the space between black and white

Universities should be bigger than their chancellor

I just returned from the academic senate meeting (this is the representative body of faculty at UC Davis). There were a predictable range of opinions about the paper spray incident. But in some ways, despite all the protestations in support of the students, I feel there is a shared responsibility for what happened that is not being acknowledged.

Let me explain with an example. A colleague in physics has argued that it doesn’t matter what the Chancellor said in terms of removing the tents that day, or even who she said it to. She should have personally been out there on the quad, talking to the students.

Perhaps. Or perhaps the Provost should have been there. Or perhaps all of us, the faculty, should have been there, maybe especially those who were keeping track of the events at other campuses. While I do not agree with Nathan Brown’s calls for resignation, in some ways he speaks with greater credibility than most of the rest of us.

We are a public institution, and as a great university, I would argue that we are bigger than any given administrator. Berkeley has seen many good, and some not so good chancellors come and go, and yet it maintains its prestige. Yale? I don’t even know who the president of Yale is, or Princeton for that matter. The University of Washington? I know who their Provost is, but their president? A guy.

My point is that we, the faculty, are what give a university its stature. Sure, some decisions are beyond our capacity to directly manage, but none are not beyond our capacity to influence. We share accountability; perhaps we also share responsibility.

2 Responses to “Universities should be bigger than their chancellor”

  1. Tim Morton says:

    Hi–a colleague pointed me here today and I’m glad to read what you wrote. Here is my latest response to the events, which I believe you may find to be somewhat in sync with your own. BTW I am an English prof.

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