GUEST LETTER: The University of Arizona and the myth of the 'Global Campus'
The University of Arizona announced it is acquiring the assets of Ashford University as part of the creation of UA Global Campus, Monday, Aug. 3. Global Campus will be a nonprofit entity aiming to provide an education fully online at an affordable rate.
Earlier this week, the University of Arizona announced (again) that it was creating a “Global Campus.” I say "again" since on May 4 of this year, the university also announced the creation of a Global Campus that consisted then of 130 locations in 34 different countries offering “10 customized degree paths to more than 200 undergraduate majors, 10 graduate certificates and 60 fully online degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.” However, the “new” Global Campus announced on Aug. 3 has nothing to do with the former version. From now on, Global Campus will actually be a for-profit endeavor run by a new not-for-profit shell organization called the University of Arizona Global Campus that is going to be controlled by the UA. This new "university" will only deliver online education, mostly to the already existing 35,000 students who are currently enrolled at Ashford University.
So, why is this new online university called a “Global Campus” when so far its main purpose is said to be to expand access to higher education for non-traditional mostly domestic students (e.g. veterans)? Following the steps of other universities such as Purdue, the UA is once again just another latecomer in the race to attract international students interested in an online degree from a U.S. institution. Ashford University has already been heavily criticized and sued for its deceitful recruitment practices inside the U.S. How will this play out internationally among students who might think they will be getting an education from the University of Arizona?
Furthermore, will international students already enrolled at one of the existing UA microcampuses be taking classes and getting a degree from this university instead of from the UA? Will the 36 universities that partnered with the UA to be a part of the former Global Campus suddenly be forced to work with the “new Global Campus”? The answer to these questions is probably no, or at least not yet, but this is really confusing to say the least. And it is confusing, especially, given how easily the UA has thrown out the term global onto anything to the point where it has diluted the meaning of what constitutes a truly global university.
Several events in the recent past of the University of Arizona have shown us how having a “global” pillar on your strategic plan does not work unless that pillar is standing on solid foundation. Being a global university sounds empty when recent history shows actions that go in the opposite direction of the virtues and values that the institution claims to defend.
● A global university understands its role as a center of knowledge, therefore, it develops policies to serve its central constituents: faculty and students.
● A global university protects its most vulnerable students; it does not allow the coercion of their right to challenge the presence on-campus of law enforcement that questions and endangers their belonging to the community.
● A global university would understand that there is just one human species in the world regardless of color, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference or religious beliefs. As such, a global university would be a relentless defendant of victims of aggressions and discrimination.
● It would have zero-tolerance for racist propaganda, assaults on Black students or micro and macro aggressions unto Indigenous students.
● It would stand up for its community members who are intimidated due to their religion.
● A global university aspires to serve everyone, it expands its ties with the world to humbly learn from others. Whereas a colonizing university aspires to exploit its market and to be everywhere it can.
● A global university does not look to generate revenue, it looks for shared growth that translates into enriching its community.
● A global university understands its place in the world, but most importantly, it understands its responsibility to use its presence, power and position for the development of its community. It also understands, acknowledges and owns the circumstances that made it possible for it to establish itself at the expense of others.
● A global university shows its greatness by being humble, by listening to its students, faculty and staff; it restrains its leaders’ urge to be in the limelight.
For those reasons, the University of Arizona is not a global university yet. Until the university leaders live by the values they claim are the basis of our identity, then the university’s self assigned title of being a global university will remain a fallacy, just empty words on its mission statement and strategic plan.
Santiago Castiello-Gutiérrez is a graduate student in the college of education studying higher education.
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