Walter Mignolo

Thoughts on modernity/coloniality, geopolitics of knowledge, border thinking, pluriversality, and the decolonial option.

Towards the End of the University as we Knew It (II).

Louis Yako has fired an enlightening broadside from his graduate student´s experience, calling our attention to were the university as we know it today is heading. Since the classic book by Bill Readings (The University in Ruins, 1996), scholars have been proactive in alerting all of us on universities’ corporate turn. But it was less common to hear the voice, the feeling, the experience and the opinion of graduate students in publications of wide circulation (like Counterpunch).

Readings was already seeing the university’ corporate turn in the US. Shortly after, European, Asian, Latin American, African universities began to follow suit. The corporate turn doesn’t refer to universities being funded by corporations, but to the corporate values that is increasingly dominating its vision and mission. But, again, to hear about the effect that corporatization of learning has in graduate students, shall give all of us pause.

 Now universities are going global and going global means to engage in travelling to different places of the world, either to sign agreements or build university campuses outside of the country. Administrators doing all these jobs travel in business class; faculty following up and going to teach or do research, when all is said and done, travel economy class. Graduate students are funded to follow suit and to justify the administration business. Managerial thinking prevails over leisure thinking.

 I am not saying that graduate students shall not take advantage of universities going global. I am calling attention to pre-packaged, managerial “what to do to succeed” as Yako tell us he, and other graduate students, where being instructed from the pulpit. I am not saying either that students shall be taught to “fail.” I am flagging the meaning of “succeed.” I would prefer a university that encourage students how to liberate themselves from the actual meaning of “succeed.”

Yako depicts another scene that takes us in the same direction: we are approaching the day, Yako suggests, in which available jobs at the university will be for administrative positions. Faculty will not be needed. Courses will be taught online by faculty and also by lectures hire by the hour, and the same course could be repeated every year without the faculty or the lecture being present.

 At this point it will be useful to recall another side of the same coin: the op-ed by Mark C. Taylor published in the NYT, “End of the University as we Know It.”  The article was largely debated on line. I posted my view on the issue in my blog.  It could be helpful also to take into account, in these current debates, the history of the modern university and its imperial/colonial sides.

This tendency is not only affecting “developed” states and the beacons of Western Civilization, but is a global phenomenon. Zulma Palermo has documented this situation in Argentina.  As far as economy has become the dominant factor and the guiding light of governments, corporations and “the middle class,” the corporate model both in private and state university, mutates into a place where “experts” are trained. Some private university can still afford maintaining the humanities and less crucial social sciences (like history and anthropology) and securing that sociology, economy and political sciences serve well the goals of the corporate university.

 The history of the university runs parallel to the foundation and consolidation of Western Civilization and its colonial enterprises. That history could help us in understanding not only the direction the university is taking today but more important could help us will us to “rescue” creativity and knowledge-making from becoming only associated to the needs of the increasing corporate vision of the world.

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