Issue: A Journal of Opinion published by The African Studies Association, 24:45-51
PAT 101 Principles of Patronage
|©1995 by||Charles M. Nelson
Department of History
University of Nairobi
PAT 101 Principles of Patronage reviews the structure, operations and results of a voluntary patronage system. It illustrates the theory of patronage by using empirical examples drawn from The University as a formal institutional structure, and from the academic and administrative operation of that institution. Patronage and educational functions are compared to show how the these two aspects of The University interact, and to document the results which follow from this interaction.
patron (patron, patronus) n a principal in a system of patronage: I. The giver: a) in our Brave New World, a person honored as a guardian and supporter; b) in politics and business, an influential person who uses resources or influence to help or promote an individual on a basis other than merit; c) in history, the proprietor of a manorial enterprise with the rights and responsibilities of a feudal aristocrat; d) in antiquity, a master who frees his slaves but retains certain rights over them. II. The receiver: a) a regular client; b) an appointee; c) a peasant; d) a person indentured for life.
patronize vt to give or receive patronage: I. The giver: a) to voluntarily waive the privileges of the rank and dignity of a patron in order to socialize with inferiors; b) to help or promote an individual on a basis other then merit. II. The receiver: a) to seek or accept the help or promotion of a superior on a basis other then merit.
patronage n the act and substance of giving: I. The giver: a) the support of a patron, usually given with the air of superiority, b) the power to give resources, opportunities and jobs to individuals without regard to merit. II. The receiver: the resources, opportunities and jobs given by a superior on any basis other than merit alone.
In these definitions, "basis other" glosses over power, wealth and loyalty. In the tradition of good Orwellian doublespeak, it is the giver, the person who wields the patronage, who actually receives these benefits.
Two salient linguistic coincidences are germane. First, the word which follows the patronal entries in shorter, pithier dictionaries is patsy, from pazzo, meaning fool, and indicating a person who has been duped or victimized. The second is the German word, Gift, which means poison. These are prime characteristics of any patronage system: the majority of participants are patsies and their social institutions are poisoned.
VOLUNTARY VS COERCIVE PATRONAGE * INCLUSIVE VS EXCLUSIVE PATRONAGE
All patronage systems are a mixture of rewarding opportunities which may be undertaken on a voluntary basis and required obligations which are backed by the threat of coercive action. In addition, all systems are to varying extents either inclusive or exclusive. Exclusive systems reserve patronage for a small proportion of the population, while inclusive systems redistribute a modest proportion of the patronage to a larger proportion of the population. Systems tend to be either exclusive and coercive (violent dictatorships) or inclusive and voluntary. The focus here is on an inclusive, voluntary system of patronage.
THE VOLUNTARY, INCLUSIVE SYSTEM OF PATRONAGE
Organization. Inclusive, voluntary systems are competitive by nature. Since patronage gifts and rewards within the mass of lower ranks have only marginal economic value, participation must hold out the promise of incorporation into higher levels with successively greater rewards. Only a tiny percentage are ever admitted into the inner circle where the rewards are truly great, but all participants must be made to feel that they can succeed by cultivating the right patrons and patronage skills. Therefore, the system consists of a vast array of interlocking pyramids. Each pyramid consists of individuals who have clients beneath them and one or more personal patrons above them. Because patronage rewards are small within the lower ranks, individual patrons must participate in a number of individual patronage pyramids if they are to make ends meet.
Competition and Control. As in any business, clients are required to pay for services in cash, kind or reciprocity. A patron's wealth and power depend directly on how many clients are serviced and what proportion of these are obligated to render service in return. Patrons frequently offer the same services and commonly have client-patrons beneath them who obtain the power to offer a particular service through them. Thus, the system is highly competitive at all levels. Reciprocity and the appearance of personal loyalty are highly valued and become the focus of informal rules of reward and punishment.
Basis of Power. Underlying power is conferred through a position in a public or private institution which is occupied by a patron. The ideal institutional position to occupy is one which provides needed services to the public and others within the institution. For this reason, compensation to individuals within an institution such as The University is generally much more diversified then the basic package of salary, retirement and insurance. For example, with respect to staff, The University gives permission for outside work; provides responsibility, acting, mileage, subsistence, day trip and entertainment allowances; supports six different kinds of leave and various kinds of travel; and provides housing and various kinds of housing subsidies. This diversity is used to support numerous avenues of patronage. For example, the individual in charge of staff assignments to University owned or leased housing, is in a powerful patronage position. Housing arrangements are highly variable and this produces a commodity market. Thus, some University housing comes with detached servant quarters and some does not. Staff almost always rent these quarters out for about one-third of their take-home pay, so obtaining housing with associated servant quarters makes a big difference in monthly income. Families, as clients, must compete for these quarters, partly on the basis of what they can give the housing officer and partly on the basis of which other patron within The University may support their application personally, the understanding being that the housing officer can expect future reciprocity from the patron who is in an equivalent or higher position in the patronage system. The housing officer is also in an excellent position to offer services to more highly placed patrons. For example, housing can be set aside to be used for the private business and affairs of a powerful patron.
Of course, this is only one individual who deals with housing. There are a number of others and each has the opportunity to develop patron/client relationships of one sort or another. For example, the value of subsidized housing is taxed by the government, so there must be an institutional officer who sets the value of housing for this purpose. Since the value of all housing is set much lower than its market value, it is easy to manipulate the assessed value. By lowering the value, less tax, generally in the 20 to 40 percent brackets, is paid on salary. A favorable reduction can increase the take-home salary by as much as five percent. Then there are the various people who provide furnishings, utilities and maintenance; the machine shops that will produce security doors at a price below their market value; the transportation officer who can provide moving logistics on the side.
The higher in the patronage system an individual rises, the more institutional positions such a patron is permitted to occupy. This is often accomplished by expanding the authority and roles of boards, councils, trustees, secretariats and executive committees, and by increasing the number of administrative layers within institutions. Commonly, this takes the form of lateral appointments. For example, in The University, the Chair of History may also be, by virtue of that position, a member of the boards of the National Museum and the Institute for Population Studies. Occupying more than one position within a direct line of authority occurs less frequently. Deans are sometimes also Department Chairs and the Chancellor may even control appointments to the Ministry of Education.
Rule of Appearances. Appearances are extremely important and must be treated as reality for four fundamental reasons. The first reason is that the patronage system is not universal. The institutions from which it draws its power and which it drains of resources must interact with counterparts where patronage does not hold sway. If the World Bank gives the Ministry of Education $50m to achieve educational excellence and fiscal reform in The University, then The University must appear to have these qualities. If international exchange programs expect a certain level of educational standards, then those standards must appear to be present. For example, on paper and in FTE calculations, The University appears to have 45 instructional hours for a normal lecture course. In reality, the normal course has only 30 to 32 instructional hours, and many courses have less because of high staff absenteeism, which is another patronage commodity provided by administrative patrons.
The second reason why appearances must be maintained is to provide an environment in which competition can be perpetuated indefinitely, a fundamental requirement in a voluntary, inclusive system of patronage. Since various patrons provide the same services within the same institutions, the formal organization of an institution around its patronage functions would lead quickly to administrative consolidation and suppression of all competition. The system would quickly become exclusive and coercive, a ruthless dictatorship with all the disadvantages of such systems. Moreover, by keeping patrons and their specific services hidden from open view, and patron/client relationships more or less confidential, new entrepreneurs can enter the system and build personal patronage networks in the shadow of established players. This makes the lower layers of patronage systems more productive and valuable to higher levels. For example, higher administrative authorities in The University provide access to BA degrees which are required to fill certain government posts. This access usually flows through a ministry at the level of a permanent secretary or higher, but sometimes laterally through lower-level or family connections. The name of the degree seeker is added to class rosters in the registrar's office and department chairs are recruited sometimes directly and sometimes through the Dean of a Faculty or the Principal of a College. Chairs ensure that academic staff cooperate by allowing the degree seeker to sit the final examination and by waiving the requirement for completion of continuous assessment tests or assignments. Intelligence operatives for the government or ruling group within the government are infiltrated into student ranks in much the same way. If a staff member is uncooperative, the Chair takes care of the problem on the side. Certain chairs are more effective than others in providing these services. Some can better manipulate teaching assignments to ensure that cooperative staff are teaching required courses. Some chairs have greater power over their staff by virtue of the patronage they provide; e.g., through unposted leaves and absenteeism which allows a member of staff to pursue a second career outside The University. Thus, certain chairs come to specialize in this service and may be rewarded with rapid advancement, lateral appointment to boards, or appointment to additional administrative posts.
The third need for the rule of appearances is to provide a legal, institutional basis for maintaining coercive power over the participants in the patronage system. In the example given above, an academic staff member who does not want to cooperate in the degree-giving scam can be coerced if informal leave and absenteeism have been extended by the department chair. The chair can threaten to discover these lapses and have the faculty member fired or disciplined. Discipline is the usual course of action because it requires public submission to the patron and the patronage system while it also marks the individual as being untrustworthy for important patronage jobs. This is why activities such as faculty strikes are not met with summary dismissals. Instead, under the threat of dismissal, academic staff are required to sign statements which pledge themselves to fulfilling their contracts. The subtext here is that they are pledging to serve their patrons as required and are accepting the level of patronage which is their lot.
The fourth reason which requires the maintenance of appearances is to provide protection from rivals within the patronage system. A large percentage of patronage transactions require that a law be broken or that an administrative rule be applied in a manner which is prohibited. Each such transaction requires the tacit or explicit conspiracy of the patron and the client; each incurs risk and vulnerability. Therefore, it is important that each transaction be covered by a paper trail which appears proper. In the example given above, the degree seeker actually sits the final exams for each course. Over a four year period, faculty boards meet and pass this individual, a transcript is generated in the usual way and a degree awarded in the normal course of events. Appearances are necessary to discourage competing patrons from consolidating their positions by bringing down rivals through revelation of their misdeeds. Such a course of action is usually undertaken only in cases where a patron has been disloyal to the system itself. Then they may be revealed and tried, or dismissed, as corrupt. This enforces discipline within the system while providing the appearance of a legal system and administration which does not operate by patronage or tolerate corruption.
And so we have returned to our first reason for the rule of appearances, the public face. Patronage systems are, after all, elegant tautologies, wonderfully self serving, true and noble by virtue of their logical form alone.
Rule of the Written Word. Events which are not commemorated in writing have no force and may be treated as though they never occurred. Conversely, the written word may commemorate, or create, events which have never occurred. This rule is applied differently in different contexts.
In the context of a patronage deal, the rule of the written word requires that there be trust between client and patron, the mutual sharing of special knowledge and the trust that each will uphold a verbal agreement which is not in itself binding. What is binding is the patron/client relationship rather than the agreement. Personal loyalty is made a system requirement by this inverted application of the rule. By the same token, the rule also requires that a paper trail be created which accounts for the patronage in an apparently normal way, a set of documents which only incidentally involves the client if and as it must. Thus, a free trip somewhere, might require that the name and particulars of the client enter into the paperwork in an innocuous fashion, but a cash loan or payment would only generate a paper trail where the cash was produced, as for example, in collecting the wages of a ghost worker. In the context of the rule of appearances, the written word creates the illusion of a certain condition or event, and requires that certain actions be taken to maintain that illusion and that other actions be avoided so as not to spoil the illusion. For example, by stating that there are 45 contact hours of instruction per course, semester schedules must be created which cover a sufficient period of time and students must be required to be on campus, at least nominally, throughout that period to promote the illusion of educational activity. Of course, the first week may be orientation, the second week may be required for students to collect their scholarships, much of the third week may be used in sorting out class conflicts to the extent possible, and the last week may be spent in exams rather than the classroom. By the same token, it is important that nobody put in writing the fact that there are only 30 hours of lecture. You may discuss this orally with your peers, even divulge it orally to someone from without, and you will merely be suspected of being unreliable, but if you put it in writing then you will be considered a very dangerous trouble maker indeed.
In the context of a conflict between educational and patronage requirements, the rule of the written word will be used to uphold the patronage requirement and to assign blame for any educational deficiency on the individual who is promoting education above patronage. For example, The University has a rule that students who are absent from more than 15% of class meetings may not sit the final examination. Since the typical course never meets 30% of the classes it should, all students are technically in fault. However, the rule is interpreted more narrowly to mean 15% of the classes which are met by the instructor. Now, if two courses have a scheduling conflict, then a student will miss at least 16% of each class and should not be allowed to sit the final, which would mean failure in the course, in a system in which there is no workable provision for re-taking courses. As the instructor, you go to your Chair who sends you to the departmental Scheduling Officer. This person has no authority over schedules in other departments and does not even have a timetable for the schedules of other departments, and can do nothing. So the Scheduling Officer calls the Assistant to the Dean for Scheduling and arranges a meeting with him. At the meeting, he assures you and the Scheduling Officer that he will try to resolve the problem, but nothing effective is ever done. If you then write to the Assistant to the Dean and request a specific waiver of the 15% rule in writing and indicate that without such a waiver you may be forced to bar some students from the final examination, he will write you a memo stating that departmental scheduling is, in the first instance, the duty of the Department Chair, to whom you should take the problem. He will ask why you did not report the problem in the first week of class (when classes are not being held because of orientation and there is no specific schedule) and why you waited so long before bringing such an important issue before his august authority. In short, since none of your meetings have written invitations or recorded minutes, they never occurred and the chief scheduling officer of the faculty therefore has no responsibility in the matter. You are at fault; you are to blame.
Rule of Submission. Voluntary inclusive patronage systems can thrive only if they receive broad-based support within the population on which they depend economically, i.e., those from whom they take money and, ultimately, power. For this reason, they have to induct large numbers of people annually and persuade them to submit themselves to the system by participating in it. Induction often takes the form of a gift in the guise of a voluntary service which is masked by the appearance of being an institutional benefit. For example, induction into The University is by examination. Therefore, all inducted students are theoretically qualified to attend. Many inductees may pass this examination on the basis of their ability, though the benefits of patronage may have given some students a much better secondary education than others. Other students take the entrance examination under special conditions, e.g., at an examination location where the grading is easier or in a district where the admission standard is lowered to meet an admission quota. Some may have access to examination questions in advance or may have their papers funneled to particular examination readers for favorable consideration. Some may simply be permitted to copy from one another to improve their chances of passing. A few, such as government intelligence operatives, may come in laterally with forged examination results.
Subversion of the examination system is likely to be very difficult to document in a convincing fashion, but when admission to The University is an act of patronage, this will be evident in the manner of the giving and the status of students. Induction into the patronage system requires a freely given gift, a taste of the infinite benefits of the patronage system. It is a gift which can only be retracted if the client overtly, publicly disobeys the patronage rules. For this simple, but fundamental reason, the educational functions of The University must be altered in profound ways if it is to function as an induction arena for the patronage system. To be effective in this arena, The University must operate in certain ways.
First, admission must come with a scholarship which makes it possible for students to attend The University. This scholarship is normally given through recognized patronage channels. For example, students may be required to return to their home towns and obtain the approval, in writing, of local officials who oversee the local patronage pyramids. Since scholarships are given annually, the gift can be revoked if the student or the family of the student acts overtly in a manner which is apt to undermine the patronage system. This is a formal act of tacit submission designed to remind students of their status and obligations as clients of the system.
Second, since induction patronage is couched in the form of a gift, students who are admitted to the University may not have that gift revoked unless they overtly oppose the established patronage structure. That is, they may not be denied their B.A. degree by reason of academic failure alone. Conversely, they may not be awarded that degree on the basis of academic merit alone.
No failure is ensured in part by adopting a wide range of academic rules which make it almost impossible for a student to fail. Students who fail the examination for a course are automatically allowed to resit the examination and given a second chance to pass. External examiners, usually carefully chosen from a parallel patronage structure, may routinely increase failing marks which are within three percentage points of the passing mark, greatly reducing the number of course failures. Thereafter, failing marks may be discounted by a process known as offset. A failing grade is offset against a passing grade by lowering the passing grade by the amount necessary to increase the failing grade to a passing score. In addition, students may be allowed to fail between 15% and 25% of their courses and still be passed on to the next year of instruction even in cases where failed courses are prerequisite to offerings in subsequent years. For purposes of graduation, only the last two years (50%) of the BA program may be considered. Finally, when the faculty sits annually as a board of examiners of the whole, there may still be a hand full of students who require heroic efforts in order to pass. The faculty rises to this occasion; rules are reinterpreted in the most self-serving ways and all students are passed. If asked, a Dean will proudly say that a 100% passage rate demonstrates that students of The University are among the best in the world because of the extraordinarily high admission standards the excellent secondary institutions in the country and high quality of instruction in The University. Conversely, when a faculty, such as the Faculty of Engineering, fails any number of students on perfectly good academic grounds, this is seen as an act of revolt against the system and a commission of inquiry will be appointed to correct the problem. The faculty will be cross-examined relentlessly and the students given another chance and will, of course, prove themselves; the system will be vindicated publicly.
Students who are academically meritorious may be dismissed if caught in open rebellion against the patrons of The University. Students who are routinely drunk and disorderly are not disciplined. Students who engage in destructive brawls which sometimes result in serious injury or even death are not put on probation or dismissed from The University. Students who bring a prostitute into a dormitory, rape her until she in unconscious and then dump her naked in the street are not disciplined. Students who catch suspected thieves and murder them by lynching or necklacing are not charged or dismissed. In fact, The University looses the ability to effectively discipline students for these kinds of activities because the disciplinary system, itself, is held hostage to the patronage system. Under informal patronage rules, drunkenness and murder are personal, not institutional matters, but when they occur within The University, the rule of appearances requires that the police not be called unless absolutely necessary, and only well after the fact when individual responsibility can no longer be assigned. Therefore, there are no personal consequences to such actions at the public level. However, beyond this obvious limitation of The University's authority, the system of discipline may be subverted much more directly by patronage activities. For example, all The University halls of residence have assigned wardens most of whom are drawn from the academic staff. These wardens are given living accommodations in the halls, which are seldom used as such because the halls are considered too dangerous an environment for their families. Instead, they occupy university housing elsewhere and simply visit their halls on occasion. In fact, the appointment of warden is a patronage opportunity. It allows the hall space assigned to the warden to be used for other purposes, e.g., rented cheaply to collateral family members. Wardens, because they control room assignments, can also acquire a certain amount of hall space and rent in out, usually to former students who have found jobs locally. By allowing improper activities within their halls, wardens can also obtain the power of a patron over particular students who they know to be violating the rules. This is yet another way in which students are drawn into the patronage system as clients
Students who riot or protest peacefully against the patrons of The University are another matter entirely. They forfeit the protection of the system and are sought out to be punished. Students frequently riot because, as the selected elite of the country, they do not feel that they are being given sufficient status or patronage. These students, along with those who do not riot, are treated as a mass and punished in the fashion described below under the third point.
However, students who ban together and protest publicly out of principle, demanding that politics and patronage be removed from The University, are personally identified and excised from The University as a cancer in the body politic. Faculty who support such students are also disciplined, sometimes severely. For example, if the Dean of the Faculty of Law is "asked" to chair a star chamber proceeding against such students in order to dismiss them on trumped up charges, and if the Dean declines to do so because such a proceeding would be neither ethical or legal, then the Dean will be dismissed administratively from his deanship even though it is an elected position and not in theory subject to the rules of appointment. Students who are dismissed from The University under such circumstances, may be readmitted in two or three years if they submit themselves to the patronage system. Readmission is usually under severe handicaps to ensure that the student will not infect the student body with the cancer of improper ideas. For example, such students may be allowed to sit examinations and use the library, but not attend classes, live in the halls of residence or spend long periods on campus.
Third, degrees are conferred publicly by the chief patron of The University. Families are duty-bound to attend and to acknowledge by their presence and applause for the gift which they are receiving. Before this ceremony, no degree is granted and no official transcript issued. If students have been, or are, rebellious, or if faculties are in revolt, the chief patron simply delays the ceremony indefinitely, sometimes up to more than a year, during which students can't seek admission into graduate school, can't be certified as teachers or social workers, can't be admitted to the bar or practice medicine, and in general can't get on with life. Unless, of course, one has access to the correct, high-level patronage channel through which "acting" appointments can be made or "official" letters appended to "unofficial" transcripts. Students who fail to attend graduation have their degrees held up in a similar fashion.
While some aspects of patronage are closely held secrets which are difficult to penetrate and next to impossible to prove juridically, the necessity for recruitment and public submission to the system make certain of its components quite accessible. These components, such as the three described briefly above, are bellwethers through which the involvement of The University in high-level, widespread patronage structures can be established and crudely measured.
Rule of Infrastructural Investment. We are accustomed to thinking of infrastructure - plant, equipment and the supplies to operate these - as a concomitant of institutional function. For example, The University, as a place of higher education, must have buildings which contain classrooms and laboratories which are designed and maintained for teaching. The buildings must be maintained according to code and their facilities must be set up for the use of audio-visual aids and other equipment, and there must be the requisite equipment and supplies to use these spaces efficiently for their intended educational purposes. However, when The University becomes primarily a patronage institution, this logic no longer applies.
Power and prestige within the patronage system come from the number and quality of clients a patron controls. Material objects are useful in securing the loyalty and reciprocity of clients when they are given as gifts, sold cheaply or are allowed to be taken for personal use. Therefore, useful equipment and supplies invariably move from The University into the hands of individuals who are connected with the patronage pyramids within The University. Equipment which is not useful in this way is used academically until it is broken at which point it is abandoned. Large pieces of equipment, such as VAX computers or vehicles, are converted to personal use for much of their operation, and are provided a minimal level of maintenance in order to support such patronage activities.
The central computing system is usually a good indication of the extent to which The University is a patronage organization. Certain centralized computer functions, such as payroll and housing allocation, are very useful adjuncts to patronage operations as you can imagine from the examples already cited. Other routine services, such as conflict-free class scheduling, computerized class rosters and grade sheets, and transcript compilation, are counter productive in the context of established patronage practices. For example, if these services are tightly computerized with the usual access security, then the acquisition of degrees through the patronage system would have to be centralized at a very high level. This would not foster the creation of interlinking pyramids which are so necessary to a voluntary inclusive system of patronage and would inhibit the entrepreneurial spirit within the system. Of greater proximal importance, these services compete with other more productive patronage uses of the computer facility. In a healthy patronage system, the central computer will be utilized for patronage activities which can only be mounted using such a facility. Activities which can be undertaken without the use of the computer will not be allocated computer time since this is a needless restriction on the productivity of the system. Thus, scheduling, class rosters, grade sheets and transcript management fall by the wayside as more productive patronage uses are found for the computer.
As a result budgets normally allocated to supplies, maintenance (other than salary), and capital outlay are extremely small. At The University, a department of 15 to 20 academic staff and three to five support staff may have an annual budget for all supplies and routine operational expenses which is only on the order of $700 to $1,000. Incongruously, this budget may be used to provide food at departmental meetings since food is a direct benefit to the people attending and is seen as a form of generalized patronage. On the other hand, envelopes may be in very short supply.
Poor building maintenance, particularly in public spaces such as toilets, is a direct result of this policy and leads to facilities which are in perpetual violation of building. safety and health codes.
The Rule of Internal and External Funds Conversion. The rules of infrastructural investment and appearances interact to create a structural corollary, a two-tiered budget and allocation system based on the concept of internal vs. external funds. This distinction is critical because these funds are converted into patronage is different ways.
Internal funds are those which are unlikely to be audited critically by organizations outside The University. These funds come from the government through patronage-sensitive channels, from money collected directly by The University, and from external organizations as unmonitored black grants. Internal funds are allocated directly to activities which support the patronage structure, often in ways which will not stand close scrutiny. Because such funds are accounted for by people within patronage pyramids of The University, there is little danger of scandal or legal consequences.
External funds are those which are likely to be audited by organizations such as The World Bank or the foreign aid programs of donor countries. These funds are difficult to convert into patronage because they are overseen by individuals who are not part of the patronage system. Only a small proportion can be used directly for patronage, e.g., by those who are selected for special training abroad. Instead, such funds are converted into a form which is subject to internal audit only. This is accomplished by using them for capitalizing infrastructure, especially building facilities, purchasing equipment and obtaining scarce supplies. For example, under a World Bank loan, a department of chemistry might order enough glassware to last the better part of a century. Ultimately, much of this might be sold on the side or used to support private ventures. A department of architecture might order a single microcomputer, laser writer and cad-cam software on the pretext of using this to teach a class in computer assisted architectural drafting, an impossibility since such a course would require several work stations, a server and software licensed for use on multiple stations. In reality, such an order is destined for the private practice of a staff member with the proper patronage connections. In fact, in The University, such budgets are generally written by selected individuals rather than departmental committees using well developed program plans.
Even library book orders, most of which are generated from external funds, are subject to exploitation. If The University has a well developed patronage system, its library will have a personnel structure which mirrors that of the academic administration. For example, there will be special ordering and processing librarians for each of several colleges and possibly some for the larger faculties within colleges. These individuals will not simply process departmental book orders, but also generate orders of their own. Many books useful in business, private education, applied science and professional practices will never actually make it onto the shelves or will disappear immediately after reaching the shelves. Such volumes are destined from the outset for the private sector.
A moment's digression. Even the book binder in the library of The University will become a patron, using his working hours, University facilities and occasional University supplies to bind books and reports for individuals at rates which are less than prevailing commercial rates.
Of course, the line between internal and external funds often becomes fuzzy and this can lead to embarrassing situations. For example, donors, such as the Japanese, may give The University funds for scholarships which are generally audited by counting the number of recipients and determining that they are, in fact, real. If, as is usual, selection for these scholarships is controlled by The University, then some proportion, usually large, will be given out on the basis of patronage. In addition, when such scholarships have numerous particular benefits which go well beyond the normal government-funded University bursary, some of these benefits may not be advertised to student candidates, generating funds which can be diverted by using two sets of accounts. Occasionally, however, an enterprising student will discover this by obtaining an independent description of scholarship benefits directly with the donor organization. If, as is usual, the student is receiving the scholarship as a matter of generalized or specific patronage, the proper reaction is to let your patron know that you know, that you understand and accept the situation, and that you are prepared to uphold his position in the patronage system. By sharing your patron's vulnerability you become entitled to a slightly larger slice of the patronage pie and your patron should reciprocate by giving you "something small" in addition to your regular benefits. If, however, you demand all the benefits which come with the scholarship, you may succeed in getting them but will then be branded a trouble maker and cut off from any future benefits within the intercommunicating portion of the patronage pyramids which manages scholarship patronage.
Rule of Client Investment. Other things being equal, financial resources available to the patronage system are invested in people rather than things. This is necessary in a voluntary inclusive system of patronage for five reasons.
First, tolerance of the system and its productivity, especially at the middle and higher levels, depends on mass participation. Therefore, a large proportion of the population must occupy positions as clients and have the opportunity to become patrons. This requires a large number of institutional positions and attendant salary and benefits, particularly at the lower and lower-middle levels. Hierarchies which have more levels than necessary and are also bottom heavy are good indicators of an extensive patronage system. The University, as an educational institution, might require only one chancellor, nine academic division heads at the rank of dean, and less than 60 departments. However, as a patronage institution, this same University will grow to include a chancellor, a vice chancellor, a deputy vice chancellor, eight main divisions with principals, 14 deans of faculties, and 80 or more academic departments and numerous sub-departments. Each of the nine divisions will spawn nine separate departments in the office of the registrar, nine in the library, nine in finance, and nine in accounting.
Academic patronage growth occurs in the following way. Say, for example, that the chair of geography is elected dean of the faculty of arts. This means, amongst other things, that it is time for the geographers "to eat" by virtue of their entre to the system at the level of the dean. When the faculty of arts meets, it is presented with and required to act on a document which proposes the formation of a "School of Geographical Sciences." It is passed without descent and forwarded to higher authority. Now, as a department in The University, geography might have a chairman, about 14 regular faculty and three assistants in staff development (apprentice faculty), seven technicians and two secretaries. As a "School of Geographical Sciences," the dean of arts will become the principal of the school, there will be five divisions headed by deans, 30 departments headed by chairs, 89 additional faculty members, 39 technicians and six secretaries. The creation of this school would also be followed by acquisition of support units in the library, in finance, in accounting and at the registrar's office, about 12 positions in all.
The document which justifies the creation of this new school may actually allude to the patronage structure in rather frank terms, with references to promotional constrictions, faculty morale and the need to create avenues of promotion. In other words, all of the current academic members of staff, who can't compete effectively for promotion in academic marketplace beyond the precincts of The University, would become either deans or chairs.
And what will happen to this remarkable document? It will sit quietly in the files of higher authorities until an external source of funding can be found for the infrastructure and the patrons of The University decide to expand their patronage base by providing public money to fund the 150 additional positions required to create the school.
Second, as a patron, you are also the client of more powerful patrons. Your ability to acquire more turf depends on the support of your patrons and you must earn that support by delivering certain services to them. One simple service is access to your clients for the provision of certain services from which your patrons will profit in some way. Another, is "voluntary" fund raising in which clients contribute small amounts of money in the expectation of future reciprocity which might include access to certain services at discounted rates, induction of a child or relative into a particular part of the patronage structure, or lateral access to other patronage pyramids which you, as their patron, can access through your patrons. A third, which becomes increasingly important as you rise in the patronage hierarchy, is the political mobilization of your clients on behalf of your patrons. These services all depend on the number of clients you can acquire. Therefore, any profits or energy you choose to reinvest in your patronage business will tend to be reinvested in people, i.e. more or better clients, and not more or better physical infrastructure.
Third, as a patron, your clients can be classified as "hard," "firm" or "soft." Hard clients are those over whom you exercise a substantial amount of control by virtue of the fact that you supervise them in their jobs. To the extent which they owe their job to you and the patronage system, you can exact a commensurate fee in the form of services. These hard clients constitute the core of your business and it is in your interest to expand that core as much as possible. Therefore, you will take every opportunity to create and fill new positions. Of course, such positions are in the ultimate control of your patrons and are given to your administrative fife in return for your service and loyalty.
Fourth, firm clients are those who come to you repeatedly for a service which they can obtain only through you by virtue of your institutional position. To the extent that they come from within the same institution as your own, you will actively support the creation of more such positions since this will increase the population of firm clients over whom you can exercise some degree of control. To the extent that they come from outside your institution, you will support the extension of any law or administrative rule which increases this population.
Fifth, soft clients are those over whom you have no direct control. They are your clients because they need your particular service only once or because you provide a common service at a "reasonable" cost when compared with other patrons who offer the same service. Soft clients must be cultivated in the same why that a business proprietor cultivates customers. To be able to deliver these clients to your patrons, you must offer them special deals, reciprocity, hospitality, and entree to other patrons. In this way, you spend funds and other resources which you have raised within your institution on client relationships you have with individuals from outside your institution.
The Rule of Surplus Positions. If The University is being run as an academic institution and is under sound management, unfilled academic positions are either filled or terminated. Surplus positions, funded or unfunded, are not allowed on the books. However, when The University becomes a patronage institution, this situation changes because surplus positions are useful in promoting productivity within the system. Such positions are created in four ways: (1) defunding a slot after promotion from within an academic unit, creating a vacancy at a lower rank; (2) defunding a slot on promotion from a senior rank to an external patronage position, e.g., in the diplomatic corps or a parastatal corporation; (3) defunding slots upon resignation, retirement or death; and (4) the establishment of unfilled slots by administrative grant. Typically, a department comes to have several more slots in its "establishment" than it requires for academic purposes. For example, a department with an establishment of 20 might only be using 15 of its positions. The surplus positions can be used in a variety of ways within the patronage system.
First, senior staff who have been rewarded with lucrative patronage positions outside The University are simply placed on indefinite leave without pay. Usually, they never return, but their slots remain as a sort of insurance or, in some cases, as a conduits for excess salary.
Second, the surplus slot system allows higher level administrative patrons to adjust patronage in the form of lower teaching loads according to the "merits" of a department. For example, if a department chair or faculty is seen as uncooperative or not very useful in the patronage system, then its work load can be increased by drawing down the number of staff. If the department is seen as particularly useful, surplus slots can be filled, decreasing teaching loads to allow staff still greater levels of participation in the patronage system. In some departments in The University, faculty teach as few as two courses every three terms, while in others they teach as many as six every three terms.
Third, surplus positions provide plums which can be awarded to mid-level clients who may also have the minimal academic qualifications (an MA degree).
Fourth, surplus positions are useful facts to use in negotiations for funds with potential donors and international organizations which provide loans. They can be used to argue understaffing and to demonstrate development commitment to projects such as a School of Geographical Sciences. They can be used to argue fiscal responsibility.
Rule of Patron Control. For a patronage system to operate effectively, funds, opportunities, positions, people and other resources must be controlled by the patrons. Control must be deinstitutionalized while maintaining all the institutional forms in order to preserve the appearance of normality. Any policies, procedures or oversight which seriously undermines personal patron control are simply unacceptable and will be rejected out of hand. Any attempt at building a non-patronage institution within The University will be crushed ruthlessly. For example, if the faculty attempt to organize a union in order to obtain better working conditions, that union will under no circumstances be recognized. If its members should strike to force recognition, faculty will be forced to pledge their services to the system and return to work; those who don't will be dismissed. The leaders, seen as greedy individuals who are attempting to usurp power from established patrons, will be hounded into obscurity.
Rule of Primacy. According to the rule of primacy, when patronage functions or values conflict with other institutional functions or values, patronage requirements must be satisfied first. If The University is firmly in the grip of a patronage system, this will be apparent in numerous things, both small and great. A fundamental example on the functional side is the way in which educational policy is generated and implemented. In an institution of higher education, the faculty is responsible for setting the academic policy; the administration facilitates its implementation. But when The University becomes a patronage appendage, this must change because educational functions almost always conflict with patronage functions. Therefore, the faculty is relegated to a secondary advisory role and almost all communication is one way, from the department up. For example, long range departmental plans may be required (appearances), but they are never formally approved or acknowledged since that would transfer power to chairs and faculty (written word).
Because of patronage requirements, The University is in a perpetual crisis with regard to its educational program and reform is invariably subverted to extend, still further, the patronage system. For example, an early "reform" expanded the number of courses a student must take to graduate so as to justify acquiring more academic staff (client investment). Now students must take a total of 51 semester-long courses, i.e., between six and eight courses per term. This is equivalent to 153 semester hours, not counting hours spent in the laboratory, tutorials or other forms of special instruction. It is impossible for students to absorb such large amounts of material and the psychological pressure is great. Class work and examination standards have been lowered in consequence. But this is only the camel's nose. Faculty are not required to post or keep office hours. There is no advising system. Text books are not used in most courses and students are not required to have text books. Class-room contact hours have been reduced by 30% from the number required by regulations which are still on the books. Senior academic staff often have MA students and tutorial fellows teach their classes, and sit and grade all papers and exams. Additional faculty absenteeism is high. There is no effective central class-scheduling service even at the level of individual faculties, so course times inevitably conflict and students are unable to attend all of their scheduled classes. There are almost no real elective choices within the curriculum as only one of a series of alternatives is ever taught at once and it is required at the time that it is taught. Students are not permitted to see their graded examinations and their exact grades are withheld from them. Due to inflated intakes and lack of dormitory space, only three-quarters of the student body can take classes at the same time, so it takes at least five years to do a four year degree. Terms for each class must be staggered so there is no longer an academic year. The University curriculum remains unpublished and scheduled course offerings are not published in advance, but listed on bulletin boards, usually about one week after the official beginning of the term. The list goes on for some little way.
Eventually, things become so difficult that a special faculty committee is appointed by the administration to recommend reforms. It holds hirings, takes testimony in oral and written form, and submits a report with more than three dozen far-reaching recommendations. This report is not formally acknowledged, the administration gives no indication of what it might do, faculty governance bodies are given no authority to proceed with reforms, and nothing whatever happens. Why? Even the simplest and most limited reforms conflict with established patronage practices. For example, you can't require academic staff to post and keep office hours because their patrons already permit them to spend most of their time off campus pursuing other, more rewarding activities. You may not interfere with the authority of patrons or limit the extent of their patronage. While it is true that students, officially, may not know their examination results, any student may obtain this information by acquiring a faculty patron with the rank of lecturer or above, since all such faculty have access to this information. Students are encouraged to reciprocate in small ways, drawing them a bit further into the patronage system.
Educational values are also deeply distorted. For example, at The University well steeped in patronage, plagiarism will be common and little remarked. If you give your class an assignment which lends itself to plagiarism, about 60% will plagiarize. Any complaint on your part will be met with astonishment. Any action which changes their fundamental status at the University will be reversed. In fact, there is no rule against plagiarism in the academic rules of The University or in the rules of conduct which each student must sign. The only lingering vestige of such an old-fashioned notion is to be found on the title page of a thesis or dissertation: a statement which proclaims it to be the work of the candidate. Many students believe that copying or closely paraphrasing the writing of others is, in fact, real work and well within the descriptive and ethical limits of this curious statement.
The rule of appearances requires that anything with apparent educational value be inflated to many times its real significance. This has an extremely deleterious influence on BA dissertations and MA theses. First, students are required write proposals for research which would require far more time and funds than are available (BA students are given no support; MA students about $400). Second, they are required to use the latest jargon. In the social sciences, for example, this means testing hypotheses. Most of the hypotheses proposed for testing are, in fact, only propositions and not explanatory. Some are truisms, straw men with no substance to test. Some are even tautologies. A few are genuine hypotheses, but so complex as to be impossible to test. A very few hit the mark if there were the time and resources to test them in a credible fashion. After stating hypotheses, the student is obliged to invoke sampling and often constructs a sampling model which has little relationship to the character of the sample universe but looks impressive on first sight. In fact, these complicated sampling strategies are almost never carried out. In defense, if you question a candidate closely about sampling, you almost always find that there was no systematic sampling, most samples were actually drawn by other people who the candidate did not oversee closely, and much of the sample was subsequently ignored in analysis. If you go back to the primary data for a thesis, you will almost always find that there are serious flaws at the point of data collection which totally vitiates the validity of the study. Now, the final products are read and passed by external examiners most of whom are carefully selected to ensure passage of the student. It is not uncommon for an external examiner to state that none of the conclusions in the crucial chapters of a thesis are supported by evidence and are therefore invalid, but, on balance, the thesis should be accepted. It is almost impossible to overrule an external examiner, so theses may be revised in small ways but the candidate is seldom required to live up to the standards of research and scholarship which are typical in institutions which are not dominated by patronage. Specialists know the quality of these efforts. That is why such works produced at The University are seldom cited in the literature. More tragic still, it is these students, who have not been properly trained to conduct research and do not understand scholarship, who enter staff development and obtain lectureships with nothing more than sham MAs under their belts. It is they who train the next generation.
The rule of primacy is sometimes mitigated to a certain extent by the rule of appearances. For example, certain academically serious faculty, usually recruited internationally, are hired and prominently displayed to demonstrate that the programs of The University are certainly of the highest quality. International programs for study abroad may be assiduously courted for the same reason.
SYSTEM PRODUCTIVITY AND DEPLETION
System Depletion. System depletion is the complex process by which the patronage system becomes less capable of absorbing new patrons at a rate proportional to population growth and unable to maintain early levels of patronage benefits. It is exhibited in the impoverishment of patronage-controlled institutions and also of the clients and patrons within the patronage system, itself.
Rule of Declining Productivity. The system described above is well designed for distribution but extremely deficient in effective mechanisms of production. Therefore, even when all other variables are held constant, a voluntary inclusive patronage system of this sort will inevitably decline in productivity. This normally leads to declining resources within the distribution network, i.e., declining levels of patronage when allocated on a per capita basis among all patronage clients and patrons. This problem is deepened by a number of other processes which are promoted in part by the patronage system itself.
Rule of Population Growth. The competitive nature of the patronage system promotes its constant growth and the rule of client investment requires that this take primarily the form of population growth. Hence, regardless of appearances, little or nothing will be done at the official level to limit the growth of population. Indeed, in traditionally polygynous societies, the most secure way of turning economic resources into a series of patronage hierarchies is to acquire as many wives and children as possible, an effective and enjoyable long-term strategy. It promotes interactive diversity among the patronage pyramids you can access reliably and with the security which comes with kinship obligations. In the absence of such accelerating factors, population growth may be slower, but the net effect will be much the same in the fullness of time: a rapidly growing client base which requires a commensurate growth in production and distribution if the system is to remain in balance.
Rule of Consumption. Since a great deal of patronage is distributed in kind and as services, rather than as actual cash, it promotes a kind of patronage consumption. Some of this is consumption for the basic necessities of family life, some feeds side ventures and investments, and some must be reinvested in the patronage structure, itself. A substantial part is also conspicuous consumption. For example, in The University, no lecturer or professor could afford to own or operate a car based on the salary provided by this employment. Whether you own a car and what kind of a car it is becomes a direct statement of your relative position in the patronage structure. Therefore, cars are washed daily and conspicuously displayed. The point is that a voluntary inclusive patronage system promotes consumption, including consumption which goes well beyond the economic or financial needs of patrons. Because most clients are also patrons of one sort or another and need to promote themselves by visibly consuming luxuries appropriate to their position in the hierarchy, such consumption is not a trivial drain on the economy.
Rule of Declining Infrastructure. The rule of infrastructural investment ensures that both overall capacity (plant) and utility (maintenance and supplies) will decline in relationship to gross population size and also with respect to the size of patronage structures within a particular institution. At The University, this means less salary after inflation, fewer benefits of lower quality, patronage of less actual value, less office space, classes which are larger, classrooms which are more crowded, fewer departmental supplies such as stationary, in other words a substantial reduction both in the quality of the work place and the quality of life at home.
SYSTEM REACTIONS TO DEPLETION
On the macro level, system depletion is commonly met first by seeking external sources to support the required rate of expansion and the required level of benefits within the system. If The University has been successful in this regard, a large percentage of its physical plant will have been built by donors and a large percentage of its faculty will have been trained overseas at little cost to the system. The library will be renewed periodically in this way. Recycled equipment will be replaced and infusions of specialized supplies obtained. All this either as gifts or, as the givers become more reluctant, as loans which can, themselves, be recycled.
As external funding begins to fall short of the "patronage gap," patronage at the middle and lower levels will be decreased as new clients and patrons are added to the system. Per capita benefits are simply allowed to decline while the patronage system continues to expand. Thus, The University system may be trebled in size at a time when internal funding is expanding at a much slower rate or even declining in absolute terms. Declining patronage levels in The University are likely to lead to student riots and faculty strikes as each group, in its turn, feels the pinch economically.
Continued erosion of the system may force basic change in the principles of patronage, themselves. The easiest route for the patrons of power to take is to make the system less inclusive and more coercive. This is done by consolidating competing hierarchies and dividing the spoils among a smaller and smaller proportion of the population, creating a far more oppressive system with all the problems which that entails.
At the micro level, both clients and patrons may first attempt to diversify and intensify their patronage activities. This increases the level of competition within the system and creates a higher proportion of local losers as resources continue to shrink. This competition may also see large-scale realignments of clients and patrons and the outbreak of small patronage wars. In places like The University, there will also be an exodus of staff to greener pastures. Those who are capable academically will find better positions, often in the international market, whose economic benefits replace their lost patronage benefits. Those who are moderately cleaver patrons, but not very good academics, will move laterally out of The University to find more affluent patrons in better insulated parts of the system. The patrons who remain will consolidate their institutional power and try to prevent the rise of competitors within its precincts.
The Downward Spiral. The effects of the patronage system on an institution such as The University are devastating for the students and faculty who now occupy its dingy halls, but they will be doubly so for future generations as the quality of educational services continue to decline in an ever-descending spiral. How does this decline work? Here is a typical example.
The University has a staff development program. Students with MA degrees are inducted into this program as tutorial fellows. Originally, many years ago, this program provided funds to send these fellows overseas to PhD programs in areas of specialty where The University needed staff. However, as the patronage ranks increased and the productivity of the system declined, tutorial fellows in staff development were required to find external support for their doctoral degree work without regard to specialty. The University continued to support their families at home by providing internal salary and benefits. During the same period, tutorial fellows in staff development were given more and more patronage duties, including the teaching of classes for which they were not prepared professionally. As the patronage benefits declined and the level of required services rose, these staffers became increasingly dissatisfied and eventually banded together to lay their case before the powers that be.
A solution based on sound educational policy would have been to severely reprimand the department chairs and senior academic staff who misused their tutorial fellows, to limit the number in staff development so that The University could actually provide the necessary support for their education abroad, and to shift funds away from unproductive programs in order to pay for this policy. However, this solution is not compatible with the principles of patronage. So, instead, The University responded by creating a new rule which automatically promoted those in staff development to lectureships, hitherto requiring a PhD, if they did not obtain support to place them in a PhD program within two years of their induction into staff development. Thus, MAs who fail to secure international scholarships and are, as a group, less able than those who do, are promoted into lectureships whereupon they leave staff development and are even less likely to obtain a PhD. But those who succeed in obtaining such a scholarship and do well in their programs abroad return without seniority. Many, of course, simply leave The University and put their training to use where their abilities and qualifications are better recognized. Hence, while this rule is in force, the average level of training and competence of academic staff will steadily decline as the proportion of PhDs in the faculty declines.
Here is another example. The University has a number of institutes which are headed by individuals with the rank of Dean. Originally, these institutes were designed to conduct research with funds raised from external sources and to provide specialized training to graduate students. Fellows of these institutes were expected to write grant proposals, participate in working seminars and instruct graduate students in special research techniques two terms out of three. Every third term they were expected to be conducting their own field research financed by external grants. In fact, most of these institutes are now supported primarily with institutional funds and very little significant research is done by them. One such institute, to retain staff and expand, has floated a BA degree program in the social sciences. Unlike all other programs in The University, which require 51 courses in four years, this program requires only 35 courses in four years. The very same degree, a BA, is awarded to the students completing these very different programs. Why is this anomaly allowed to persist? It's really quite simple. Lecturers in the institute program receive paid leave every third semester despite the fact that they no longer do externally funded research. Therefore, in order to balance work load and student/teacher ratios during the periods in which they teach, the number of courses in the program must be reduced by one-third. You see, institutes have certain patronage privileges, one of which is less work for the same salary and more free time to pursue other activities on the side. Both students and academic staff are extended this patronage. The number and quality of courses taken to obtain a particular degree is a secondary consideration. And since the anomalous program structure is not published in any publicly distributed bulletin, the anomaly is not apparent to anyone on the outside.
The Corrosive Effect on Students. In a patronage system, students are not recognized or rewarded for academic merit or excellence. They know this and they believe that their placement in The University, and their subsequent passage and advancement, is something which has been "arranged." As a consequence, they have no faith in their own academic abilities even when they are extremely smart and able. And since promotion in the system does not depend on academic merit, the academic merit of courses is not relevant. Therefore, students have little faith in what they are taught. Students who go the extra mile, who really perform in class, are frequently slapped down or, even more frequently, simply ignored and given mediocre grades for their intellectual presumption. They have three choices. They can fight their way out of the system and go abroad, a difficult path to embark on when you have no yardstick against which to measure your own capability. They can persist in The University and be shunted into a backwater where they will be no threat to the patronage system. Or they can turn their cleaver minds to being better at the patronage game then their peers. For most, the chances of success, and consequently the choice, are both obvious.
A Faculty of Fictions. Imagine that you are a lecturer who obtained your BA and MA degrees from The University, where you had been taught to a considerable extent by tutorial fellows, lecturers with MAs only, and too many senior academic staff whose lectures were 15 years or more out of date (like the law professor teaching international contracts who used a text which was centered around the predicted effects of the Marshall Plan on contract law). You have failed to find any external support to do a PhD abroad and in due course have become a lecturer. You have no scholarly record to speak of. You were given very little instruction in writing your MA and never conducted a piece of rigorous research. Some of your students have a much better intuitive grasp of the subject you are supposed to teach than you. You have no real idea of how to answer many of the questions which students persist in asking even though you do your best to discourage them. How do you hide all this from your colleagues who are able, well trained and serious? What kind of academic life can you have? What kind can you possibly want? Your intellectual life in The University is a pretense of the most galling sort, a facade, a fiction you must adhere to in order to survive in the patronage structure which is a distorted mirror image of the academic life you pretend to lead.
This is patronage purgatory, the paradise of fools. Pazzo! He Who must be obeyed. The Gift which may not be declined.
CAN THE UNIVERSITY BE SAVED?
Pathways Into the Future. There are two categories of answer to this question, that salvation is not relevant or, that if relevant, it may be achieved only by draconian means. Each category subsumes a number of interesting, but repulsive possibilities.
Viva Patronage. The first pathway is to accept the system as it is and for what is, get on with the business of patronage, and let education take care of itself. Ambling along this path, The University will slowly continue its educational spiral downward and new institutions, The New Universities, will slowly grow up around it to provide real education to the extent it is needed.
Educationally Productive Patronage. One oft cited analysis is the difference between patronage systems in the Orient and in Africa. In Africa, it is observed, patronage systems acquire public institutions in relatively good condition, a legacy of colonialism, and then run them into the ground raping them of their potential and destroying future productivity. In the Orient, where everything had to be rebuilt after war and revolution, you make a system very efficient and productive, and then you employ your patronage system to profit from it, leaving the underlying productive structure in tact. The system described above could be turned from an "African" style system into an "Oriental" style system by reversing the rule of primacy and giving it priority over other rules. This would require far-visioned patrons willing to defer economic gratification for a decade or more, but it would produce a far more productive patronage system in the end. For The University, it would immediately reverse declining standards and improve educational standards. But it would require displacing a large number of individuals who are not effective educators in the initial period of conversion, an obstacle difficult to overcome.
Removing the Veil of Appearances. The University, like many universities where patronage in primary, is kept operating to a considerable extent by external funds and recognition. The funds pay for most of its buildings and vehicles, provide most of the library books and subscriptions, pay for research conducted by its staff, provide a large proportion of the scientific and professional equipment used in its programs, and even brings a few faculty in to teach. Much of this funding is siphoned off into the patronage system. That which is not allows other funds to be shifted from supporting appearances and plowed back into patronage.
In some ways, external recognition is even more important than the funding, itself. External recognition is extremely useful in maintaining the appearance of a university. It is official acknowledgment that The University is just as good as any institution of comparable size in Japan, Europe or North America -- that its students, faculty and programs are just as good as those at your university, that its degrees are just as meaningful as your degrees. In fact, The University has been slowly losing that external recognition. Accreditation for professional degrees has been withdrawn from some of its schools, such as architecture. Exchange programs and programs abroad have withdrawn one by one as their program coordinators become aware of the depth of its problems. The University's degrees are no longer taken at face value and its graduates find it increasingly difficult to obtain admission to graduate programs abroad.
The veil of appearances is tattered. What would happen if it were removed altogether? What would happen if the world told The University that it must place education before patronage and meet fully international standards? Until that time, no more external funds and no more recognition of programs or degrees. The first step in solving a problem is to recognize publicly that it exists. Removing the veil would make it very difficult to deny convincingly or ignore altogether the problem. Removing the veil would shake the patrons who control The University to the core because, in the context of the patronage system, they would have failed to maintain appearances as they should. Their jobs as patrons would be on the line. Removing the veil would confirm what parents already expect about The University and increase public pressure for its reform. Removing the veil would encourage the faculty of The University to face themselves and decide exactly what role they should play in its future. Withholding funds would deprive patrons of a major source of their economic strength. Withholding recognition would tell students in no uncertain terms the true value of their education -- the true value of the patronage they were accepting.
Withdrawing the veil would, above all, force a choice in the development of The University toward or away from the patronage path. It would also accelerate the pace of that development and the collateral developments which would follow. Predicting those developments accurately is probably not possible.
Rabbits for Ransom. If you visit Kenya and drive northwards to Lake Naivasha, you will probably go by the "new" road which traverses the length of the Gikuyu Escarpment. On this ride, you will encounter numerous roadside peddlers who sell sheep skins and hats, baskets, cheap jewelry and other trinkets to the tourists who pass this way daily. Among these peddlers will be young men and boys who stand by the road and hold up live rabbits by the ears. The rabbits are neat, innocent and terrified. The young men are scruffy, hungry looking and defiant. Their silent message is clear. Buy this rabbit, or it will suffer a terrible and tragic fate. Take pity on its innocence, which I have lost. Pay my price or else. The fate of this rabbit is in your hands; it's your responsibility; it's your fault.
This is known as the "rabbits for ransom" gambit and it mirrors one of the principle strategies which patrons use to obtain money and loans from external donors. At The University, a donor country may be operating an exchange program to provide graduate education to promising young scholars in staff development. The University, that is one of its highly placed patrons, insists that The University, that is himself, should select all candidates which the donor wishes to consider for the exchange program. The problem is the quality of the candidates because most are selected on the basis of patronage rather than merit. However, if the donor asks that the process be open to all individuals in staff development so that more qualified candidates can be found, the answer will be that is not possible. Various excuses, none valid, will be advanced. If the donor persists by suggesting that the selection process might be handled independently of The University, the patron will say that, in such an event, all university support will be withdrawn from the selected candidates, they will be fired and they will not be able to obtain a job when they return. It is the donor's choice, the donor's responsibility, the donor's fault.
In this situation, the rule of primacy takes precedence over the rule of appearances because the rule of appearances has no application in the case of a fair selection process. There is no patronage to be protected by a veil of appearances. The rabbit for ransom gambit is used in a last ditch effort to protect the patronage which appearances were insufficient to protect.
All too often, this gambit works. I have had an aid administrator describe the situation as an extended game of chess which will be won or lost not in a day or a year, but in a century. It is played by relay teams of funds administrators on one side and patrons on the other. The administrators attempt to structure gifts and loans in such a way that it is impossible for them to be siphoned into the patronage system or otherwise feed corruption. The patrons attempt to negotiate restrictions which they can get around by inventing new forms of patronage and new pathways by which it can be distributed. When the rabbits for ransom gambit is forcefully held forth, the administrators know they have gone too far, that they must settle for less. When the donors freeze or withdraw funds, the patrons know they have not concealed the new forms and pathways of patronage carefully enough and must seek alternative solutions.
The administrators, as they must, believe that they are slowly winning this game. The self delusion in this position stems from the belief that you can control the minutiae of events in a country which is not yours and in which you have little or no authority to directly manage your program in the field on the ground. The patrons are in the field and on the ground 24 hours a day. Therefore, they will almost always control the situation. Foreign administrators can react to that situation as it evolves, but they do not make the decisions in the field which control most aspects of its development with regard to patronage. But even if they know this to be true, there is the guilt which comes when, by denying aid, they know that life for many people will be made more difficult, even intolerable, by this action. You see, in the end, rabbits for ransom works; it extorts money from tourists on the Gikuyu escarpment and it extorts money form donors at the level of national aid.
What Should Be Done? Any university in which patronage has substantially compromised its educational functions and quality should be isolated absolutely from the international academic community until the patronage structures responsible for this outrage are dismantled entirely. No aid should be given, no intercourse entertained, no degree honored. Aid, intercourse and recognition should be focused on competing institutions which have not been corrupted by patronage. The price of these things should be a patronage free system which maintains appropriate educational standards.