Imperial Partitioning in the Neoliberal University

Cathy Wagner, Theresa Kulbaga, Jennifer Cohen


This paper tells the story of boundaries redrawn within a public university, specifically between the university and its regional campuses, as well as concerned faculty members’ attempts to respond and resist, in part through actions taken by a new advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). As with imperial partitioning, the new boundaries pulled some culturally distinct academic units together and severed connections between others. We focus on one example: the creation of a new regional campus division – the College of Liberal Arts and Applied Science (CLAAS) – that differentiates regional students, faculty, and academic units from the university’s elite “public ivy” brand. The university established a new set of boundaries between its main and regional campuses, forcing the creation of the new regional division, new departments, and new undergraduate majors, many with an “applied” orientation. We argue that this process of “differentiation,” the creation and maintenance of difference, is, in practice, the production of inequality, which disadvantages regional campus students as well as members of the regional faculty.

Published on 20th April, 2017, in World Social and Economic Review Issue 8, April 2017 – The Political Economy of the University INC.