A Global Crisis of Faculty Faith

Michael Meranze & Christopher Newfield:

I’ve always believed that university professors are willing and able to govern academics, but now I am not so sure. I am worried about growing fatalism among even tenured faculty activists. I’m concerned about the tacit belief that unstoppable historical forces have already destroyed the universities they want to keep. From this standpoint, local resistance can work but remaking is futile, though remaking is the premise of shared governance and of academic freedom.

My summer travels took me to London, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Liverpool, Bonn, Cambridge, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Crewe, York, and Valencia, mostly for lectures and discussions with faculty members about the state of universities in their country. I was struck by the contrast between the great intelligence and professional commitments of the professors on the one hand, and their lack of hope for universities on the other. Several of the visits revolved around higher education conferences, where I heard brilliant analyses of the nuts and bolts of national education initiatives that lacked a standpoint for faculty intervention.