Apparently writing long posts about policy is not very exciting reading, and Vedder's self-contradictory column is really a rather easy target, so I shouldn't have taken so long. Oh well. The main problem with idiots like Vedder is that they pretend that universities haven't been running on business models for quite some time now.
The long-term trend in the university business has been to reduce the power of the faculty and to centralize control functions -- even academic related functions -- in the hand of administrative bureaucrats who increasingly have little academic background themselves. For them, the university functions because they are there, and faculty and students are simply numbers to run through a bean-counting machine. The faculty senate is often complicit in this transition, abdicating responsibility for overseeing class sizes, tenure-line fights, and in general advocating for the university as a place of learning rather than as a brand name, which is how the administrators see it.
The corporate university is here. It isn't coming. It's here and it's been here, and rather than being hampered by non-profit status, as Dr. Vedder argues, universities have profited immensely, in large part through acquiring land that becomes tax-exempt.
A great observer and critic of this transition is Marc Bousquet, a professor at Santa Clara, who focuses on the adjunct and graduate laborers in the fields of academia. His latest book, which I am eagerly awaiting from Bridge Street Books, is How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation, and he's been working in this field since he was the president of the MLA's Graduate Student Caucus.
For this book, he's also done short interviews with academic laborers, and those video interviews are available on the book's blog (that's right). The videos are actually on youtube.com, but you can find links from the booksite.