Chronicle of Higher Education
| by Aaron Hanlon

An essay by Assistant Professor of English Aaron Hanlon appeared in the June 19 Chronicle of Higher Education. Titled “Higher Ed Is Not a Zero-Sum Game,” the op-ed discusses alternatives to the competition for budget dollars and faculty positions that often plaque institutions of higher ed. “Academics tend to bristle at systems that reduce our lofty objectives to just another form of cutthroat competition. But cutthroat competition provides much of the structure of our professional lives,” writes Hanlon, noting that public fund reductions for higher education, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, create a “survivalist mentality that filters down through departments, faculty members, and students, nudging all of us to do more and to do it better for the sake of showcasing our value in a zero-sum competitive system.”

Hanlon suggests that “the way forward is to cooperate across divisions. And we can’t do that without making budgeting more transparent and collaborative,” he writes. “Faculty members don’t like being told something just is what it is without an evidence-based explanation. Opacity undermines trust. Administrators don’t like it when faculty members make unreasonable demands or carp about things that administrators are in no position to change. Being transparent about the budget addresses both of these problems. It’s also the beginning of a more collaborative process, one in which the faculty, among the most important of what we now call ‘stakeholders,’ might actually hold some of the stakes.”

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