Thursday, May 30, 2013

University of California, "Enterprise Risk Management," and Orwellian Surveillance

On June 5-7, the University of California administrators are gathering together for an Enterprise Risk Management "Risk Summit" conference. There, they will attend workshops like Wes Balda's "Risk Managers Are from Mars, Faculty from Venus," a workshop that highlights the (gendered) hierarchies of labor; the paternalistic response to reforms in workers' compensation, "Mindfulness: An Antidote to Stress, Injuries & Illnesses;" or the Campus Life series talk on "On-Line Depression & Suicide Screening," perhaps meant to monitor lonely, isolated students who've been displaced from human contact and, well, campus life.

My favorite session, though, is straight out of Michel Foucault's writings on management and surveillance. It's titled "Civil Disobedience Training: From Prevention to Response: Latest Thinking in Leadership, Decision Making and Management During Crisis." As the blurb indicates, the session is geared towards UC policy executives and is "not a 'learn the response protocol workshop,'" but a training in how to manage the visibility and scope of a "crisis ranging from campus protests to mega natural disasters" in the context of "external communications" and "social media." In other words, this is a workshop on how management can better make our protests invisible and ineffective in order to manage the value of their "brand." For administrators, this is an especially pressing concern in the face of massive cuts to workers' benefits; tuition and fee increases across the board from education to healthcare; and the aggressive investment in online education and subsequent disinvestment in public education and the labor that supports it. All this going into several union contract negotiations this summer and rumors of potential strikes this fall and spring. Can Enterprise Risk Management make it all go away?

At the University of California, students and workers now pose a "risk" to the university's model of indefinite wealth extraction, and they must be monitored and controlled. And as nearly every Enterprise Risk Management slide show or position paper advises, "A strong system of internal control is essential to enterprise risk management."

See you on June 6 at 12 p.m. in front of the Oakland Marriott located at 1001 Broadway.