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The Last Professors

The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities

Frank Donoghue

Publication Year: 2008

What makes the modern university different from any other corporation?asked Columbia's Andrew Delbanco recently in the New York Times. There is more and more reason to think: less and less,he answered.In this provocative book, Frank Donoghue shows how this growing corporate culture of higher education threatens its most fundamental values by erasing one of its defining features: the tenured professor.Taking a clear-eyed look at American higher education over the last twenty years, Donoghue outlines a web of forces-social, political, and institutional-dismantling the professoriate. Today, fewer than 30 percent of college and university teachers are tenured or on tenure tracks, and signs point to a future where professors will disappear. Why? What will universities look like without professors? Who will teach? Why should it matter? The fate of the professor, Donoghue shows, has always been tied to that of the liberal arts -with thehumanities at its core. The rise to prominence of the American university has been defined by the strength of the humanities and by the central role of the autonomous, tenured professor who can be both scholar and teacher. Yet in today's market-driven, rank- and ratings-obsessed world of higher education, corporate logic prevails: faculties are to be managed for optimal efficiency, productivity, and competitive advantage; casual armies of adjuncts and graduate students now fill the demand for teachers.Bypassing the distractions of the culture wars and other crises,Donoghue sheds light on the structural changes in higher education-the rise of community colleges and for-profit universities, the frenzied pursuit of prestige everywhere, the brutally competitive realities facing new Ph.D.s -that threaten the survival of professors as we've known them. There are no quick fixes in The Last Professors; rather, Donoghue offers his fellow teachers and scholarsan essential field guide to making their way in a world that no longer has room for their dreams.

Published by: Fordham University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

owe my longest-standing debt of gratitude to the Ohio State graduate students in various incarnations of my seminar on academic labor. They helped me to work out the ideas and arguments expressed here, and dedicating the book to them seems the least I can do to repay them for their...

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pp. xi-xx

Universities are timeless. A Carnegie Foundation study forty years ago counted sixty-six institutions that have been in continuous operation since 1530: the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the parliaments of Iceland and the Isle of Man, and sixty-two universities. Professors are a...

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Chapter 1: Rhetoric, History, and the Problems of the Humanities

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pp. 1-23

Too many observers now describe the current state of higher education, particularly of the humanities, as a crisis. I wish instead to characterize it as an ongoing set of problems, a distinction that might at first appear only to be semantic. The terms of the so-called crisis, from the academic humanist perspective, are always the same: corporate interests and values are...

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Chapter 2: Competing in Academia

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pp. 24-54

The most prominent discussions of professional life in the humanities share three characteristics: they date from the 1980s forward, they are narrowly focused, and they are intensely polemical. The focus has been the job ‘‘crisis,’’ as almost everyone in this branch of academia calls it. The origins of that ‘‘crisis,’’ however, can be traced back to the early 1970s...

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Chapter 3: The Erosion of Tenure

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pp. 55-82

Any meaningful debate about tenure has to start with the fact that it is slowly but surely disappearing, and the current workforce in higher education is unwittingly hastening its extinction. These may seem counterintuitive, even bizarre assertions, but both the numbers and the prevailing attitudes of the academic workers involved bear them out. I’ll make the...

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Chapter 4: Professors of the Future

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pp. 83-110

Writing in 1842, Francis Wayland, president of Brown University, offered an astonishingly prescient speculation about the future of American higher education. If the colleges did not provide the training desired by the mercantile and industrial interests, he argued, businesses would set up their...

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Chapter 5: Prestige and Prestige Envy

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pp. 111-138

As one moves outside the realm of for-profit universities and the community colleges that increasingly resemble them, the key term in the marketing of higher education ceases to be ‘‘jobs, jobs, jobs,’’ as Stanley Aronowitz decried, but instead becomes prestige. Prestige is both fascinating and frustrating to write about because it is so ghostly. Yet I believe that...


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pp. 139-160


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pp. 161-170


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pp. 171-180

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246892
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823228591
Print-ISBN-10: 0823228592

Page Count: 172
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 868028517
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Last Professors

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Subject Headings

  • Universities and colleges -- United States -- Faculty.
  • College teachers -- Professional relationships -- United States.
  • College teachers -- Tenure -- United States.
  • Humanities -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- United States.
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