Thursday, July 18, 2013

Qualified Criticism: What Is A "Good" Administrator For?

What does it mean to say that Janet Napolitano is “unqualified” to be president of the University of California system? It suggests, in the first place, that other UC presidents have in fact had the necessary qualifications. Before becoming UC president in 2008, for example, Mark Yudof was president of the University of Minnesota and chancellor of the University of Texas. Before that he was an accomplished legal scholar. In other words, he has significant experience both as a faculty member and as an administrator. Does that mean he was “qualified” to be UC president? Or maybe it means that an administrator’s “qualifications” may not be the best way to judge if we want them to manage our university.

Yudof, we have to admit, was eminently “qualified” to be UC president. His “qualifications” were what allowed him to declare a state of fiscal emergency and orchestrate the subsequent 32% tuition hike. When Yudof became UC president, in-state tuition was $7,126—now it’s $12,946 (that’s an overall increase of 81%). It was because he was “qualified” that he treated workers as obstacles to efficiency, cutting their salaries and firing them essentially at will. For Yudof, faculty had no role to play in terms of shared governance but just stood in the way—“being president of the University of California,” he famously told the New York Times, “is like being manager of a cemetery: there are many people under you, but no one is listening.” For the same reason, he saw students not as an integral part of the university community but as a threat, consolidating a police force that consistently surveilled, harassed, threatened, and arrested them, beat them with batons, and shot them with rubber bullets—and even, on one occasion, with live ammunition. He was so “qualified” he was paid more than $800,000 a year to do this.

These days, as Yudof departs from the UC system, nobody is talking about such things. It’s all roses and tears—at yesterday’s regents’ meeting, he delivered his final, heartfelt statement. But the bottom line is this: Yudof was extremely “qualified” for the job, and he performed rather “effectively.” That is to say, he did the job that the president of a university is supposed to do. Privatize, corporatize, neoliberalize, financialize, whatever you want to call it, he did it—the University of California is a very different university today than it was five years ago when Yudof arrived. He was a “qualified” administrator and for that reason an “effective” president. And that’s exactly why we fought him at every step of the way. Because the university is not meant for him, or for the throngs of parasitic deans, deanlets, and deanlings who applaud and implement his directives. It is meant, rather, for students and workers, those who, as our comrades used to say, use it.

“Qualifications” mean only that the administrator is better at his or her job of restructuring the university—what it means is a great deal of experience at confronting, misdirecting, and neutralizing those of us who are standing in the way of the so-called “future” of education, the all-administrative university. We should not be calling for “qualified,” “better,” or more “effective” administrators to rule over us, police us, cut our salaries and benefits, fire us, raise our tuition, cut our classes, and make us miserable. We should be pushing, instead, for a university without administrators. Cut the head off the king!

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