Journal of East China Normal University(Educational Sciences) ›› 2021, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (2): 75-88.doi: 10.16382/j.cnki.1000-5560.2021.02.007

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Farewell to Autonomy: American University Governance in the Age of Compliance

Rong Yao   

  1. Institute of Higher Education, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
  • Online:2021-02-20 Published:2021-02-07


Traditionally, influenced by academic freedom, university autonomy and federalism, the US federal government has been less involved in higher education. In the second half of the 20th century, in the context of a revolutionary change in the relationship between academia and the legal world, the federal government began to actively participate in university governance based on four explicit or implied federal constitutional power forms related to education, including the right to expenditure, taxation, trade, and enforcement of civil rights. At present, American university governance has entered an era of compliance. The strengthening of federal higher education regulations not only promotes the protection of teachers and students' rights and the public interest, but also inevitably breeds a “compliance panic” and a crisis of teacher rights. In recent years, under the influence of a “spiral” compliance culture, the sources of compliance pressure for American universities have continued to increase. As one of the most widely regulated types of institutions, universities are often pulled into different, sometimes conflicting and irreconcilable directions. Now, through the reform of federal higher education regulations, the expansion of university compliance functions, and the re-definition of the role of university legal counsel, the relationship between the federal government and universities is being reshaped, which constitutes the latest trend of American university governance change in the era of compliance.

Key words: era of compliance, American university governance, constitutional power, compliance panic, counter-trends