Tuesday, January 16, 2007

An Educational Prank

Kembrew McLeod has been poking fun at his university management in order to make a serious point.

"In a groundbreaking marketing move, six corporations sponsored my undergraduate course during the fall of 2006. To be more accurate, I should say, with a wink and a nod, that they "sponsored" the course.

There was no contractual exchange of money or services in this faux patronage experiment and, to be honest, some of the businesses didn't want to be involved in my scheme. (One company representative, sensing the political motivations behind my endeavor, told me via an e-mail message: "You will not use the Disney logos or any connection to the Disney Co. in your class.")

I began referring to my syllabus as a McSyllabus, and for the duration of the semester my corporately sponsored name was Professor McKembrew McLeod...

My experiment was a provocation, a quiet protest that escalated near the end of the semester after a contentious move made by the University of Iowa's Board of Regents. That body had increasingly adopted a top-down management style and embraced a corporate model for the university, and demonstrated that last November by scuttling a 10-month presidential search because it didn't like the finalists.

The board's actions inspired me to push my prank even further, and so I personally contacted each regent, telling them about my plan. It came as no surprise when one regent -- unaware of my satirical motives -- happily endorsed the idea of a corporately sponsored classroom...

The troubles faced by the University of Iowa (and our nation's universities, more generally) run deeper than a mere bureaucratic squabble. This episode highlights the systemic problems that emerge when we try to turn the university into "an economic engine for the state," a term our administrators are fond of using."

No comments: