Abstract: Commercialization and corporatization contribute to strain in the academic roles of professors in research, teaching, and service, and in their political roles as organic, professional, and critical intellectuals, both in the U.S. and greater China. Although they may manifest themselves in different shapes and forms, these global trends have been going strong and are adversely affecting professors’ role playing, and in essence, their academic freedom, at different degrees in different places. This chapter is informed by theoretical perspectives of the sociology of higher education, and its argument is supported by both quantitative and qualitative data. As a public good, hispeciallyorporatization, in China). rporatization, higher education based on the currd gher education is not only an important engine of the economy but also an important driver of social and political change. How well professors can play their roles will directly influence where a society is heading. Hence the importance of this topic and what this chapter may contribute to the understanding of the problem and possible ways to deal with it.
A study of 18 countries and one region found that “45% of university professors on average across the advanced countries consider their job as a source of considerable personal strain” (Teichler et al. 2013:107). That is a large percentage. And personal strain increased in the majority of the countries in 2007 as compared with 1992 when the Carnegie Survey was conducted. The pressure on research, teaching, and service is probably causing the strain, but underlying the pressure may be the forces of academic capitalism, or to be more specific, commercialization and corporatization (C&C), which have eroded academic freedom.
In this chapter I explore how C&C strain professors’ academic freedom and thus their work. I first discuss some theoretical perspectives in the sociology of higher education, which can help us understand the roles of professors in research, teaching, and service, but especially their political roles as organic, professional and critical intellectuals. Then I explain the data and methods of analysis. Thirdly, I examine how C&C of higher education institutions (HEI) in the U.S. and greater China constrain the role of professors. Fourthly, I explain why this is in essence an issue of academic freedom. And finally in conclusion I will call on further comparative studies of higher education.
My argument is that C&C have adversely affected the role the professoriate plays. The main contribution of this chapter is the application of the sociology of intellectuals and professionals in the analysis of the role of professors and their academic freedom under the influence of C&C, using existing data. It enriches the contents of the sociology of higher education.
Professors are faced with the danger of becoming what Weber (1958) calls “specialists without spirit,” “sensualists without heart,” or simply “academic workers who are merely doing routine jobs and who are no longer strongly committed to the traditional norms and values of the profession” (Teichler et al. 2013:6-7, citing Enders 2001). They could become Marx’s alienated workers engaged in what Durkheim calls a “forced division of labour” (Giddens 1971) in the “knowledge factory” (Aronowitz 2010). Whatever and however the professoriate does will affect the direction in which a society goes, since after all the university is not only a primary engine of the economy but often the driver of social and political change, for better or for worse, and the professoriate plays a crucial role at any university. A study of the role of the professoriate is therefore of extreme importance. This chapter hopes to shed light on how professors might respond more effectively to the trend of C&C and as a result be better able to play their academic and political roles and protect academic freedom and the university as a public good.
Sociology of Higher Education and the Political Role of Professors
In the early 1970s, Burton R. Clark (2007), the renowned professor of the sociology of higher education, commented that the field is relatively young and unformed. Now about 40 years have passed. In addition to traditional sociological theories such as those of Durkheim and Weber, the field has drawn theories from various studies, such as the sociologies of education, organization, institutions, professions, stratification, work, etc. But as Gumport (2007:347) points out, “if it lacks conceptual development and systematic inquiry, it would be far from what we would consider sociology of higher education.” Granted that this is a hybrid field, a coherent theory is still needed. And this would include not only higher education as an institution but also the evolving role of professors, their academic freedom, and how these are affected by changing circumstances, especially C&C.
What are the main theoretical perspectives concerning the role of the professoriate or the university itself, then? From the traditional sociological theories, we have the Durkheimian perspective of higher education “as a means of cultural transmission, socialization, social control, or social processes” (Clark 2007a:5). This would speak to the mission of the university, which in Kant’s terms “was to serve two primary functions: first, to provide educated bureaucrats for the state, and second, to conduct research whose goal was the production of new knowledge” (cited in Taylor 2010:18). Professors would be the educators of the future bureaucrats and producers of new knowledge. This is essentially the European model of the relationship between the profession and the state, which emphasizes the university’s “tasks of stocking government with top-grade officials and preparing able individuals to staff the best secondary schools” (Clark 2007b : 297).
A Marxist perspective would ask, however, “Whose state is the university serving?” Is it the bourgeois state, or the working people’s state, if there is one? For Gramsci, those who serve the bourgeois state would be organic intellectuals (see Hao 2003a). So for whom are the professors at a university working? Whom are they spokespersons of? What kind of knowledge are professors producing? For whom are they producing it, if they are actually producing new knowledge? In Clark’s (2007b :297) American model, the academic profession is “trying to do everything for everybody.” But “employment in government was never the first resort for graduates: it was far more prestigious to become a captain of industry or commerce.” They could also engage in “forestry, social work, librarianship, and nursing, as well as law and medicine.”
Weber (1973:20) would ask similar questions like Marx would do. He says that the state may require those in the university to follow this principle: “I sing the tune of him whose bread I eat.” In other words, the university is the tool of the state if the latter is the major funding source of the former. Indeed the state often controls the university, one way or the other, and in this case the professoriate is its servant. Political obedience is required. Likewise, if a business corporation is funding the research, then the researcher may have to serve the bottom line of the corporation.
Clark (2007b :298-99) comments that in contrast to the American model of “closeness to the general economy and to a plethora of societal institutions and groups” and of “relatively considerable distance from government,” the European model’s closeness to government and embeddedness in its civil service make the university and the profession “vulnerable to changes in the dominant political ideologies of government.” This is because the government monopolizes the financing of the estate, allocates salary subsidy “according to civil service rank and privilege, with all the bureaucratic classifying and rule-making that is a normal part of modern governmental procedure. Academics are then a national profession, an estate situated within the state.” In the U.S. model, the professoriate has “little sense that one has joined the organized ranks of state public employees, and of course no sense of embeddedness in any national corps” even if they may be on the public payroll as is the case of public institutions.
The Chinese model is the European model in its extreme with close-to-totalitarian control of the university and the professoriate, as we discuss in this chapter and in this book. It is interesting to note, though, that the European selecting of intellectual talents into civil service through examinations in the medieval ages may be influenced by the age-old Chinese tradition (Webber 1989:36)! It is no surprise then that there is so much commonality in the Chinese and European models.
But Weber (1973:20) would say that “such a castration of the freedom and disinterestedness of university education [or research, especially in the Chinese model], which prevents the development of persons of genuine character, cannot be compensated by the finest institutes, the largest lecture halls, or by ever so many dissertations, prize-winning works and examination successes.” Weber raises the question of the relationship between state and university, and market and university by implication. Likewise, this is also a question of the relationship between state and professoriate. As we will explain below, this is not an easy relationship to sort out. In addition, Weber also points out the mission of HEIs, which is to develop persons of genuine character. This certainly has to do with the role of professors.
In my work on professionals and intellectuals (Hao 2003a), I have developed a typology: organic, professional, and critical intellectuals based on their political roles. The word “intellectual” here refers to a knowledge worker with a political connotation. Derived from Gramsci, organic intellectuals can be viewed as those who serve an interest, whether this is the state, business, a social movement, or even the HEI itself, as we will find out later. In research, they may be singing the tune of those whose bread they eat, and political obedience is a must, as Weber would say. In teaching, they are socializing young people to become future bureaucrats of the state, as Durkheim and Kant would say.
Professional intellectuals pursue their work for the sake of science and technology or of humanities and social sciences, and they are here to solve an intellectual puzzle. In Durkheim and Kant’s words, they are producing new knowledge and transmitting culture. In spite of its apparent neutrality and distance from politics, it is a political stance, or a political role. Critical intellectuals are the conscience of society and are particularly interested in equality, human rights, democracy, and the plight of the little people. This is a Marxist tradition of a concern for social and class inequalities. For example, are professors aware of social inequalities and alienation in and outside the academy? Are they active in combating inequality in and outside academe? Are they focused on developing persons of character?
The organic intellectuals here correspond to Burawoy’s (2007) policy sociologists, and professional intellectuals correspond to his professional sociologists, while critical intellectuals correspond to his critical and public sociologists. The typology applies to non-sociologists as well. One must note, however, that these are ideal types, and in reality, different roles may be played by the same person at different times although at any given time one characteristic is probably more salient than another. It is a dynamic role-playing (for more on this point, see Chapter 4 on professors as intellectuals in China).
The Data and Methods of Analysis
Two sorts of data are used in this paper. One is statistics and findings from various studies. One major study is entitled The Changing Academic Profession (CAP), conducted between 2004 and 2012 by more than 100 scholars from 18 countries and one region, which we have cited above. It was the second major comparative survey of the academic profession in the history of higher education, the first being the Carnegie Survey of the Academic Profession in the early 1990s involving 14 countries and one region (Teichler et al. 2013), covering similar themes. Statistics and findings from a similar survey on Asian higher education, derived from the CAP survey (Arimoto 2011), are also cited.
The major themes of the CAP survey(s) are relevance of the academy’s work; internationalization of the academy; increasing power of the managers of higher education; and commitment of the academy (Teichler et al. 2013). Commercialization is directly related to the relevance of professorial work, and corporatization means the increasing power of managers and decreasing attachment of academics to the institution. I will touch on internationalization of universities and will treat C&C as globalized trends. Statistics from the CAP survey(s) help us understand C&C and their effects in the world. And they will be complemented by other statistical studies.
The second sort of data is from qualitative studies of the current status of higher education both in the U.S. and in greater China (i.e., mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan). The qualitative data will flesh out what seem to be dry statistics of the questionnaire surveys. The cases I cite in the paper will help us understand how specifically C&C have adversely influenced the professorial roles. And together with the quantitative data, they will highlight the directions in which the academic response should take in balancing the roles of professors in the face of the advancement of C&C.
A word about the method of analysis is in order. To talk about international trends is necessarily comparative. Indeed, the academic profession everywhere is under similar pressures of C&C as we discussed in Chapter 1. But the jurisdictions under analysis are not homogenous as an administrative set: The U.S. is a democracy; mainland China, or the People’s Republic of China, is an authoritarian state; Hong Kong, a former British colony returned to China in 1997, is a semi-democracy; Macau, a former Portuguese colony returned to China in 1999, is less democratic than Hong Kong; and Taiwan, or the Republic of China, is a full democracy. So C&C in different jurisdictions may embody very different degrees, and even nature, of influence in the professorial roles despite their similarities. In my analysis, I will highlight these similarities and differences.
But this is not a full-fledged comparison among jurisdictions. I will focus only on certain issues related to C&C and academic freedom. It is a comparative analysis at any rate, and as I say in the conclusion, such comparative studies are needed for the development of the sociology of higher education.
Commercialization and Corporatization and
Their Constraints on Professorial Roles
Commercialization and corporatization are two aspects of academic capitalism. Following Hanley (2005), Hurt (2012), Kauppinen (2012), Park (2011), and Slaughter and Rhoades (2009), we can define academic capitalism as market and market-like ideologies and practices in academe. These ideologies include neoliberalism, managerialism, competition, efficiency, productivity, and accountability (see also Chapter 1). The practices of academic capitalism include both commercialization and corporatization efforts. The former include patenting, spin-off companies, university-industry partnerships, increasing student tuition fees, student consumerism, privatization of higher education, and the increasing use of part-time faculty to save money. And the latter include top-down management styles, assessment and rankings, and the erosion of faculty power in shared governance. We will now discuss commercialization and corporatization separately for the sake of clarity, although they are often related to one another. One feeds into the other.
Commercialization and the Transformation of Professors into Organic Intellectuals
As defined above, there is a range of commercialization practices. But because of space and because the main point of this chapter is to illustrate how commercialization influences the role of professors and their academic freedom, I am going to discuss only industry-university collaboration, the development of for-profit educational institutions, and the increasing use of contingent faculty, especially in the U.S., as examples of commercialization.
The CAP survey mentioned the commercialization of knowledge (Arimoto 2011), but it did not have much data on industry-university collaboration. A recent representative survey of the university research centers (URCs) in the U.S., however, finds evidence to counter the academic capitalism argument. Bozeman and Boardman (2013:115-16) find that “academic researchers are not necessarily beholden to market demands at the expense of universities’ traditional research and educational missions,” and “most URCs and the faculty performing research in URCs are oriented to traditional, public domain, research publications.”
Indeed, academic capitalism in industry-university collaboration in the U.S. may affect mainly research universities, and extreme cases may be few. But it still merits our attention since it is part of a larger commercialization movement and needs to be grappled with. In addition, it is emulated by universities in greater China where there is not a strong tradition of treating university education as a public good. Furthermore, our focus is on how professors might be transformed into organic intellectuals to business enterprises. Hence the study of industry-university collaboration is still important.
In 1996, when the University of California (UC) began to actively encourage faculty collaboration with industry, the marketing slogan to solicit industry investors in the area of biotechnology was “When it comes to biotechnology, UC means business” (Washburn 2005, 19). Indeed, not only UC, but Harvard, Yale, and other well-known research universities also mean business when it comes to university-industry collaborations especially in the areas of science and technology (see also Aronowitz 2000). In fact, they mean business so much so that they may ignore the role of the university to protect public interests, their professional and critical role. They become organic to business enterprises.
In her book on the corruption of the university, Washburn (2005) cites quite a few examples of how universities get into contracts with industry for the money, and then suppress research findings that would have an adverse influence on the corporate sponsor’s bottom line, but which could save people’s money and even their lives. In 1990, Betty Dong, a clinical researcher at UC-San Francisco, found that a widely prescribed thyroid medication, taken by eight million Americans each day, was no more effective than three other cheaper competing drugs. She was able to publish her findings only nine years later, following the corporate sponsor’s various failed efforts to discredit her research. Her academic freedom was apparently harmed. And in all those years, people suffering from hypothyroidism and other conditions could have saved $365 million annually (Washburn 2005).
If knowledge produced in universities does not become the property of the knowledge commons but is exploited for profits by universities and the industry, university-industry collaborations serve the interests of businesses. Another example of the commercialization movement is the 112 percent increase of for-profit, degree-granting college and university campuses, from about 350 to 750, in the U.S. in the 1990s (Ruch 2001). In a for-profit institution, “faculty serve ‘at the will’ of their employer,” and are viewed as being “delivery people,” as in delivery of a centrally managed curriculum (Ruch 2001:112, 118). In both cases, professors are forced to become organic intellectuals to businesses.
Yet another example of commercialization is the use of contingent faculty to save money. At Queen’s College of the City University of New York in the 2010s, a full professor was paid US$116,000 for six classes taught per academic year, or $17,000 per course, while an adjunct was paid a flat fee of $4,600, or about a fourth of what a tenured full professor made. That was already far above the median pay per course of $2,700 in the U.S., where the bulk of the undergraduate teaching is done by adjuncts, or part-timers. And seventy percent of college teachers was classified as such contingents (Hacker and Dreifus 2010; The Editorial Board 2014). As one survey report states:
According to data from the United States Department of Education’s 2009 Fall Staff Survey, of the nearly 1.8 million faculty members and instructors who made up the 2009 instructional workforce in degree-granting two- and four-year institutions of higher education in the United States, more than 1.3 million (75.5%) were employed in contingent positions off the tenure track, either as part-time or adjunct faculty members, full-time non-tenure-track faculty members, or graduate student teaching assistants. (The Coalition of the Academic Workforce 2012:1)
They often teach over 50% of the college classes. At one time at New York University (NYU), 3,277 part-timers taught roughly 50 to 60 percent of the university classes, and they outnumbered the 3,083 full-time faculty (Washburn 2005). According to some surveys of adjuncts, while about half of them (55 percent) hold some other job than teaching, more than 75% of them “sought, are now seeking or will be seeking a full-time tenure-track position” (Flaherty 2017; The Coalition of the Academic Workforce 2012:2). More university professors are becoming organic to the for-profit as well as non-profit institutions as knowledge workers, with diminished roles as professional and critical intellectuals (see also Hanley 2005).
Such commercialization of the university has continued so much so that even Clark Kerr, once against the evaluative role of the university, later warned against the commercial threat to academic life. He was afraid that the “money-seeking group on the inside” would collude with the “for-profit group on the outside” to undermine the mission of the university as “a neutral agency devoted to the public welfare, not to private welfare” (Washburn 2005:1-2).
If commercialization in the U.S. has been largely a slow and steady process, it came to mainland China with a vengeance, though in somewhat different forms (see Hao 2011a; Mok 2005). Disillusioned by the June 4 crackdown of the 1989 democracy movement and inspired by the fast development of a market economy in the early 1990s, many university professors either disserted the university and became businessmen and women or did business and teaching and research at the same time (Hao 2003a). The keyword is the integration of businesses/industry, teaching, and research, but the underlying principle is to ask teaching and research to serve businesses, to make money. This would mean that universities will build their own business enterprises, or become shareholders of collaborating enterprises, among other such models (Lei 2012). In the early 1990s, for example, Chen Zhangliang, the then president of the College of Biological Engineering at Peking University, was also president of the Biological Engineering Company he founded (Hao 2003a). Universities and academics were encouraged to engage in business and market-like activities to generate more revenue on top of higher tuitions. According to one report, around 1,000 higher education institutions in China had more than 5,000 university-run enterprises (Mok 2005).
Marketization and privatization also led to a flurry of HEIs affiliated to well-established universities but financed by student tuition fees or other non-state sources. There has also been a rise in the number of private universities, corresponding to the development of for-profit universities in the U.S.. In 2001, there were already 1,727 minban or private institutions of higher learning in China, and in 2000, nearly one million students had already been enrolled in such institutions (Mok 2005; see also Law 1995; Yang 2004). Marketization has also affected faculty in humanities and social sciences. Their disciplines are underfunded, just like in the U.S.. They are encouraged to do businesses to increase their income as well (Hao 2003a).
In Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, the use of contingent faculty to save money is not a serious issue as it is in the U.S., but the recruitment of international students, especially mainland China students, has often been seen as a major way to increase revenue since they are charged higher tuition fees despite the few scholarships some students may obtain. And academic programs are increasingly asked to self-finance themselves through collaboration with business and industry sectors and acquire private donations (see Chen and Lo 2013; Mok and Cheung 2011). In the U.S., all the Confucius Institutes (over 100 of them now) are funded by the Chinese government, with compromised academic freedom (Redden 2012). In Taiwan, the university ranking indexes measure levels of financial assistance from corporations. In Macau, one often hears administrators mention higher education as an industry, and students as consumers. Professors are in a way treated as knowledge workers making products to satisfy their employers who can sell their products with a good price.
Commercialization in many ways is transforming professors into alienated workers, entrepreneurs and organic intellectuals to businesses and HEIs or the state while changing the contents and the ways they research and teach, diminishing and straining their roles as professional and critical intellectuals as well as their academic freedom. It is true that not all industry-university partnerships will lead to the loss of autonomy on the part of the professor, and some such efforts toward serving industry may indeed be part of the university mission. But if the efforts described above serve only the interests of businesses and the state and run counter to the mission of the university, which in Shils’s words is “the methodical discovery and the teaching of truths about serious and important things” (Quoted in Yang 2004:486), then professors should be wary. A business and market oriented university cannot be serious about uncovering truths of the world in an unbiased way and will likely affect the role of professors adversely.
Corporatization and Its Effect on the Professorial Roles
Related to commercialization is corporatization of higher education, the adoption of business principles and practices in administration in academic capitalism (see also Mok 2005). I will discuss two specific practices: top-down management styles vs. shared governance and the management-initiated competition for world-class universities through the university rankings game, both of which lead to what Durkheim calls “forced division of labor” and diminish the role of professors as professional and critical intellectuals while enhancing their role as organic intellectuals to the interest of the state, businesses, and even to the HEI itself.
Top-down Management Styles vs. Shared Governance
Top-down management style is increasingly a world-wide phenomenon. The CAP project found that in many countries, “the power of the university management has been strengthened…” and “the faculty role in governance is mixed” (Teichler et al. 2013:114, 171). On the one hand, “academics in nearly all of the countries included in the survey report are powerless” in some areas such as the selection of top officers, although on the other hand “academics in a majority of the systems believe that they and their colleagues have influence” in some core academic areas like choosing new faculty, making faculty promotion and tenure decisions and approving new academic programs (Teichler et al. 2013:171). Such participation actually falls in line with the American model of “shared governance.”
But shared governance is often threatened by autocratic leaders. In the U.S., perhaps the best example is Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University from 2001 to 2006, who followed a business model in managing the university. Summers’s leadership style can be summarized in the following ways (Bradley 2005). First, he would force out a dean or professor if he did not like him or her, even if the person was well liked by students and other professors, as in the case of Cornell West, a renowned expert on African American Studies. Second, he might set up a mechanism for faculty and student participation in choosing a dean, but people knew that it was all window dressing and he would not care what others thought, and would have his way anyway. Third, he made people afraid of speaking out on campus issues. And finally he did not like those who taught well but did not have enough scholarship. He wanted scholars at Harvard, not teachers. Summers was not alone in the U.S.. A survey found that 69 percent of the nation’s faculty rated the administration of their universities in 1989 as either “very autocratic” or “somewhat autocratic” (Chait 2002). Summers was forced to leave his job, but most autocratic presidents are not. Under an autocratic leadership, being professional and critical and exercising academic freedom is a struggle.
Nonetheless, shared governance is still a strong tradition in the U.S., and the faculty plays a much stronger role in the above-mentioned core academic areas than in most of greater China. If the faculty had some kind of autonomy during the nationalist era in mainland China, they have lost almost all of it since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) takeover in 1949. The CCP has controlled virtually everything. It is “corporatization” in its extremist form, and the Chinese call it “administrationization.” There are at least two major characteristics (Chen et al. 2013; Hao 2011b; Xie et al. 2013; Yang 2010): 1) The management of the university is centralized. At every level of government, there is a CCP-led government branch that deals with higher education. University presidents are appointed by the CCP. The government branch decides whether a university can enroll MA or PhD students and how many, and it decides how many professors a university can have and at what level. Even new programs have to be approved by the government. The accreditation of universities is also managed by the government. 2) The Party secretary and the president behave like the CEOs of a company, having the power to decide on things big or small. They decide who may be hired, how money is used, etc. There are academic committees, unions, and professors’ conferences, but they are largely window dressing. Of course, academic freedom is not totally impossible, as the two chapters on mainland China in this book illustrate. But it is largely diminished.
Between 2012 and 2015, HEIs in mainland China were supposed to finish revising their charters following regulations issued by the Ministry of Education (MoE) at the end of 2011, which would give universities more autonomy. By November 2013, six universities had finished their charter revision and had them approved by the MoE (Lei 2013). According to Renmin University’s charter, the academic council of the university, which deals with academic regulations, will normally be headed by a senior professor who is not an administrator. But the CCP secretary and the president are still the final decision-makers. There seems to be some improvement over administrationization, but progress is minimal.
In fact, the tendency is to strengthen the Party leadership in universities and there is little to share with the faculty. According to a recent Party document, the so-called “president responsibility system under the leadership of the Party committee” reemphasizes that the Party has the full responsibility of policymaking on teaching, research and administrative issues (Zhong Gong Zhongyang Bangongting 2014). And it will make sure that both students and teachers arm themselves with the theories of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Peking University Party Committee called on teachers and students to "take a firm stand and be unequivocal, and fight against [negative] speech and actions that touch upon the party's and country's principles and bottom lines in a timely, efficient and resolute manner" (Wee and Li 2014; see also Piao 2014). The university has a 24-hour monitoring system and takes early measures to control and reduce the effects of what the Party terms as negative speech on the Internet and other social media.
One would think that the levels of shared governance in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan would be similar to that of the U.S., since the power there is not monopolized by one party and the level of internationalization is high. But the picture is mixed. In Taiwan and Hong Kong, faculty in some universities do participate in the selection of presidents, deans, and department chairpersons, sometimes even by ballots, and thereby have more academic autonomy, despite faculty criticism of governance by numbers and formulas (Lee et al. 2013).
But in Macau, as Chapter 7 will further illustrate, the selection committee is usually composed of administrators, occasionally with one or two representatives of other professors. In 2017 when a new rector (president) was selected, not one faculty member was on the selection committee. And department chairs are appointed by deans and approved by rectors. Public institutions of higher education are characterized by a heavy hand of government control, followed by the decisive powers of academic managers. The faculty is largely powerless in the core academic areas of choosing new faculty, making faculty promotion decisions, and approving new academic programs, in contrast to Hong Kong and Taiwan and to most other universities in the CAP survey (Hao 2011a; 2014). Academic councils in one university, for example, used to be headed by an elected professor who was not an administrator, but now it is headed by the dean of each faculty, a backward move compared with even Remin University in mainland China. In such cases, professors’ roles as professional and critical intellectuals are being diminished and they are losing their professional autonomy (see more in chapter 7).
The University Rankings Game
Shared governance is further eroded when managements initiate competitions to become world-class universities. This is an issue in the U.S., though less serious than elsewhere, resulting in some cases of falsification of institutional data, among other things (Jaschik 2014). But in greater China, it is an obsession. Such global ranking regimes as Times Higher Education, Times QS ranking, Leiden University ranking, Webometrics, Shanghai Jiaotong University ranking, etc. are therefore affecting the way university professors are recruited and evaluated. Since publication is one of the major criteria for university rankings, star professors are enticed with big money since they have good publication records. Those who publish more papers in SCI, SSCI, and A&HCI journals are also rewarded with more money. Money has become the measure of success, and as Marx would say, human relations are reduced to operations of the market, resulting in alienated labor (Giddens 1971). As found in the CAP survey, the community of scholars in a knowledge community has become a community of workers in a knowledge enterprise producing papers aimed at improving university rankings (see Arimoto 2011).
Since English is the lingua franca of the academic world, those papers have to be published in English and appeal to an international audience, especially American and European, since they are the regions that are more likely to host SCI, SSCI and A&HCI indexed journals. Indeed, the introduction of the rankings has produced “an internationally unified pecking order of universities and colleges” (Arimoto 2011, 21) or what Mok and Cheung (2011, 238) call a “common world education culture.” Academic managers are obsessed with rankings, equate quality with rank, and they value universal knowledge more than particular knowledge in local studies, especially in local languages by discouraging local publications that have little or no ranking clout. This ignores the needs and relevance of the local and marginalizes indigenous knowledge (Chen and Chang 2010; Chou et al. 2013; Tai and Chen 2011; see Arimoto 2011 for more on particularism and universalism).
It is true that aiming to publish in international journals does not necessarily contradict academics’ professional interests, and it may actually enhance scholarship and cosmopolitanism across national borders. But the pressure to follow one model is more likely to goad professors into performing certain tasks for a certain purpose usually organic to a certain institution rather than public interest. They have to change the nature of their work: to emphasize universal knowledge rather than local knowledge, and as a result, they are forced to become organic to a new capitalism, and to the educational institution itself.
Although the university rankings game will not necessarily contradict academics’ professional interests, when carried to the extreme, one cannot help but wonder who benefits (those whom professors are organic to), and what is lost (public interest which professors are supposed to serve and their academic freedom), as Marx and Weber would ask. On the one hand, international trends seem to emphasize the relevance of research and teaching, according to the CAP survey (Finkelstein and Cummings 2008; Teichler et al. 2013), but on the other hand, in their striving to be “world-class” universities, higher education institutions in greater China are more likely to serve the interest of the state and the reputation of the president. They are relevant to private rather than public interest, contrary to what a university is supposed to do. As we will discuss below, the creation of the Yenching Academy at Peking University seems to be part of their internationalization efforts, but it mostly serves the interest of the Party-state. It is not clear how much of that is public interest.
Granted that the political contexts in which C&C occur are very different in the U.S. and greater China areas, C&C function the same in transforming academics into organic intellectuals to political and bureaucratic institutions and elites, including businesses and the university itself, rather than into professional and critical intellectuals working for academic and public interests. The difference in these areas might only be a difference of degree.
How C&C Erode Academic Freedom in the U.S.
and Greater China
I have shown that C&C have put strains on research, teaching, and service, and adversely influenced the academic and political roles of the professoriate. The essence of the problem, however, is academic freedom. So in this section, I focus on how C&C erode academic freedom, the core value of the academic profession, in relation to professors’ academic and political roles. I give more examples of C&C to illustrate the problem.
Academic Freedom and Roles of the Professoriate and Their Political Roles
As I discussed in Chapter 1, the most authoritative definition of academic freedom is probably that of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in its 1940 statement, i.e., the freedom to do research and publish the results; the freedom to discuss subject matter in the classroom; and the freedom to write and speak as citizens without institutional censorship or unwanted sanction (AAUP 2001; O’Neil 2005; Ruch 2001; Teichler et al. 2013). It covers research, teaching, and service to the public. And freedom is the key word. While playing these roles, professors can be organic, professional, and/or critical (see also Hao 2011a, 2011b, 2011c). In regard to teaching specifically, American Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1957 asserted “four essential freedoms” of a university: the freedom to determine for itself who may teach, what may be taught, how it should be taught, and who may be admitted to study (cited in Thelin 2004). Normally these matters are reserved for the direct control of the faculty, not for either the president or the trustees (Birnbaum and Eckel 2005). These are indeed the core academic areas of professorial work.
The rationale for academic freedom, according to AAUP (2001:3), is that “institutions of of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition.” Academic freedom thus is legitimized. It is on the ideology of academic freedom that the three roles of the professoriate are based. We now examine how professors’ academic freedom is eroded by C&C when they play their academic and political roles in the U.S. and greater China.
Academic Freedom, C&C, Research, and the Advancement of the Organic Role
Are professors free to do research and publish the results? In the U.S., this is largely true. But in cases of corporate sponsorship, for example, they are not often free, as in the examples of Betty Dong and others we discussed earlier, even if they are not necessarily beholden to market demands at the expense of the university mission. The ratings and rankings game, especially in greater China, also dictates what professors should publish (e.g., only articles that can be counted as academic publications), where (like in an SSCI journal or by a prestigious book publisher), and even in what form (articles rather than books). This often results in “trivial research and publication” (Schrecker 2010:187), having little relevance to reality and the concerns of humanity itself and being read only by a few of their own colleagues. But that is what they must produce for school ratings and rankings purposes. Professors end up becoming organic to businesses and the educational institution.
In the mainland Chinese model of corporatization, professors have to serve the state in addition to businesses and the university (again see Chapters 4 and 5 on mainland China). Government sponsorship of research is the order of the day, and universities, especially research universities, are considered as think-tanks of the state and local governments (Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences 2014). But these think-tanks are not independent; most of their funding comes from the state and local governments and they serve their purposes. They are very different from the independent think-tanks in the West, or what Burawoy (2007) calls policy sociologists. Rather they take directives from the above and research on state and local government policies where political and ideological correctness is of paramount importance. As vividly described in words attributed to Xi Jinping, the paramount leader of the CCP and the state, you cannot eat the Party’s food while smashing the Party’s cooking pot (i.e., undermining the CCP) (Wei 2014), or in Weber’s words, you have to sing the tune of those whose bread you eat. Indeed, the CCP committees of three representative and prestigious universities: Peking University (Beijing), Fudan University (Shanghai) and Sun Yat-sen University (Guangzhou) have written articles in the CCP journal Qiushi (meaning “seeking truth”) pledging to uphold the CCP ideologies in their research and teaching and ideological controls over students and faculty (Piao 2014). After the 19th Party Congress, dozens of universities and colleges in China rushed to establish centers to study Xi Jinping thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics.
The ideological limitations imposed on research and publication topics include studies on Party history related to the anti-Rightist movement, the Cultural Revolution, national minority issues in Xinjiang and Tibet, or issues like Taiwan independence. Since early 2013, the government has expanded its restrictions on research and teaching to include civil society, civil rights, universal values, legal independence, press freedom, the bourgeois class with money and power, and the historical wrongs of the Party, i.e., the so-called “Seven No’s.” Professors can only say and do what the Party wants them to, i.e., to play an organic role and sing the tune of the CCP. If they want to play a professional role, it will be limited in certain areas, i.e., outside the Seven No’s, like in natural sciences. If they want to play a critical role and do critical research, they have to face consequences. Some outspoken critics of the Party have either left or been forced to leave their universities, and one such critic, Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur scholar from the Minzu (nationalities) University of China (Beijing), is currently serving a life sentence in prison because of his political activism on the website he created (Jacobs 2014). Academic freedom in China is very much limited (see also Rhoads et al. 2014). This CCP central domination is, of course, much more severe than what we mean by C&C in a democracy like the U.S.. But any limitation of academic freedom in research is limitation nonetheless.
The controversy over the Yenching Academy at Peking University is another good example of how the CCP tries to control the direction of research and teaching in universities. This was planned to be a one-year MA program on China studies taught in English and enrolling 100 best Chinese and international students each year. The plan would help internationalize the university, but the school authorities made it clear that the program was to serve the state’s strategic purpose of enhancing its soft power (Altbach 2014; Qian 2014). It might also mean that China wants to set trends in China studies in the world. And it may be a version of the Confucius Institutes the Chinese state has established throughout the world, which aims to spread Chinese culture and language. Now they want to spread their ideologies as well. The organic role of the new international endeavor is fairly clear, which is why it makes people like Professor Qian Liqun (2014) feel uneasy. Qian is a renowned professor who retired from Peking University a decade ago. He thinks that to make humanities and social sciences serve the state in its policies and ideological control is to sabotage the long-cherished tradition of Peking University’s independent spirit and free thinking, or the ideal of the university.
Academic Freedom, C&C, Teaching, and the Erosion of Professionalism
Are professors free to decide what to teach and how to teach it? (Because of space, I will not discuss the issue of who may teach and who may be admitted to study, although I have mentioned before the issue of contingent faculty.) As we discussed earlier, the answers are mixed in the CAP project findings.
In terms of what to teach, there is considerable freedom for the full-time faculty, especially in public institutions in the U.S., but it is a different story for the part-timers. Research consistently finds that adjuncts perceive a lack of respect. One survey finds about one-third of adjuncts felt “disrespected or less valued than full-time faculty,” with inadequate compensation, “irregular assignments, limited opportunities to select class times or to expand their roles, and lack of adequate communications and support from colleagues” (Flaherty 2017). Another survey finds that only 18 percent of part-time faculty said they had an office of their own, while 45 percent said they shared an office with others, and the remainder had no space (Flaherty 2015). And those who feel that they are underemployed (three-fourths of adjuncts) “tend to have weaker outcomes (absenteeism, poor work, turnover, etc.) for the organization,” which would mean that students are shortchanged as a result (Flaherty 2015). There is not much academic freedom for adjuncts to speak of either in research or teaching or service since they are alienated from the institution.
Professors in mainland China feel disrespect and underappreciation as well but of a different kind. They do not have much say since the curriculum is set by the administration. With the Seven No’s in mind, just like in research, the professoriate in general is not free to teach whatever they think should be taught, especially in social sciences. An equally serious threat in both the U.S. and greater China, however, is utilitarianism or vocationalism of students, part of the commercialization trend, that dictates that universities offer more courses like business administration and social work than other humanities and sciences courses (see Altbach 2005). Increasingly students think that they go to college to obtain a set of credentials to help them find a job in the labor market rather than to develop a meaningful philosophy of life (Brint 2002; Ruch 2001). This explains why more students now than ever before are interested in practical disciplines like business administration, public administration, social work, communications, education, engineering, psychology, biology, etc. But this is not all that a university is about. Yet, universities, operating under a business model, responded to the commercialization trend by expanding certain fields and cutting unpopular offerings in order to meet students’ vocational needs, thereby making academics organic to narrowly defined vocational interests rather than the larger public good.
But teaching, especially the teaching of humanities and social sciences, which fosters a critical mind, is crucial in fulfilling the basic mission of the university: “to challenge the minds and the imaginations of…young people, to expand their understanding of the world, and thus of themselves” (Hacker and Dreifus 2010, 8-9), in addition to advancing the frontiers of knowledge and serving as the conscience of society (Washburn 2005). When politics, money and other utilitarian goals advance, the teaching of humanities and social sciences and the fostering of critical thinking abilities retreat. Disciplines that broaden people’s minds rather than job opportunities, such as literature, history, philosophy, sociology, and anthropology, are marginalized (Hao 2011d; Mok and Cheung 2011). It is also against the traditional Chinese missions of teaching: chuan dao, shou ye, jie huo (students’ moral development, knowledge acquisition, and clearing up doubts). Academics are encouraged to become organic rather than critical intellectuals. And their professional role is also eroded since they cannot often decide what to teach.
They are not free to teach the way they want to teach it, either. Because of the need for tuition fees, university administration is increasingly keen on the retention rate. They want students to be happy. Professors, especially junior and part-time professors, have to make their students happy, because the latter’s negative evaluations of their teaching can lead to negative decisions about the faculty members’ future (Lewis 2007). So one result is grade inflation: “Favorable evaluations and higher grades have been shown to go hand in hand” (Lewis 2007:117). This is true both in the U.S. and greater China. After all, teaching has not been emphasized as much as research, except in traditional teaching colleges, again because of the need to serve the institution’s pursuit of rankings. But by not emphasizing teaching and by emphasizing its utilitarian goals, the university is failing one of its major professional missions and hurting the professional role of the professoriate. Thus regarding what to teach and how to teach it, professors’ academic freedom and their professional and political roles are eroded by C&C, as is the ideal of the university.
Academic Freedom, C&C, Service, and the Lack of Critical Involvement
We have already discussed some of the problems of top-down management styles and its impact on shared governance. Service is often narrowly defined as faculty’s sitting on various internal or external committees in shared governance. A broader definition, however, would include faculty’s involvement in larger political and social contexts, which is part of academic freedom.
Internally on faculty committees, professors could play more active roles, but they often do not, or they cannot, in the U.S. or in greater China, because of corporatization. As we discussed earlier, oftentimes university presidents have the power of appointing vice presidents and deans to solidify their power, and they have the final say on candidates for tenure, resulting in “direct control over the makeup of a department and the intellectual direction of the university” (Bradley 2005:102-3). Faculty members do not usually make the final decisions on these matters, even if they may have been involved in one way or another in the process. On internal committees, faculty members may be doing perfunctory duties and may not be interested in active engagement. Faculty senates or academic councils may not be dealing with important issues and making decisions on them. Rather they may spend weeks debating the minutest details of a newly proposed program, which has already been approved by the administration (Damrosch 1995; see also chapter 7 on Macau).
Indeed professors in the U.S. have a much higher degree of participation in faculty governance than in much of greater China. And not all presidents are Lawrence Summers, who governed “by rational choice and power, not by belief and commitment,” and used that power with “impatience, harshness, thoughtlessness, and lack of candor” (Lewis 2007:258-9). Nonetheless, a lack of democracy or the potency of corporatization, in HEIs in both the U.S. and greater China, still merits one’s concern. Should academe be a democracy? Is it a pseudodemocracy in the context of C&C?
Academics are not happy with the lack of democracy or shared governance. As the CAP survey notes (Teichler et al. 2013:177-78): “Fewer than two out of every five respondents in the CAP survey say there is ‘collegiality in decision-making.’ Over half describe the management style at their institution as top-down. Overall the academics in the CAP countries believe current decision-making is far more top-down than is appropriate and far less collegial than is desirable.”
The CAP survey found Hong Kong to be one of the two places where academics feel most frequently a top-down management style (73%), following Australia (74%), as we also mentioned in Chapter 1. Indeed, only 25% of academics in Hong Kong reported good communication between management and academic staff (Postiglione and Tang 2008). Hong Kong is already a place with more academic freedom than elsewhere in China, with some universities even allowing teachers to select their deans and department heads through ballot sheets (Law 1997), as it is in Taiwan. Had there been a survey in Macau, one would find an even higher percentage of academics reporting top-down management styles (see Chapter 7). This managerialism does not mean efficiency. In fact, the CAP project finds that “competent leadership is not prevalent in the view of the academics” (Teichler et al. 2013:184).
Nonetheless, by not getting actively engaged in university affairs, by choice or by coercion, faculty members relinquish or are forced to relinquish their powers to the administration in exchange for research and sabbatical leaves and other benefits the administration can hand out. This top-down management style is apparently directly contributing to the significant decline of the level of the feeling of affiliation to one’s institution in the 15 years between the Carnegie survey and the CAP survey, from 80% to 63% (Teichler et al. 2013). Not being informed about or being discouraged from getting involved in what is going on at the institution, academics become alienated and demoralized, and the system under such circumstances is losing valuable academic energy (see Chapters 4, 5, and 7; Teichler et al. 2013). Without academic freedom, professors are losing activism and critical edge in university affairs.
There are indeed faculty unions, and some of them may occasionally be successful in opposing budget cuts (Aronowitz 2000). But only a small number of faculty members have ever belonged to such organizations, and the administration seldom supports unionization. The unions’ influence in combating discrimination and other injustices is still minimal since they do not have the final say (see also Hao 2003b; Krause 1996). In mainland China, there are no independent faculty unions. In Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, professors are free to criticize and organize, but faculty unions are few and far between, and they are much less effective than in the U.S. (see Chapter 7).
As I mentioned above, a broader definition of service also includes faculty’s involvement in political and social affairs outside the university. Many in the U.S. and greater China expect professors to take a stand as public intellectuals on issues of public import (Bradley 2005; Kristof 2014). The university is often thought of as a place of “education for democracy, for social justice, for the whole person, for the perpetuation of civilization” (Birnbaum and Eckel 2005, 352). Professors have a role to transform society (Damrosch 1995). Although this has not been a strong tradition in the U.S., intellectuals are expected to be the conscience of society in China (Hao 2003a). That is both a professional role and a critical one. Indeed, the third aspect of academic freedom is that the faculty is free to write and speak as citizens without institutional censorship or unwanted sanction.
In the U.S., Kristof (2014) criticizes academics there for writing gobbledygook for obscure journals and not actively engaging the public, as Burawoy (2007) would like them to do in his call for a public sociology (see also Hao 2007 for a discussion of the debate on public sociology vs. other sociologies). Others, however, believe that academics are doing a fairly good job already: they do translate academic knowledge for the reading public through blogs, op-eds, magazine articles, media appearances, and books (Neem 2014). Above all, teaching is public engagement and professors teach students democratic ideas (Logan and Ferrer 2014).
But that is not always possible in greater China, especially in mainland China. And freedom of speech in Macau and Hong Kong is also being threatened. It is not easy to be a critical or public intellectual under the C&C with Chinese characteristics although that is a role that academics cannot escape from. Otherwise, they would lose their professional and intellectual identity.
Indeed, many are trying to behave like critical and public intellectuals. Peking University professors like He Weifang and Zhang Qianfan (law), Tsinghua University professors like Qin Hui (history), Guo Yuhua, and Sun Liping (sociology) are some of them. Some professors in Hong Kong have been directly involved in the social movement for universal suffrage, such as Chan Kin Man (sociology), Tai Yiu-ting (law), Cheng Yu-shek (political science). But these are the minority. As we discussed in the section on research and academic freedom, there are consequences they have to face as in the case of Ilham Tohti. Zhang Xuezhong (East China University of Political Science and Law) was dismissed at least partly because of politics. In Macau, two professors were dismissed for alleged political reasons (see Chapter 7). In Hong Kong, Chan Kin Man and Tai Yiu-ting were sentenced to prison terms for their roles in the civil disobedience movement, known as the Umbrella Movement for democracy, in 2014.
Again in faculty governance and in their civic and political participation, professors’ academic freedom is eroded by C&C, especially corporatization. In the U.S. or in greater China, while some professors are active in civic and political life in or outside the university, most tend not to be, out of considerations of pragmatism and individual interests. But that may not be what a university is meant to be.
To sum up, in this section on academic freedom and professorial roles, we observe that although there are differences in different jurisdictions, academics are by and large constrained by all kinds of social forces, especially C&C. But academic freedom is their raison d’etre, without which they are no different from an alienated industrial worker doing forced division of labor. It may be their perennial plight to constantly struggle for academic freedom and weigh and balance their roles as being organic (to the Party-state or businesses or the institution), professional (in research or teaching), and critical (in internal and external political and social affairs). In the process they find their true identity.
This chapter argues that professors’ academic freedom and roles are strained and eroded. It is true that the C&C we have discussed so far affect professorial role-playing at various degrees at different universities in different countries and regions, and all universities are not the same (see also Bentley and Kyvik 2012). Shared governance is in much better shape in the U.S. than in greater China. Although there are some variations, the professoriate in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan enjoy much more academic freedom than they do in mainland China. But the tendency of C&C to affect adversely professors’ roles as organic, professional and critical intellectuals, and in essence their academic freedom, in all these jurisdictions, is prevalent.
What would be a balanced approach to the role of the professoriate facing the challenges of C&C, then? Can higher education follow the Mertonian norms of science (communalism, universality, the free flow of knowledge, and organized skepticism) and survive the movement of C&C (Hurt 2012; Park 2011)? That may be what future research should further explore (see Chou et al. 2013). We hope that such research will contribute to the sociology of higher education in terms of the academic and political roles of professors as well as their ethical dilemmas. It could contribute to the methods of the sociology of higher education through cross-cultural and cross-national comparative studies. As Clark (2007:11) points out, a more comparative analysis is needed “in line with the general drift of sociology toward comparative study, a development that should help correct the myopia that comes from too many days spent on scale reliability or on vignettes of the American college.” Indeed, a comparative analysis, like the CAP project we have cited and our efforts in this chapter, will correct the myopia that comes from studying one’s own local universities as well. That is also the goal of this book.
Finally, to strike an optimistic note, Clark (2002:340) observes that the university is not driven by “globalization,” “economic forces,” “demographic trends,” or even by “state policy.” It is “mainly driven by the responses it makes, responses that are the sum of reactions in its many parts.” Likewise, it is fair to assume that it is neither C&C, nor faculty power or student consumerism alone that determines what roles professors play and how they can play them. Rather, it is the interaction among all those forces that shapes the academic and political roles of professors and the extent to which they can exercise academic freedom. In other words, the fate of the academic profession, more strain and alienation, or more academic freedom and belief in and commitment to higher education, is partly in the professoriate’s own hand. It takes the effort of both the administration and the faculty to balance the top-down management style and the commercialization trend, and to make possible a communication-oriented administration and a public interest-oriented university. Only through a high degree of “shared governance” can we mitigate faculty alienation and forced division of labor, enhance institutional loyalty, and turn a “knowledge enterprise” or “factory” back into a “knowledge community.”
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