The purpose of this wiki is to provide a window on higher education. The main focus is Texas, and even more the University of Texas System and campuses, but Texas is neither isolated nor unique.
Our intended audience is our own faculty and academic leadership, our administration, and our Regents.
Our focus is the trenches--higher education from the inside, and from the ground up. What are the working conditions? What is a working conditiion in this context? What actually is the work itself? What is necessary to have a good university? What is necessary to have a great university? What is the difference between good and great in this context? Why do we have the rules and processes that we do, and what does it take to make them better?
There are four main reasons for this effort. First, under Chancellor Yudoff, the U T System administration began a systematic push to bring the campuses of the system into closer cooperation to provide synergies that were not otherwise available, increasing cooperation between and among the campuses as well as between all the campuses and the system offices and administration. We believe this effort has to continue.
Second, the Texas legislature has virtually unllimited power in what it can require of or impose on Texas higher education generally. In some states, there are constitutional firewalls between the universities and the legislature, limiting what the legislature can control or alter. Not in Texas. In consequence, the legislature has an unusual degree of concern wiith the details of operations in higher education in Texas, and often asks for information in response to misinformation or misimpressions obtained from other sources. This results in numerous surveys and measures to impose "accountability" that make little sense in terms of the actual operations of our campuses, and in the end only further increase the legislature's sense that something is going on that they do not have a grip on. Our hope here is to cut through the fog of remote surveys and accountability measures by providing a direct window into the daily workings of the system.
Third, much of the misinformation that the legislature obtains is not accidental, it is deliberately concocted by groups and, especially, a few "think tanks" representing interests sharply opposed to the values of freedom, autonomy, and scientific openness that universities must live by. Some of these groups are local, and some are national. In both cases, they recognize that the lack of constitutional protection makes Texas universities especially vulnerable the effects of sustained efforts at public misinformation and private lobbying. The result is that the Texas legislature, and the Regents of Texas instutitions of higher education are the special target of efforts to introduce what are billed as "reforms" that are intended by their proponents to spread from here to other, less receptive, states. This is to provide a forum for faculty in Texas higher education to respond to these arguments and disortions.
And fourth, Texas higher education is also affected by national policies and processes, and our hope is that by saying how this occurs we will be able to help crystalized opinion of those who work in higher education nationally and even internationally, to represent and speak for needed improvement.
We in higher education believe we are in a time of crisis. Perhaps it is always so; whether the time is unusual in this respect does not matter. We believe our values, and the results of our work, are necessary for the advancement of peace and prosperity everywhere, and for the resolution of the problems of an increasingly crowded and interdependent world.; We have to get it right.