The University, Its Ideas, and Discontents

Jordan Hill
2011 Spectra  
There is perhaps no more intellectually courageous act than for an established scholar to submit an essay for review and critique by a cohort of individuals in an interdisciplinary doctoral program. It is through this frame that Dr. Joseph Pitt's submission of his essay, "On the Idea of the University," to this issue of SPECTRA must be viewed. In forgoing the more traditional avenue of journal publication without concurrently published responses, Pitt has provided the members of the ASPECT
more » ... am (the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical and Cultural Thought) at Virginia Tech with an endlessly provocative essay that has inspired the widely varied responses that follow. The topic of "the American Research University" and the dangers it faces is material that is both widely interpretable and, as the responses clearly show, intensely personal. This combination makes for very intriguing reading as all of the following responses are, like Pitt's essay itself, passionately crafted and uniquely situated amidst a bricolage of individual and disciplinary identities that have the single cohesive thread of being positioned, at this particular juncture, within the academy itself. The first response by Shien-Hauh Leu embodies the core of the ASPECT community's critical orientation by questioning the very concept of "the university" as presented by Pitt. Instead of accepting Pitt's premise of the university, Leu illustrates the dubious and often retroactive intellectual and social practices that are necessary to perpetuate the myth of an ideal university that is home to, and guardian of, a knowledge that is in need of perpetuation. By tracing the post Civil-War history of the American university, the standards of assessment that riddle its contemporary manifestations, and the "tripartite relationship" between students, faculty and "the fantasy of pure
doi:10.21061/spectra.v1i2.180 fatcat:24ziz4oybvfq5pzo3fmfttxybm