed on American research universities is less marked than the practices now found in the British system, the American accountability regime developing in higher education resembles the regimes imposed in other fields with ideological content as well as in health care. (pages 173 - 191)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Gaye Tuchman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226815282.003.0010
[undergraduates, labor market, capitalist economy, academic decision, academic values, professional logic, 2008 academic plan, higher education, Wannabe University, central administration]
To understand the need for universities to prepare undergraduates for the labor market, one must understand the problems that labor faces in a globalized capitalist economy, and must also accept specific notions of competition within both social and economic relations. Today universities invoke professional, market, and service logics. In universities, the market logic has not obliterated either the professional logic or the public service logic. It is believed that the central administrators involved in academic decisions recognized the importance of market logic to their jobs, but also believed they were devoted to “core academic values” (the professional logic) such as freedom of inquiry and a belief in how the humanities and the arts enrich people's lives. Wannabe University's top administrators make no bones about their commitment to the market logic. Their commitment to that ethos permeates the 2008 academic plan, but seems less central to the plans that some of the colleges and schools had drafted a few years earlier. This chapter pays particular attention to two plans: the 2008 draft university plan; and the 2006 plan of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. (pages 192 - 210)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

Acknowledgments

Notes

References

Index