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The Rise and Decline of Faculty Governance

, 264 pages
August 2014



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The Rise and Decline of Faculty Governance

Professionalization and the Modern American University

The Rise and Decline of Faculty Governance is the first history of shared governance in American higher education. Drawing on archival materials and extensive published sources, Larry G. Gerber shows how the professionalization of college teachers coincided with the rise of the modern university in the late nineteenth century and was the principal justification for granting teachers power in making educational decisions. In the twentieth century, the efforts of these governing faculties were directly responsible for molding American higher education into the finest academic system in the world.

In recent decades, however, the growing complexity of "multiversities" and the application of business strategies to manage these institutions threatened the concept of faculty governance. Faculty shifted from being autonomous professionals to being "employees." The casualization of the academic labor market, Gerber argues, threatens to erode the quality of universities. As more faculty become contingent employees, rather than tenured career professionals enjoying both job security and intellectual autonomy, universities become factories in the knowledge economy.

In addition to tracing the evolution of faculty decision making, this historical narrative provides readers with an important perspective on contemporary debates about the best way to manage America’s colleges and universities. Gerber also reflects on whether American colleges and universities will be able to retain their position of global preeminence in an increasingly market-driven environment, given that the system of governance that helped make their success possible has been fundamentally altered.

Larry G. Gerber, formerly the chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee on College and University Governance and the national vice president of the AAUP, is professor emeritus of history at Auburn University. He is the author of The Irony of State Intervention: American Industrial Relations Policy in Comparative Perspective, 1914–1939 and The Limits of Liberalism: Josephus Daniels, Henry Stimson, Bernard Baruch, Donald Richberg, Felix Frankfurter, and the Development of the Modern American Political Economy.

"Even the end of the world needs a historian, and with this book, Larry Gerber has made himself the official historian of the end of the academic world."

" The Rise and Decline of Faculty Governance is rooted in a thorough knowledge of the historical development of and challenges to the role of American university and college faculties in the governance of their institutions. Larry Gerber asks all the right questions. A must-read in any course on the history of American higher education and an invaluable point of reference for historians and for sociologists specializing in organizational theory."

"Timely, well written, and should be read widely."

"I certainly wish I could have read it before I went into administration!... The threats to faculty governance, potentially to academic freedom, and the professionalization of the faculty, are all issues that confront the newest generation of faculty. They would be well served to gain a background in these matters by reading Gerber’s book."

"Gerber supports his historical arguments rigorously, and his footnotes and bibliography will prove useful to those interested in finding seminal texts in the field. Gerber's inclusion of the AAUP reports as an appendix is of particular interest to scholars of academic professionalization. Ultimately, anyone concerned with the fate of the tenure-tracked professor will be interested in Gerber's work."

"... Larry G. Gerber brings a career's worth of experience and expertise to bear on his new study, The Rise and Decline of Faculty Governance. The short book is a valuable primer on the history of the professoriate's evolving place within the shifting landscape of U.S. higher education."

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