We are witnessing – in many countries across the world – how people and peoples are struggling with the concept of democracy. The notion that it is more about respecting minority views is losing out to the idea of ‘winner takes all’ – and all is fair in love and politics, including hacking. But democracy is a tough nut to crack in our comfortable and enlightened higher education environment as well.
I am not talking primarily about the governance of universities – different HE systems have different governance systems for their universities, although academics sometimes find it hard to accept that the voters will give them less money than they want.
I am thinking more about associations like EAIE: the European Association for International Education, which is holding its annual conference this week in Geneva, Switzerland.
Associations like EAIE, with thousands of members, have a hard time keeping larger parts of their membership involved and keep their feeling of ownership, of shared responsibility up to par. Associations like EAIE rely heavily on an inner circle of maybe 200 really active members, and an inner-inner circle of the (elected) Board and the (appointed) bureau.
How easy is it to think “we run – no – we áre this association” and how thin is the line between that feeling and the notion of Hillary’s “deplorables” that led to her and our loss in the 2016 election.
Democracy is a tough game and muddy work; but if history has told us anything, it is that any alternative almost always leads to much worse situations.