“Grim” and “bracing” are the adjectives that pop from the back cover, like raised hands of exuberant, angry students. The title, too, certainly serves up a sobering wallop: “The Lost Soul of Higher Education: Corporatization, the Assault on Academic Freedom, and the End of the American University.”
But make no mistake, author Ellen Schrecker still believes that the American university is very much alive. “When we talk about a crisis of higher education, let us be clear: The American system of higher education is providing a very good education for most students,” she says, from her office at Yeshiva University. “It is, nonetheless, confronting an enormous erosion of the faculty, and that’s a serious crisis.”
Dr. Schrecker is best known for her books on McCarthyism, but lately she is more concerned with the present and what she sees as an attack on American Universities. “Lost Soul” chronicles the decline of public funding for universities and the corresponding rise of private dollars in higher education.
“I’m a historian, so of course I look at everything from a historical perspective,” she explains. “With the ‘tax revolts’ of the ’70s — and less state and federal dollars — universities started looking for alternative sources of income. They began to be more concerned with their bottom line.”