FUTUREU FORUM (Audio): Resisting the Neoliberal University

Featuring Professor Claire Polster with commentary offered by Professor Nathan Rousseau.


For those of us who have long been concerned about the neoliberalization of North American and other universities, now is a particularly disheartening time. Not only do longstanding issues of managerialism, commercialization, audit culture, surveillance, precarity, and others persist, but there are renewed assaults on tenure, academic freedom, and the discussion – let alone remediation – of inequality and social injustice. After so many years of dealing with, critiquing, and challenging neoliberalization, why our resistance is so seemingly ineffective is worth asking. In this talk, I answer this question by critiquing our general approach to making change and highlighting an important missing piece in our activism. I also encourage collective discussion of alternatives to enhance our resistance’s scope and effectiveness.

Today’s guest and speaker is Professor Claire Polster. Dr. Polster is a Sociology and Social Studies Professor at the University of Regina. Her research focuses on the ongoing transformation of Canadian (and other Western systems of) higher education and its implications for the public interest. She has published widely on, and worked collectively with others to redress, various higher education issues, including government policy and policy-making related to universities, the privatization and commodification of academic research, and the erosion of university autonomy, democracy, and collegialism. Along with Janice Newson, she is co-editor of Academic Callings: The University We Have Had, Now Have, and Could Have and co-author of A Penny For Your Thoughts: How Corporatization Devalues Teaching, Research, and Public Service in Canada’s Universities. She was also a co-founder of the University of Regina Faculty of Arts’ Community Research Unit. Dr. Polster may be reached at claire.polster@uregina.ca.

Rubén O. Martinez hosted today’s program. He is a professor emeritus of sociology and director emeritus of the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University. Dr. Martinez launched FutureU in 2015. Nathan Rousseau, professor of sociology at Indiana University Purdue University Columbus and frequent FutureU contributor, served as the session discussant.


Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.

James Hillman and Michael Ventura, We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World’s Getting Worse.

Kevin Kumashiro, Surrendered: Why Progressives are Losing the Biggest Battles in Education.

The Res-Sistas Manifesto, taken from I’m an Early Career Feminist Academic: Get Me Out of Here?” Encountering and Resisting the Neoliberal Academy, published in Rachel Thwaites and Amy Pressland, Being an Early Career Feminist Academic: Global Perspectives, Experiences, and Challenges.

Frank A. Fear produced today’s program for FutureU. The cover graphic (STOP Neoliberalism) is reproduced courtesy of KBOO, Portland, Oregon’s volunteer-personed, non-commercial, and listener-sponsored community radio.

(This program was recorded on Friday, May 19, 2023)

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