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Teaching Thursday: Readings and the University of North Dakota Budget

Just a quick post today on teaching this and next semester. As readers of this blog probably know, I’m teaching a course in the spring for the honors program here at University of North Dakota.

[As an aside, I’m not a big fan of honors programs, in general, but because of the shake up in our department and the de-funding of our graduate program, some of us have been left to scramble for teaching gigs on campus. I was fortunate enough to be picked up by the honors program here.]

The course will be on the University of North Dakota budget cuts over the past two years. As any good course, the ostensible subject of the class will be a bit of a MacGuffin. The budget cuts will serve as a way to explore the dynamics of decision making in complex institutions, to consider the function of public universities American society, and to reflect on purpose of higher education more generally. My goal is to situate the UND budget cuts both within larger conversations about the role of the university and history of higher education in North Dakota and the U.S. 

To get things started, I’ve been re-reading some classics on the history of higher education with a couple graduate students: L. Veysey’s The Emergence of the American University (1965), Clive Barrow’s Universities and the Capitalist State (1990), and J. Thelin’s A History of American Higher Education (2004) as well as C. Dorn’s For the Common Good: A New History of Higher Education in America (2017). I’ll likely add some more polemical works like Bill Readings’ The University in Ruins (1996) or Stefan Collini’s What are Universities For? (2012), David Kirp’s Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education (2003) or James Engell’s Saving Higher Education in the Age of Money (2005) and some general readings on how complex institutions function in the modern world like M. Herzfeld’s The Social Production of Indifference (1992) and William Rouse’s Universities as Complex Enterprises (2016). 

The most interesting aspect of this project will be a reader that introduces a bunch of documents that allow students to wrestle with the complexities of higher education as well as – with any luck – some guest speakers who introduce the people behind the challenging decisions that shape higher education. 

As the course comes into focus this fall, I hope to get a blog or webpage up that features the work of the graduate students in my fall semester course as well as give greater shape to the course next semester and solicits input from across campus and my blog readers.

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