John Schwenkler at First Things:
Unlike a factory, farm, or typical white-collar business, the work of a university is not in any kind of production—of discoveries, degrees, or books and articles. That a university typically does produce these things is incidental to its true work, which is the pursuit and attainment of truth, goodness, and beauty through intellectual exchange and the expressive power of art. It is in the life and labor of faculty and students that these things are pursued and attained. This life is a useless life: if adherence to it sometimes leads us to wealth or power, that is only because wealth and power sometimes come to those who are good and know the truth. But still this life is valuable not because of this eventuality, but because truth, beauty, and goodness themselves are valuable—we desire these things simply for what they are, not because of what they do for us, or we with them.
If this is what a university is, then it makes some sense to say that the faculty and students are it, are not just those who work at and attend it. Unlike a business in which employees exist to make profits for bosses and shareholders, and customers contribute money or goods in exchange for what they produce, in a university the administration is there to facilitate the communal activity of the faculty and students. Faculty and students can fail in their roles, but these failures and successes are determined in relation to the measures of beauty, goodness, and truth, not the profit motive or the duty of loyalty to any higher-ups. Thus donors and trustees do not “own” the university, nor do administrators “run” it, any more than the blessing of King, Pope, Prince, or Prelate was the measure of the communal activity of the scholastic guilds in medieval Paris or Bologna.
If this is what a university is, then we see why the governance of a university must be shared governance; why the dismissal of faculty, which of course will be demanded in any number of cases, should respect due process and rest on consultation with the dismissed professor’s colleagues; why students, once accepted to the university, should not be dismissed unless they are demonstrably failing to contribute to the activities that define it.
If this is what a university is, then we see why the loyalty owed by faculty is a loyalty to their students, and to the things they and their students seek together to attain. It is thus a loyalty to the university that they are rather than one defined by the policies of those above them.