Marija Španjić (University of Zagreb)
One of the most influential contributions to the higher education debate has been Bill Readings' University in Ruins (1997). Offering a conclusion to this debate, Readings' book spawned an array of works by other academy scholars. Like Readings, all of them address the issue of the function of the New University, the role of the intellectual as well as the ethical-political underpinnings of the traditional research and teaching. As a result, it seems that the latter ought to be changed if the University is to survive in the new globally technocratic world. Though the contributions to the lasting „crisis of the University/Humanities debate” do not appear to elicit a unanimous conclusion, they do tend to coincide on the necessity of a dissenting rather than consensual university frame. Such a frame implies an ethics based on the obligation to some kind of Otherness, understood either as the object to be studied at the University („Thought“ in Readings) or the subject (students’ body) the University is expected to shape. The proposed ethical framework centers on the so called economy of gift that puts politics in the service of promoting „a democracy to come“ (J. Hillis Miller), a concept evidently inspired by Derrida’s deconstruction.
I will argue that the insistence on the dissenting terms cannot adequately address the changing international conditions that surround and condition the work of the University, let alone the altered conditions within the University itself, engendered in the wake of the anti-masculine, anti-racist or working-class movements. In a situation of the rapidly growing enrollment rates as well as diversity in terms of the University's subject matter, it is difficult to sustain the discourse of „ruins“ or even „remnants“ that seem to be the University's new destiny. Instead of being imprisoned within the oppositional consensual/dissenting terms, the debate needs to find ways to come to a (however partial) agreement on how, in LaCapra's words, an intellectual can and/or should not simply mind her/his own business (D. LaCapra, The University in Ruins?, 1998.).