Post-Game Analysis: Senior Cole Wilson on Dr. Chris Newfield and the Future of Higher Education

University of texas at austin main building 2014

Larry D. Moore [ CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) ], via Wikimedia Commons

Last month, Dr. Chris Newfield came to UT to deliver a lecture as part of the department’s “History and Future of Higher Education” class, team taught with Rich Reddick in Educational Administration and Kate Catterall in Design. This experimental, multidisciplinary, collaborative course has addressed pressing problems and issues in higher education over the course of this semester. For more information about the course, you can listen to this interview with the three professors on KOOP radio.

Senior Cole Wilson offers this tremendous write-up of the event, which emphasized the troubling relationship between privatization and higher education.


Dr. Christopher Newfield came to the University of Texas as a guest of the American Studies Department and of the course instructors behind the History and Future of Higher Education class. His work in the critical university studies field spiked the interest of Dr. Julia Mickenberg, Dr. Richard Reddick, and Dr. Kate Catterall who jointly invited Dr. Newfield to discuss his upcoming book, The Great Mistake: How Private Sector Models Wreck Universities – and How We Can Reconstruct Them. Dr. Newfield is currently a professor of literature and American Studies at The University of California at Santa Barbra where he has worked closely with the school’s budgetary and planning committees respectively.

Dr. Newfield’s lecture focused on four major issues in higher education: the continued need for more funding in public universities today, the prioritization of STEM fields over the liberal arts, fine arts, and natural sciences, the newfound notion that Bachelors Degrees are a private good, and the privatization of industry-university partnerships. He proceeded to elaborate on these issues, arguing that universities have begun to embrace a market based model where costs rise continuously, causing student debt to rise in cadence. This has pinned a hefty price tag on the contemporary Bachelor’s Degree, turning it into a perceived private good and marginalizing innovation due to cost.

He went on to argue that the partnerships between private corporations and universities that are forged in a relationship where research exits the university through the private sector and produces income from patented ideas do not give back to the research producing university. He stated that this broken relationship has forced price increases across universities as impotence is continuously placed on costly research in the STEM fields with no substantial income to match the financial output.

In a conversation later that evening, I pressed Dr. Newfield on the possibility of philanthropic donations as an income bridge between the two worlds. He argued that reliance on philanthropic donations typically demands yet more income from the school, that simply “money attracts money.”

While Dr. Newfield did not believe philanthropic donations to be a valid cure to what he called “cost disease,” he argued that a revolution in the classroom and a counter to the STEM field would. Tailored or “personalized” instruction would halt marginalized innovation caused by cost increases. He countered STEM’s dominance by suggesting collaboration across disciplines in the class room advocating for the construction of hybrid classes much like the Future and History of Higher Education.

Opposed to a reliance of donations as I suggested, Dr. Newfield argued that the injection of non-commercialized technology into all aspects of a university, especially the liberal arts, social sciences, and natural sciences would bolster innovation and result in greater income equality within the university.

Finally, Dr. Newfield countered the notion that a Bachelors Degree is a private good by charging the owners of those degrees with the duty of explaining and expressing the societal value of their degrees whenever applicable. In short, Dr. Newfield demands a culture change led by those with degrees.

For a complete taping of Dr. Newfield presentation, visit the Texas Learning Sciences’ Vimeo page here. Look out for his next book coming out later this year, or check out some his previous works like Unmaking the Public University: The Forty-year Assault on the Middle Class.

Alumni Voices: Prof. Angie Maxwell (University of Arkansas) on the South and Donald Trump

Donald Trump supporters (25218962886)

Prof. Angie Maxwell, Diane D. Blair Professor of Southern Studies and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Arkansas, has penned a new piece exploring southern identity, whiteness, and Donald Trump’s rise for Virginia Quarterly Review. We’ve reproduced an excerpt below, but for the full article, click here.

Southern whiteness is not just about race. Yes, that is how it started. But as Southern whites faced the changing twentieth century, they became the “other” or foil to American identity. Each time the criticism poured in, they defined themselves in opposition to a growing pantheon of enemies. Southern whiteness expands beyond racial identity and supremacy, encapsulating rigid stances on religion, education, the role of government, the view of art, an opposition to science and expertise and immigrants and feminism, and any other topic that comes under attack. This ideological web of inseparable strands envelops a community and covers everything, and it is easily (and intentionally by Donald Trump) snagged.

Grad Research: Julie Kantor in the LARB

Congratulations to UT AMS graduate student Julie Kantor, who recently had some of the poems from her chapbook Land published in the “No Crisis” issue of the Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly. We spoke to Julie about her work when Land came out last spring, and we’re excited to able to share a selection with you, below.

jk

Grad Research: Kirsten Ronald and the Public History of the Red River District

index

UT AMS grad student Kirsten Ronald (pictured in the archive, above) has been taking her teaching out of the classroom and onto the streets of Austin in a project she’s been developing with local organization Preservation Austin. Kirsten has been working with high school students, teaching them to do oral history and archival research focusing on Austin’s Red River cultural district. Kirsten sez:

Austin’s vibrant Red River Cultural District is currently being threatened by encroaching development and rising rents, so Preservation Austin is working with the Vandegrift High School FFA chapter to raise awareness about the historic and cultural importance of the area and its buildings.  The stretch of Red River Street between 6th and 10th Streets is home to  iconic bars and music venues like Stubb’s, Elysium, Mohawk and the now-shuttered Emo’s, all of which have helped make Austin the “Live Music Capital of the World.”  With many properties dating back to the mid-1800s, the District can also provide valuable insight into what makes Austin tick.  I’m excited to be teaching a new generation of preservationists and oral historians that while growth, development, and change are important components of any living city, the forms they take are not inevitable.

The website for the project is now live and the work that the students do producing an audio tour of the area will eventually be featured on Preservation Austin’s app.