The Cargo Cult College

Ernst R. Berndt

in Saving Alma Mater

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780226283869
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226283883 | DOI:
The Cargo Cult College

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The culture of colleges and universities perpetuates enduring and important academic values. The culture also meets the needs of individual faculty members. But the culture increasingly fails to meet the economic needs of the institutions. Universities and colleges today face unprecedented problems, problems that require decisiveness, flexibility, and efficiency. However, the ingrained traditions of academia discourage those very traits. The academic culture of analyzing, pondering, and critiquing issues, together with its entrenched defense of professorial autonomy, inhibits institutional flexibility and adaptability. There is another aspect of higher education's culture that further complicates the picture, and that is the tradition of shared governance. It is not just that professors expect the freedom to do their work and structure their time as they wish. Ironically, colleges and universities, although they are as complex as any organizations on the planet, are run through a decentralized mechanism of participatory democracy in which the voices of the uninformed are often given as much weight as the voices of the knowledgeable.

Keywords: public universities; college education; higher education; academic culture; faculty members; academic values

Chapter.  3624 words. 

Subjects: Higher and Further Education

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