Shared Governance, Tenure, and Academic Freedom Are Worth the Trouble (CHE)

Shared Governance, Tenure, and Academic Freedom Are Worth the Trouble (CHE)

(Note the Sunoikisis link in this article.)

By William Pannapacker

Online learning doesn’t have to be a Faustian bargain

In a recent essay in The Chronicle, Kevin Carey urged readers to embrace technology, not tenure: “Shared governance, tenure, and academic freedom in the classroom are both indefensible and not worth the trouble.” The solution to academe’s woes, Carey seemed to argue, will involve getting rid of all three, expanding the use of online course delivery (presumably MOOCs), and turning professors—”the good ones, anyway”—into intellectual free agents who sell their expertise on the open market.

Apparently finding support in William G. Bowen’s Higher Education in the Digital Age (Princeton), Carey asserts, “Governance is for the governors; it can’t really be shared.” He argues that the shift toward adjunct labor has been an administrative effort to eliminate the roadblocks created by faculty discontent.

Carey is director of the education-policy program at the New American Foundation, an avowedly nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank based in Washington. While I agree with some of what he says about the deplorable shift toward adjunct labor, I disagree with his claim that faculty governance exists only to “further a posture of official solidarity.” That’s certainly the worst-case scenario: faculty governance as a rubber stamp for decisions that have already been made, or merely as means of exposing the malcontents.


I am not opposed to online approaches to course delivery. I have designed and taught online and hybrid courses since 2006, within the context of a liberal-arts college that makes strong teaching a priority. I like the idea of developing hybrid courses in areas such as lesser-taught languages that allow small institutions to work together (like the Sunoikisis model, a national consortium of classics programs).


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