The Bottom Line Might As Well Be Shakespeare’s Bottom

If you are one of the happy few left in higher education, you might want to read David Kirp’s Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education (Harvard UP, 2003), which caught my eye due to its epigraph:

Hugh Fenneyman: Uh, one moment, sir.
Ned Alleyn: Who are you?
Hugh Fenneyman: I’m, uh … I’m the money.
Ned Alleyn: Then you may remain so long as you remain silent.

moneyThe dialogue is from Shakespeare in Love, but were poetic justice at work, it would have come from Love’s Labour’s Lost, especially in light of today’s announcement from California that people will be ordered to take two days off each month without pay.  The money does not remain silent, but wants to speak crudely, and colleges and universities, instead of resisting, a la Ned Alleyn, embrace the business model of operation.  Administrators want to call students consumers, and to refer to education as a product to be marketed. Presidents, Deans, and Provosts gain their posts, in part, because of their devotion to money as fundraisers.  Advertisements for leaders in higher education scream out not for scholars, but for entrepreneurs.

Kirp traces the downsizing of the full-time faculty the past few decades (replaced by adjuncts who do not make a living wage in many instances), while more and more public institutions bring in as many students as possible to guarantee an income as state funding constricts year after year.   This enormous shift away from tenure-track jobs means, among other things, that fewer people below the level of Dean are protected when speaking out against the trends described above, when asking the money to shut its pie hole while Shakespeare goes on.


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