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The broken record post: more partisan governance

Brendan Cantwell
Brendan Cantwell
We are back to politics. This week I offer a few thoughts on developments in partisan governance and have an interview with Barrett Taylor about his forthcoming book on the topic.

Will there will be blood?
This newsletter of mine is starting to become a blog about a political assault on higher education in the United States. You might be getting tired of the topic, or at least tired of me pecking on the keyboard about it. I’m sorry. But not sorry enough to stop. So let’s take a trip to Louisiana …
The Louisiana State University Faculty Council voted by a margin 90% - 10% in favor of a vaccine mandate at the end of May, 2021. In late August, in the context of a new academic year, a football session, and surging cases in the state as the Delta variant wreaks havoc on the southern united States, new LSU president Bill Tate implemented a mandate. Along with all faculty, students, and staff, anyone going to an LSU home football game would have to show proof of vacation or a negative test.
This all comes in the context of a heated national debate. On September 9th, President Biden announced a set of measures by the federal government to encourage, and in many cases mandate, vaccination. Several Republican elected officials and candidates swiftly called for coordinated resistance to Biden’s effort, including civil disobedience, acting like those who don’t want the COVID vaccine are members of protested class whoes civil rights are being violated by a totalitarian government. The nationalization of vaccine politics as part of the general partisan battle that continues show up on campus. And the politics are getting rough.
At LSU, the Board, apparently in opposition to the vaccine mandate and dissatisfied with the role faculty contributed to its implementation through formal faculty governance, sought to abolish the Faculty Council. I learned about this extraordinary development on Twitter. LSU professor Robert Mann provided a link of the draft resolution, which eliminates the Council and establishes that a LSU-wide faculty resolution or input can come only at the request of the university president (that is my impression anyway).
Robert Mann
In the wake of May's overwhelming (90%) LSU Faculty Council vote for a vaccine mandate, the LSU Board plans to abolish the Faculty Council at tomorrow's meeting. (See. p. 5 of tomorrow's agenda)
Hyper-partisan rhetoric in higher education governance is becoming commonplace. Some of it is pretty bombastic. Here is a quote today from The State News. The quite is attributed to Michigan State University’s Republican (elected) Trustee Pat O'Keefe who wascommenting on the vaccine mandate at MSU at a board meeting:
“As the freedom of choice and whether a mandate for a COVID drug is appropriate, it appears ‘my body, my choice’ applies only to killing babies on college campuses,” O'Keefe said.
The MSU trustee statment is bracing in both is assertiveness and in the national context of the erosion of abortion rights. But we can probably read it mostly as posturing with little direct influence on university policy. The LSU case is one to watch closely. As Mann argued on Twitter, it appears to be a step toward stripping faculty of their role in university governance which has generally included the right to express decent about organizational decision making without reprisal and to use governance channels to advance and influence decision making. Plausible next steps could include weakening or eliminating tenure or even stripping faculty
You might not realize it from my writing and public persona, but I am pretty bullish on tenure … at least relative to what I see as a considerable tenure doom-casting. I don’t think the elimiation of tenure on a widespread scale in the United States is inevitable. Basically there is no reason to get rid of tenure faculty power over organizational decision making is limited and there is not much evidence that using more non-tenure faculty lowers costs overall but the case isn’t fully closed on that question yet. The expectation that tenure will continue is pretty strong. But a scenario where tenure is gutted is plausible. To prevent it from happening, higher education (colleges and universities) and faculty are going to have to act collectively and with clarity. That’s were I think things get sticky.
A conversation about "Wrecked"
My friend and college Barrett Taylor from the University of North Texas has a forthcoming book from Rutgers University Press, Wrecked, about the strained relationship between states and higher education. It focuses on the role of hyper partisan politics and argues that US public higher education is undergoing a processes of de-institutionalization. I recorded a conversation about his book for an online asynchronous class. It’s with sharing beyond the class and the topic is directly related to this post, so check it out! The recording is under 30 minutes.
Talking higher education politics with Barrett Taylor - MSU MediaSpace
Ok, enough.
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Brendan Cantwell
Brendan Cantwell @@cant_b

Associate Professor @HALEatMSU and Joint Editor-in-Chief for Higher Education ( Speak only for my self.

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