Universities Gone Wild Academic Article uri icon

  •  
  • Overview
  •  
  • Identity
  •  
  • Additional Document Info
  •  
  • View All
  •  

abstract

  • This article argues that the Penn State scandal both symbolizes the corruption of higher education by big money, big sports, and corporate power and points to what we describe as a symptom of the war on youth. Penn State, like many of its counterparts, has become a corporate university caught in the grip of the military-industrial-academic complex rather than an institution driven by public values and ethical considerations. We argue that the Penn State scandal reveals a hidden order of politics that is a paradigmatic example of mission drift, one largely marked by a retreat from its role as a vital democratic public sphere to an institution willing to subordinate educational values to market values. Stuck in what might be called “an output fundamentalism,” Penn State like many other universities now prioritizes market mechanisms that emphasize performance measures that subordinate and tarnish scholarship with an emphasis on bringing in bigger grants, expanding profits, and narrating itself through the celebrity culture of sports. One consequence is that young people are increasingly defined primarily in market terms and subject to modes of education run like factory assembly lines and shaped in the image of shopping malls and high end entertainment complexes. And as the case of serial abuse that took place on the Penn State campus reveals, they are also considered disposable. We examine this scandal within a wide range of registers and argue that the scandal itself cannot be viewed simply through as a narrative about sexual abuse, a fall from grace for the university, or as a tragic commentary on the career of Coach Joe Paterno.

publication date

  • August 2012