UT Inc. : austerity and entrepreneurialization at the University of Texas at Austin

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1992

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This thesis is a contribution to the efforts of various student movements to transform the university as we know it so that it serves our own needs. Since the 1960s, the university and the students who live, cheat, study, party there have been seen concurrently as a place for the privileged, underprivileged, to prepare us for a job, to enlighten oneself, but very rarely, as a place of business with students as its employees. Students, far from being seen as workers, are seen by left and right as taking something from the university rather than having something stolen from them. For them the university is more a self enclosed microcosm, isolated from the world around it, than a corporate entity that serves to maintain and reproduce it. [...] Motivated by a new student insurgency that has been gathering steam since the late 1980s, this thesis is an attempt to reexamine the university as it is being reshaped to cope with the students of the 1960s and early 1970s and the economic crisis that those movements spawned. In looking at the university I have found institutions that, long pretending not to be "closed corporations" as James Ridgeway called them more than twenty years ago, are now making every effort to be recognized as corporations that are valuable to capital for their entrepreneurial capabilities for turning research into profits. I call this process, inherently, a fundamental reorganization, the "entrepreneurialization of the universities". I began to embark on this thesis three years ago while still an undergraduate expecting to find only a small part of what I have found so far. Originally, Ross Dreyer and I proceeded to study the university as a social factory based on the development of discipline for work through schoolwork. Seeing school as necessary for the disciplining of people to work on their own without guidance and serving as unwaged labor that would be used in waged employment, we sought to understand the crisis of the universities as rooted in the multitudinous forms of struggle against schoolwork. In the process of thinking and writing about various elements of it, including the student debt crisis, I found that the universities had embarked on a new path in order to retake control and end the crisis. This new path, spurred from many sources, was to commercialize every aspect of the "educational "enterprise." In the process, this thesis incorporates part of our earlier project by entering into the theoretical terrain of attempting to understand the role of the university in capitalism and the roots of the crisis. The thesis is only a part of my larger project that will hopefully become my Ph.D. dissertation. Parts I-II simply offer a detailed study of the dual process of commercialization and austerity that form the driving force of the entrepreneurialization of UT. Much has not been included that will appear later. Such a project requires a reexamination of theories of the university and the crisis of higher education by the diverse left and the human capital perspectives. I will also examine entrepreneurialization, the reorganization of the universities into overt profit-making corporations rather than subordinates to direct accumulation, as a response to and attempt to end or manage the crisis with a discussion of its structural and political motivations and the theory of "technology transfer" and commercialization. It will include a study of the resurgence of student self-activity in the form of the environmental, anti-war and multiculturalism movements and our potential for existing antagonism to entrepreneurialization and our potential for block it and for deepening the crisis. These struggles are examined in terms of their position to transform the university to serve our own needs, defeating entrepreneurialization

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