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The Future of the Public Mission of Universities

814a9d84942472052c0c6d13447dec21?s=47 Robin DeRosa
November 22, 2018

The Future of the Public Mission of Universities

Keynote for the 2018 President's Dream Colloquium, "Making Knowledge Public," at Simon Fraser University. Complete transcript of talk available at http://robinderosa.net/higher-ed/publicfutures/


Robin DeRosa

November 22, 2018


  1. The Future of the Public Mission of Universities Robin DeRosa

  2. A note about accessibility: if you would like to follow

    along with the written version of this talk, you can visit www.bit.ly/SFUopen That link will also have the images on the slide deck with embedded descriptions for your screen reader, if you want to check those out.
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  4. “Tolls doubled on the Indiana Toll Road when a decade

    of state subsidies ended and the concessionaire began extracting full costs from travelers.”
  5. • Pinellas County (FL) failed to pass 1¢ sales tax

    for expanded bus/rail • Altamonte Springs (FL) tried to create the public FlexBus system • Both ended up with Uber • Uber has public transit agreements with San Francisco, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and more
  6. "Users will make the choice that’s best for them. If

    they prefer to not have a smartphone that’s the life they choose to live.” Frank Martz, Altamonte City Manager
  7. Delivering clothes, books and electronics for Amazon hardly qualifies as

    an essential public service. Barrie McKenna Economics Reporter, Globe and Mail
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  9. In 1990, the Alberta government began the process of privatizing

    Alberta Government Telephones. In 1991, the province sold its remaining ownership interest in AGT for $870 million.
  10. “The Customer will eliminate all face-to-face visitation through glass or

    otherwise at the Facility and will utilize video visitation for all non- professional on-site visitors.” (Securus Contract, Kansas) 10% revenues commission to the county, but only if the number of paid video visits reached at least 8,000 for that month. If Securus grossed $2.6 million or more, the county’s percentage rose to 20%. (Securus Contract, Arizona)
  11. In 2011, a Court Judge was convicted in a “cash

    for kids jail scheme,” in which private prisons had paid him to dole out harsh sentences in order to maintain their prison population.
  12. Michigan law allows any private property owner to withdraw from

    the aquifer under their property for free, subject only to a nominal $200 annual paperwork fee. Nestle’s Ice Mountain plant lies roughly 120 miles northwest of Flint.
  13. The post-Katrina charter system doesn’t drain money from the “regular”

    school system. In New Orleans, there is no other system. Of the 4,300 teachers dismissed after Katrina, 71% percent were Black.
  14. “It’s the colonizing of our communities, where we have people

    running the quality-of-life institutions in our communities through the way they see us, through their lens.” Jitu Brown, Journey4Justice Alliance
  15. Privatization often involves the systematic elimination of human rights protections

    and further marginalization of the interests of low-income earners and those living in poverty UN Report on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights (2018)
  16. When is a school public?

  17. “Privatization” is not a productive way to talk about what's

    happening now, but more a way of describing where we may be heading. Stanley Ikenberry president emeritus University of Illinois …in 2005
  18. Canadian Privatization (2005) • increasing reliance on tuition • adoption

    of business values and practices • research for hire • rise of corporate-leaning advisory bodies • innovation centers tied to IP aimed at private profit
  19. In the last 3 years, 130,000+ people have raised $60

    million for college tuition and related expenses. Ohio (Example) Public colleges had the most requests: • 527 from Ohio University • 409 from Kent State • 298 from Ohio State • 286 from University of Akron • 143 from Cleveland State
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  21. “We must change our perspective of being a pure public

    university, one that is supported mostly by the state, to a university that is privatized. Yes, we are a public university, yes we hold public university values and ideas, but we are becoming privatized.” Bob Davies, Former President of Murray State University (2018)
  22. The student health center was renovated to include student-centered accessories,

    including skateboard racks, computer access during waiting times, a self-help center and televisions in the waiting area. A 24- hour-a-day nurse line was made available to students. “Privatizing health services was new, but the handwriting was on the wall.”
  23. Champions Kitchen is more than just a dining hall, it

    is a place for people to come together to break bread. With its open concept kitchen, you’ll be sure you’re getting the freshest local ingredients.
  24. “Our core strength as a university is not running parking

    facilities. So we should focus on what we’re really good at and hire others to do what they’re really good at.” Ohio State Accounting Professor
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  27. 2U, Bisk, and Your Public University

  28. At the University of Oregon, “Nike was now calling the

  29. • We now think of a college education as an

    individual good, rather than a collective good that benefits society. • When we offer more credentials in lieu of a stronger social contract, it is Lower Ed. • There's so much disdain for for-profit students/schools. And so little for labor markets that produce/sustain them. • We used to solve labor market crises with public responses. Now we push it onto individuals, who are pressured into credentialing.
  30. Private sector “reforms” are not the cure for the college

    cost disease-- they are the college cost disease. They set up a devolutionary cycle that shifts resources away from education while raising rather than containing costs.
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  32. • $275,000 to local charities • free rides for doctor

    visits for customers in need • abides by city regulations • makes operational data public “Doing right by drivers, ensuring a fair wage, doing right by the community.” “We want to make transportation more accessible for everyone in the Austin area.”
  33. The College Earnings Premium is 114% higher Only One Part

    of the Story Private Benefits: • ⬆ employment fringe benefits • ⬇ unemployment • ⬆ health • ⬇ disability • ⬇ imprisonment • ⬆ life satisfaction • Better marriage • 25% ⬇ mortality rate • Life expectancy ⬆ from 74 to 81 partially passed to children! External Benefits • Productivity spillover in regional income • Greater CEP means greater tax revenues • Reduction of need for public assistance • Lowered crime and reduction in dollar value of harm to crime victims Philip Trostel
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  36. “Influential dermatology leaders are being recruited to work for and

    promote dermatology practices backed by private-equity firms.” from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (removed from site after 8 days)
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  38. What can we do together? How will we know until

    we try? Image from Amy Starecheski via 99erpcentinvisible.org