Magazine article University Business

Should a College Adopt Business Practices? (Controversy: Point/counterpoint)

Magazine article University Business

Should a College Adopt Business Practices? (Controversy: Point/counterpoint)

Article excerpt

I JUST READ YOUR OP-ED PIECE [EDITOR'S NOTE] IN THE DECEMBER 2002 issue, "We Don't Talk the Talk," and I didn't much care for it. Oh? You didn't think I would? Well, go figure, because I usually do enjoy your insights into this rather beleaguered "business" in which we both work. This particular view that you have on college and university presidents sidling up to the marketing and big business concerns, seems at once shallow and one-dimensional. Worse, you seem to derive a certain amount of glee out of reporting it. Oh say, I remember, the name of your publication IS University Business, isn't it? We have a Business Office at our college. They pay the bills. Right now, that's a really hard job for them, but I haven't heard anyone there suggest getting into bed with Enron quite yet.

In your short piece you say that college administrators are jumping on the business model bandwagon "after ... centuries of distancing the academy from the baser instincts of corporate America ..." without really exploring why that was, or what it means. Why have colleges historically not run their affairs according to what worked for the oil magnates, transportation moguls, or for that matter, Indian-reservation-run gambling casinos? Is the point in higher education to plop in a student at one end, squirt him/her out the other, and make a dollar? If so, how do we justify something as seemingly useless as a Philosophy department? I'm afraid that we both know that a college's output is pretty nearly as intangible an object as the concept of well-being: You can't actually buy it (although many try), but you sure know when someone is without it. What I do know is that you can't raise a trout in a sewer, and that if, somehow, the trout could adapt to a life surrounded by sewage, I wouldn't want to eat it.

There are greater challenges to administering a college than you give credit for in your article, and welcoming the college and university presidents over to the business-model side of the house with a nod and a smirk turns a cold, blind eye to the real needs of these institutions. If you really do not think that running a college from a business standpoint will not diminish the value of the education, then please, please, please do not invite me over to your place for Trout Almondine. [sic] The opinions reflected here are my own, and do not in any way represent the position or opinions of St. Charles Community College.

Gregory Wirth is the IT network manager at St. Charles County Community College in St. Peters, MO.

I READ, WITH GREAT AMUSEMENT, YOUR ARTICLE [EDITOR'S NOTE, "We Don't talk the Talk"] in the December issue. …

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