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The Cargo Cult College

The Cargo Cult College

(p.71) 6 The Cargo Cult College
Saving Alma Mater
Ernst R. Berndt
University of Chicago Press

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

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