Inmates dreaming of running the asylum

The News-Gazette outdoes itself in its December 10 editorial salvo against University of Illinois faculty presuming to inject themselves into their corporate-dominated Board of Trustees.

The editorial evokes a Churchill barb. It stumbled over the truth (faculty’s centrality to concepts of “shared governance” distinguishing universities from other institutions and propelling them to world leadership), but picked itself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened. Leave aside its apparent unawareness of faculty representation on trustee boards in other states. If the core mission of a university is teaching and research, a faculty presence on the Board of Trustees offers insight from those who actually perform those functions. Even when the editorial dismisses faculty as mere employees, it shortchanges evidence that the expertise of worker representatives on corporate boards (mandated in many OECD countries) can contribute to an efficient and cooperative corporate culture.

The News-Gazette is in good company. Ousted trustee David Dorris declared that “The last thing we need is a faculty member on the board.” The last thing? How about trustees who misuse their insider status or whose qualifications had more to do with their campaign contributions to Governor Blagojevich than their educational contributions? The citizens of Illinois, along with UIUC community members cast as asylum inmates by their local newspaper, have much to gain from Rep. Jakobsson’s and the Campus Faculty Association’s proposed reforms, and much to lose from taking seriously the News-Gazette’s superficial treatment of this issue.

– Mark Leff

[published in an edited version in today’s News-Gazette, i.e. without the clever “inmates” reference to the N-G’s own editorial of Dec. 10 – ed.]