Mar 16, 2023Liked by Timothy Burke

Compliance is such a strange concept. It’s sort of self-defining, an anti-politics machine. It opens the door to the kind of expertise that Accenture, etc., offer, in that there is extraordinary opportunities for profit, in the defining of the means of compliance. It may be animated by university leadership, but it stands in for, displaces, leadership. Am I too nostalgic for an age of nationally-heard university leaders--Wharton Jr., Bowen, Gray, Hesburgh, Bok--whose expressions of vision, the ways they sought to resolve issues, as university presidents were picked up by other leaders less prominent, less institutional fixtures, and they seemed to care about the qualities associated with study and research seated in universities and colleges...and they were also committed to contributing to the broader society? It’s hard for me to imagine the compliance economy successfully developing on their watch. But you make a good case, Tim, for how it has come to ruin the joy.

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It is absolutely an anti-politics machine, and I suppose that alone is a joy-interrupting thing, in the sense that it is our *pleasure* as well as our *duty* as academics to question and discuss, to inquire into and investigate, and everything that comes to us as compliance comes to us behind a seamless shell that disinvites all such activity. Watch these training videos (and don't ask if they are in fact effective at what they propose to train their viewer in), follow these guidelines (and don't ask what they're meant to accomplish or why they were written), etc. That middle-rank administrator, because they have such an impossible job and such a precarious professional location, often has to invoke expertise against everyone else--"Experts say that this is the right way to do this" --in a way that's completely foreign to both our joy and our duty. Nobody in faculty gets to say "Experts say" in a way that ends rather than begins discussion in any institution-level work or process. Our institutions exalt "critical thinking" as a goal (and proclaim its general utility to being a citizen, a worker, a member of community) and then compliance comes along and absolutely excludes "critical thinking" as a valid activity.

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