But what happened in Kenya?
At a human level, we failed to understand what life is like for academic casual labor, which is increasingly younger. Casual faculty, politely referred to as adjunct or part-time faculty, live from semester to semester, hoping that there will be a class or two to teach. Even when a class is timetabled for them, there is no guarantee that they will get it when the semester starts.
Instead of fighting for our colleagues and seeing the bigger picture of what so many casuals mean for our profession, we got jealous of the few coins the took home, forgetting that part-time faculty do not get the benefits of permanent employment, such as healthcare. So we fought to teach those classes and be paid those coins instead, in addition to our salaries. We also joined the bandwagon of harassing part-time lecturers, leading to the rise of stories of department heads demanding monetary or sexual bribes to allocate classes to casual faculty.
And in abandoning our adjunct colleagues and failing to fight for them to get permanent employment in the university, the full-time faculty shot themselves in the foot. We became like the dog in Aesop's fable, which was carrying a bone and saw its reflection in the water, and in its attempt to get the bone in the reflection, it lost its own bone as well.
Deteriorating higher education
The addition of part-time income to full-time positions grossly eroded the independence and effectiveness of the full-time faculty. It became difficult for full-time faculty to argue against increasing work loads or the need for additional permanent staff, because the rebuttal would always be that faculty were not genuine in complaining about excess work, when they had time to teach additional classes on a part-time basis. So as the teaching load increased, the salaries remained stagnant and the full time faculty had no moral argument to make.
In addition, the use of casual income whittled away at academic freedom and the voice of faculty in major strategic decisions in universities. It is not uncommon now for university managers to send CVs of relatives to department heads to dice out pieces of the part-time cake.
But both part-time engagements and increased formal workload also meant that full-time faculty had no time for research.
As full-time faculty were blinded by the monetary returns of teaching additional classes on casual basis, they failed to notice the increase of administrative staff until they were outnumbered by administrators in universities' strategic decisions. As a result, educational goals increasingly lost ground to corporate ones.
And since the full-time positions are not increasing, few younger faculty are being hired, and so the permanent faculty as a group is aging. The permanent faculty in universities are almost a mirror image of government. The older faculty are more than the younger ones, yet it should be the other way round to match the general population.
Out of Touch
An aging faculty who have no power to make academic considerations count in university decisions means a faculty that is more out of touch with reality and with students, even as the services deteriorate.
Younger faculty tend to be more idealistic about their expectations of the university as an academic community. Without them in the faculty, the older faculty become complacent and unable to hold managerialists accountable for strategic university decisions. Moreover, younger faculty may be bolder than students in challenging ideas of the older faculty, so that the older faculty do not to retreat into a bubble in which only they understand themselves. With younger faculty, older faculty are able to integrate their ideas with newer ones, and have a buffer between them and the youthful students from whom they are increasingly distanced in terms of age.
Without young faculty therefore, the aging faculty become more and more out of touch with students, and they increasingly abandon mentoring and dialogue for waving the stick of "respect" to police students. And the widening age gap also means that the young people feel more disconnected and feel that the content of what is taught is irrelevant.
And without a strong faculty that has a say in management decisions that affect academics, managerialists, driven by corporate sensibilities, inevitably make decisions that lead to a poorer experience for students, which in turn makes tensions and student uprisings more likely.
The worst part of this greed is that it entrenches the inability of academics to discuss broader, abstract concepts like neoliberalism, and what neoliberalism is doing to both the university and the country as a whole. It is rare to find conferences in Kenya talking about broader social questions. We are forced again and again to present papers on research and development, or collaboration with industry, and to seek funding for research that reduces universities to consultancies.
And as universities deteriorate, managements are forced to rely on the Commission of University Education to give rules to force compliance for an increasingly unnatural higher education situation. And unfortunately, instead of pointing out this anomaly, CUE simply barks a number to dictate the proportion of full-time faculty to part-time faculty, and of faculty to students, a number which universities rarely meet. CUE is too busy travelling abroad to benchmark and applying "best practice" to even understand what is happening in higher education, either nationally or globally.
RIP, the Kenyan University?
In the end, the price of the greed of full-time lecturers goes full circle, because students lose confidence in higher education, higher education deteriorates and as it does so, so do revenues of the universities and the quality of our education. Several public and private universities are now in distress, unable to meet financial obligations and to offer timely and good education to our students. That is the price we full-time faculty pay for our refusal to put ourselves in the shoes of our adjunct colleagues and to demand more full time positions, and our preference to pinch coins from younger faculty who have no pension, health insurance and other benefits that come from permanent employment.
In our greed, we full-time faculty participated in the conversion of universities into a cash cow, and inevitably participated in precipitating the death of the cow. We must now wake up and gather the courage to understand what neoliberalism is, to fight for an inclusive higher education and for a return to the professionalization of teaching. If not, we should just sing dirges as the Kenyan university dies.