Every year the Golden Scholars of the American Academy of Universities and Colleges (AAUC) give Oscar-like awards for outstanding achievements of the nation’s universities. To qualify for the awards, the universities must either be U.S.-financed, have their main offices in the U.S., or be subsidiaries in other countries.

Several awards are made at the grand gala, which is held each year in the city of Boston, known as the “New Athens,” on the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The coveted Golden Mortarboard is awarded to the best university president, who becomes the “Best President” Golden Scholar. The “Best Fundraiser” Golden Scholar award is given to the researcher who has raised the most money for a single research project. The “Frequent Citation” Golden Scholar award goes to the scholarly article that has gathers the most citations, while the “Best Professor” Golden Scholar award is given to the most popular professor, judged by the number of people following him and retweeting him on all social networks. There are also awards in many other categories, such as Best Library, Scientific Best-seller, and Best On-line Course. Non-U.S. universities are eligible for the “Foreign Golden Scholar award.” In the last three years the Academy, in its search for racial diversity, has graciously awarded this last prize to American universities with affiliates in Angola, Libya, and Bangladesh.

The main criticisms of the Golden Scholar awards have come from the traditional humanities faculties of the Old Continent and also, curiously, from the Buddhist universities dependent on the authority of the Dalai Lama. While some scholars are criticizing the pretensions of a single country—even if it is the United States—to establish a ranking of the world’s best universities, the truth is that something similar is already happening in the fields of cinema and music. Some claim that the insane and childish obsession of Americans with competition really reflects not value but power. We must recognize, all the same, that world culture is already being judged by the countless U.S.-produced competitive events that are broadcast in their entirety by television networks all over the planet. In contrast, France broadcasts only Cannes, and Germany only the Berlinale Film Festival. Nowadays the norms for world culture are set by the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the Emmys, the Grammys, the Tonys, the MTV Awards, the Billboard lists, etc. These awards have been emulated by competitions all over the world, in which prizes are won thanks mainly to the strategies and lobbying resources of agencies.

The Spanish Ministry of Science, Truth, and Culture has already passed a new law requiring Spain’s universities to compete in Golden Scholar categories. The Universidad Emperador Felipe II was the first to establish its corporate office in a U.S. city (Dover, Delaware). Ministry sources have complained that a private university from Murcia has also moved its corporate headquarters to Blackfoot, Montana, a town on the Blackfoot Indian reservation, taking advantage of a regulatory exemption that allows the famous tribe to legislate autonomously with regard to academic degrees, including doctorates. Although such practices are not very orthodox, the truth is that Spanish universities are finally qualifying in some for the Golden Scholar awards. The prestigious Universidad Papa Luna, the Aragonese branch of Will Smith College of Bel-Air, has already won the Golden Scholar award for “Best Campus Fest,” and the aforesaid Murcian university on the Blackfoot reservation has been controversially awarded the “Cultural Diversity” Golden Scholar prize.

In any case, these policies of the Science, Truth, and Culture Ministry are not very different from those of the Ministry of Soft Culture, Radio, and Television, which has ruled that subsidies would be given only to Spanish films released in centrally located theaters in at least thirty US capitals. Even though the ministry had to pay for practically all the tickets in cities like Des Moines, Iowa, and Concord, New Hampshire, since there were no paying customers, it has meant a radical change for Spanish cinema. Whereas before it longed to resurrect the tradition of the 3 Bs—Buñuel, Berlanga, and Bardem—it is now comparable to many American B-list productions. Spanish films are already competing in the Venice Film Festival and for the César awards, and it seems they will soon be competing for the Goyas as well.

While there is general agreement that American blockbusters dominate the cinema scene and that American scholarly journals set the norm for science, the Golden Scholar awards have not been without controversy. The launch of Google’s WikiUniversity and its competitors—Amazon’s Free College, Apple’s Universify, and Uniflix (part of the Netflix universe)—has disrupted the internal equilibrium of Academia and the power balance that had previously been well distributed among American educational institutions.

The average American university system does not question the millions of university students who graduate from the internet platforms each year, nor does it dispute the extremely liberal system that allows so many careers to be pursued through the tens of thousands of nano-courses available. It is now even acceptable for students to give their degrees whatever name they want to. What is being debated is whether universities that do fall under no OECD legislation, but rather have their own law, can compete for the Golden Scholar awards, no matter how widely recognized they are in the market.

Of course, as of March 2023, the Golden Scholar awards do not “yet” exist, nor do Uniflix nor Universify, but they won’t be long in appearing! My apologies for elaborating this fable, but that’s how reality seems to be these days, thanks to the editorial power and the epistemological imperialism that the Anglo-Saxon West exercises these days over the entire planet in all spheres of knowledge, including the hard sciences. Science has lost its freedom, and so it is less truly science because science and freedom must be inseparable. Today science has become much more conservative than it was fifty years ago; the epistemological pluralism of the various disciplines is being subjected to a totalitarian censorship. When the world loses its intrinsic sense of worth, it turns to power to make itself appear worthy. Such posturing, rather than making a university better, only makes it more subservient to the powerful.

[Image by robtowne0 on Pixabay]

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PhD in Sociology, professor at Comillas Pontifical University - where he directs the University Institute of the Family - and Research Professor at Boston College. He founded and was the first president of the Global Social Sciences Network of IFCU. He is president of the RAIS Foundation, trustee of the BoscoSocial Foundation and trustee of the FOESSA Foundation, of whose reports he is one of the coordinators. He is a member of CLC and is a member of its World Executive Council.
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