Saturday, June 10, 2006

Public Universities Not Democratic - Consequences

Another unplanned thread of the Global Warming Conference last weekend at Caltech came from the floor as questioners of the panel brought up tyranny in the scientific ranks of the acadamy. We peons who are not privy to the politics of the university science departments suspect that those who have opinions that aren't in line with their superiors are likely to find advancement difficult. But one questioner put the case in an interesting light.

He proposed that the presidents of public universities are not elected by the people, the students, or the faculty. They are appointed. This is generally also true of the boards of directors (regents.) These, in turn determine who will be department heads. The department heads might create an elected group of professors within the department to help him make decisions about hiring, tenure, etc. However, we can only imagine the power of these department heads to influence who is on the faculty, who moves up, etc.

If you should believe that it is unethical to use embryonic stem cells harvested from aborted babies or cloned babies for research, do you suppose this would effect your ability to be hired or advance at Caltech where the president of Caltech is so clearly in favor of such research? Do we need to think the entire method by which we structure our universities when they have so much power? We know how power tends to corrupt.

No comments: