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Monday, February 17, 2020

Universities Misconceived as Cities (and Corporations)

Classroom management at colleges and universities falls under the academic prerogative of professors. In other words, the lecture hall or classroom is his or her turf. At least this held when I was an undergraduate student. “This is not a democracy,” one professor pointed out as he faced a general reaction against a surprise quiz in a class I took. I remember scholars older than 40 in particular being rude to disruptive students. This was part of academic culture, or the imparting thereof especially in freshman and sophomore classes; the students were, after all, generally still teenagers. By the time seminars kicked in, we had been socialized into academia sufficiently enough to know how to behave in an academic context according to its norms. Even though I was not a troublesome student, I still feared the rudeness and even harshness with which some of the professors addressed “non-conforming” students. I had the feeling that the professorial conduct was something that was permitted in uniquely academic culture. I would never have thought possible that a professor would call the police to enforce his or her classroom prerogative. I would have been shocked had a professor called campus police even on a university policy, such as no food or drink in the classrooms. Of course, cell-phones hadn’t been invented yet. Even so, had a student refused, for example, to move seats during a lecture even under considerable shaming pressure from the professor, he or she would not even have considered bringing in the university’s police. Instead, the professor would have continued the lecture and reported the student to the dean.  This was, however, before the American political-correct movement, which, I submit, places its presumed hegemony above any culture, including that of academia, and before the appropriation or imposition of business culture at large American universities. The result can be expected to render academia less distinctive, and in this way, more “secular”—more like Main Street (and Wall Street).

The full essay is at "Universities as Cities."