Saturday, April 21, 2018

Call for Papers Announcement: The Transnationalization of Anti-Corruption Law

(Pix ©Larry Catá Backer 2018)

The ASIL Anti-Corruption Law Interest Group, Sciences Po Law School, and the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania are organizing an international symposium on the "Transnationalization of Anti-Corruption Law."

The conference will take place at Sciences Po Law School in Paris, France, on Thursday and Friday, December 6-7. Proposals are being accepted  until July 23.

The call for papers and contact details are available here and below

Friday, April 20, 2018

Are Risk Algorithms the New Leaders of the 21st Century American University?: The Riskless University and the Veiling of Discretion

Mockery is the sincerest form of criticism. And there was mockery aplenty directed toward the leaders of Penn State University.  And that leadership now appears to have moved from the office of its titular administrative heads to another place, that is from the individuals designated as the lead officers of the university to the risk and compliance algorithms of the university (and the individuals who tend them), which now appear to have assume the highest authority at the university. That, at least, is what we appear to be told in the way in which some decisions are now made at American universities.  

This should come as no surprise; nor is the issue unique to any particular university.  As universities shift to a corporate model, and as the authority over education and student programs shifts from faculties and departments to central administration and non-teaching administrators, it should come as no surprise that cultures of risk aversion in internal governance should move to the center of the educational mission of the university. What is more interesting, though is that this shift is not merely about moving from one set of individuals to another set--distinguished by experience and their relationship to the actual work of education (rather than in the management of human resources in institutional settings).  Rather it is about the shift in governance from people driven cultures of administration to data driven cultures in which administrative discretion is not exercised (and abused) by individuals, but rather built into the algorithms that now serve to mask the exercise of discretion within the more neutral sounding relationships of data organized into relational.  

The recent decisions by the leadership algorithms of Penn State (not of course by those administrators who serve those decision makers) to disband three ancient student clubs because their activities were too dangerous  provide a nice but generalized example of the trend that affects all universities. In the process, the necessity and character of shared governance, of consultation, and of the role of human beings in the administration of the university  has changed substantially as well. This ought to be a matter of general concern to those who think about the trajectories of university (and more generally of institutional governance).

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Convocatoria Estudiantil Jorge Pérez-López 2018/2018 Graduate and Undergraduate Student Award Competition; Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy/La Asociación para el Estudio de la Economía Cubana

I am delighted to pass along informaiton about a student writing competition which has for some years formed an important part of the annual conference of the Associaiton for the Study of the Cuban Economy at its meeting in Miami, Florida at the end of July.

Please pass this along to your networks as appropriate. Informaiton in English or Español.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Hollowing Out Governance--Thoughts on the Emerging Structures of Governance at the Unit Level: Bureaucratization, Information Asymmetries and Control

(Px © Larry Catá Backer 2018)

One of the most interesting trends of the last decade or so has been the way in which the edifice of robust shared governance has been carved out.  What was once a structure vibrant with engagement (although always to some extent asymmetrical) now appears as magnificent as before, though hollowed out of any real content. 

One gets  areal sense of this not at the university level--where the grand strategies of bureaucratization have already become a normal element of operation, whose premises appear unremarkable even to those most deeply and adversely affected by them.  Rather it appears in its most acute forms in the operation of sub-units of the university--colleges and large departments--whose governance structures remain outwardly a shining beacon of shared effort, but which have effectively been hollowed out. 

This post includes some thoughts on the nature of that process of hollowing out and its consequences.  A future post considers the effects. The view is pessimistic; it is not clear that the antique model on which these structures once operated well can be saved except as echoes of themselves now most useful as a veil behind which real power is exercised through increasingly bureaucratized administrative apparatus with no real connection to faculty other than to understand them as factors in the production data useful to the assessment machinery of the university as a whole.  Yet what emerges as well is the certain knowledge that faculties will adjust to changing conditions, at least in order to survive.  And they will thrive, if only by changing the meaning and methods of that term. Still, it is worth chronically the transformation of a governance order that once was fully embraced by a dynamic culture and that now is quickly losing even status as a memory. Still, there may be something distasteful in using antique terms, rich in history and practice, to describe the new realities to which they have little functional connection.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Event Announcement: Os desafios da democracia e dos direitos socias no século XXI ("The challenges of democracy and social rights in the 21st century")

Happy to pass along word of what will be an exciting and quite important program: Os desafios da democracia e dos direitos socias no século XXI ("The challenges of democracy and social rights in the 21st century").
The main objective of the Seminar is to disseminate and debate the theoretical and practical production on Human Rights, Society and State in the Brazilian and Latin American context. In addition to bringing together national and foreign researchers, who are concerned with the issue of democracy and social rights, providing channels for dialogue and promoting the dissemination of scientific works.
The event is organized by the Post-Graduate Program in Law - MSc, from the University of Extremadura, Southern Brazil - UNESC, with the support of the UNESC Law Course. My thanks to
Prof. Dr. Yduan de Oliveira May Direito | PPGD | UNESC for organizing this important event.

More information follows in the original Portugese and English translation. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

New From the Journal of Legal Education--Links to Emerging Orthodoxies From the Legal Academic Sector in the U.S.

I am happy to pass along links to the latest issue of the American Journal of Legal Education.  It represents the thinking of the American legal academic elite and thus is a useful gauge of the evolving orthodoxies  (and emerging thinking) among that group.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Recommended Reading: Marco Ferretti, Salvatore Ferretti, Raffaele Fiorentino, Adele Parmentola, and Alessandro Sapio, "What drives the growth of academic spin-offs? Matching academics, universities, and non-research organizations," International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal (March 2018)

Universities (whatever the incarnation of that abstraction means) sometimes believe that they serve as a positive force in bringing the knowledge produced by their faculty to market, and thus contributing (again it is hard to understand how a collection of administrative officials can be credited here except for doing the job for which they receive lavish (market based of course) compensation) to social progress.  And indeed, the practice and fostering of university spin offs has been all the rage recently (here, here, here, here, and here). 
 Public officials in universities and ministries throughout the industrial countries are currently extremely interested in fostering the creation of spin-offs from the public research base. The reason is simple. Research-based spin-offs are generally understood to be small, new technology-based firms whose intellectual capital originated in universities or other public research organisations. These firms are thought to contribute to innovation, growth, employment and revenues. They are perceived to be flexible and dynamic, giving rise to novel fields and markets, and playing a critical role in the development of high-technology clusters. However, despite the promise of new-firm generation from cutting-edge research, a recent survey carried out by the OECD shows that in most countries, spin-offs remain rare and their economic impact is poorly documented. (here; and see also here).
But where might credit be better due?

To consider that question, those interested might want to have a look at an intriguing artocle just published:    Marco Ferretti, Salvatore Ferri, Raffaele Fiorentino, Adele Parmentola, and Alessandro Sapio, "What drives the growth of academic spin-offs? Matching academics, universities, and non-research organizations," International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal 14:1-27 (electronic publication 6 March 2018), which considers whether the combination of academic and non-academic individuals and organizations on the board and in the shareholder base can foster academic spin offs' (ASOs') early growth performance. They find that "academic individuals’ ownership shares do not exercise any significant impact on sales growth, and the effect of the parent university is negative, whereas non-academic organizations foster ASO sales growth in an inverse U-shaped fashion." (Ferretti, M., Ferri, S., Fiorentino, R. et al. Int Entrep Manag J (2018). 

The abstract follows.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Call for Participation: 2018 edition of the Geneva Challenge-- Advancing Development Goals International Contest for Graduate Students “The Challenges of Climate Change”

At Prof. Martina Viarengo's suggestion, who is chairing the academic steering committee, I would like to pass along information for what ap`pears to be a quite interesting challenge and opportunity for graduate students--the 2018 edition of The Geneva Challenge - Advancing Development Goals international Contest for graduate students. This year, students are invited to develop analysis-based proposals on "The Challenges of Climate Change".

For more information:

Prizes: The ADG contest distributes 25,000 CHF in monetary prizes. The winning project is awarded CHF 10,000; the two teams in second place will receive CHF 5,000 and the two teams in third place, CHF 2,500. 
More information follows, including the Concept Note.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Disciplining Orthodoxy in the Neo Liberal Academy: What Amy Wax and George Ciccariello-Maher Can Teach Us About the State of the Market-Place of Ideas in the Academy

(Pix  Larry Catá Backer 2018)

I recent Wall Street Journal essay authored by Professor Amy Wax noted
There is a lot of abstract talk these days on American college campuses about free speech and the values of free inquiry, with lip service paid to expansive notions of free expression and the marketplace of ideas. What I’ve learned . . . is that most of this talk is not worth much. It is only when people are confronted with speech they don’t like that we see whether these abstractions are real to them. (What Can’t Be Debated on Campus)
Professor Wax, of course, was writing about what she had learned in the wake of the publication of an essay she authored with Professor Larry Alexander (“Paying the Price for the Breakdown of the Country’s Bourgeois Culture”) which also lamented the state of affairs in academia that this aftermath reveals. This essay resonated with an earlier piece of reporting about the resignation of Professor Ciccariello-Maher from Drexel University,  noting that "Staying at Drexel in the eye of this storm has become detrimental to my own writing, speaking, and organizing." (here).

This got me thinking more generally about the way that academics are embedded in the production of knowledge and in their role as guardians of authority and legitimacy in . It is always interesting to see how the marketplace of ideas is being managed by its guardians.  It is even more interesting to see exposed its disciplinary character where orthodoxies clash for dominance within the idea factories that the university appears to have become. More interesting still has been the way that the academy has overtaken the Church and other norm producing institutions as the priesthood for those basic principles (not the premises underlying them to be sure--those are rarely debated) for the orderly management of the institutions of state, of society and of good order and proper thinking.    

As Professors Wax and Ciccariello-Maher might have inadvertently noted, Philadelphia, once the cradle of the core principles on which this Republic was founded centuries ago, may once again appear to serve as cradle, this time of a "New Era" ideological order, one which, ironically enough, is grounded on the alignment of core global market principles with the development and management of idea sets deemed suitable for mass consumption by ordinary people and authoritative enough for use in justifying economic, political, social and religious activity buy those in control of such institutions. One gets a sense of this new markets based working style for speech by considering the course of academic factional fighting involving quite distinct ideological-political academic camps.

Brief thoughts on this theme follows. The object is not to weigh in on the value or merits of whatever ideas have been causing contrioversy (and job related troubles) for faculty. There are more than enough of my colleagues eager for that job.  Rather the object is to think a little more deeply about the structures of managing knowledge and the communities that produce this commodity that appear to be giving form to and providing the rules of engagement for this important sector of production. One has already seen some of the realignments in the field of political speech by institutions (e.g., here).  One now sees emerging the bones of the new rules of production in the academic sector.