John’s post about Dartmouth’s decisive move away from democracy and accountability is a depressing reminder that – for all the recent progress in raising public awareness of problems in academia – conservatives, libertarians, and reform-minded liberals are still on the outside looking in. Arguably no school in America has been the focus of more reform efforts than Dartmouth. Taking advantage of the school’s traditional love of alumni participation and the alumni’s unusually intense love for their school (those two things couldn’t be related, could they?), Dartmouth grads have done more than anyone to bring new leadership to one of America’s great educational institutions.
And how do Dartmouth’s entrenched leaders respond? By hearing the voice of the alumni (the school’s principal financial supporters) and responding to their clearly-expressed concerns? Not even close. Instead, the entrenched leadership moves to decisively limit alumni influence. Such a retrenchment would not be tolerated by academics in any other cultural, political, or economic sphere (imagine the response of academia to any move that dramatically limited shareholder influence over corporations or the public’s voice in government), but academics have long since abandoned any idea that they are accountable to anyone that is not “in the club.”
We have a long, long way to go before we can bring any real change to our nation’s colleges and universities.