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We Are All Californians Now. Tenured Radical Hits Home Run

From the website of a Professor of History and American Studies at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT.

For Americans, education is every man or woman for his or herself. Americans say they value education, but they don't seem to value the thought, planning or expenditures necessary to sustain and fight for the institutions that make an educated society possible. Nor, and I would say the elitism of many academics is partly to blame here, do they care much about extending educational opportunities in the most inclusive way possible.

Hence, it no longer common sense that public universities actually be accessible to the public, nor is there much conversation about what private institutions have at stake in returning to some semblance of accessibility and service to a larger public good. This moment, when our way of life at elite institutions has finally become unsustainable, is a critical time to rethink that and we need to look to what is going on in public colleges and universities to see where common interests lie and common action might be taken.

As culprits, Butler specifically cites a bloated administration, huge budgets for intercollegiate athletics, and, most importantly, a dysfunctional state government in Sacramento.

[sound familiar]

Defunding of higher education -- based on conservative ideologies designed to starve the state and re-shape public institutions on a free market model -- resulted in steadily raised tuition and the expectation that students and their families would bear the burden of those tuition increases by taking out loans.

I would like to hear that happy "pop" all over the country, as we pull our heads out of where they have been and realize that this isn't just about the library cuts, it isn't just about the salaries, it isn't just about the standards movement and the demise of anything that might look like progressive education, it isn't about the job market. It's about the whole system and how it works. Here, from my point of view, are four basic issues:

The fate of each form of education is inextricably linked to the fate of its apparent opposite: public schools are linked to private schools, religious schools to secular ones; four-years to community colleges; elite to non-elite.

Why are we having such trouble staunching the bleeding in the current economic crisis? In part it is because we have hit the limits of what privatization of education, and funding institutions on the backs of private debt rather than public funding, can accomplish.

Faculty and administrations everywhere are currently engaged in a contest as to which stone they are going to try to squeeze blood from next,
and that isn't how this problem will be fixed. We need a fresh infusion of cash that takes us back to pre-1980 levels, adjusted for inflation.

Faculty and administrators need to stop arguing with each other and begin fighting the state for the quality education Americans deserve.

If there is any lesson to the current crisis it is this: funding higher Ed on the backs of students and through private endowments is unstable and unsupportable over the long term.

In other words, when we fight for ourselves we need to do so in ways that are in solidarity with the interests of our students.

College and university presidents need to make some kind of collective statement as to what constitutes reasonable expenditures, and the first thing to go should be expenditures aimed at marketing the university.

Educational institutions should stand or fall on the quality of the education they offer, period: not the beauty of their dorms, not the national standing of their athletic teams or the latest redesign of their Helly Hanson college gear.

Every time a new student center or dormitory is built, an institution automatically increases its maintenance budget. Often this budget is met by forcing students to live and eat on campus, when historically students have devoted what dollars they had to tuition and books by living collectively off campus.

We need to take an honest look at what gives us prestige and why, and stop devoting dollars to glitzy budget items that make schools into pop cultural phenomena. If alumni don't understand why a new football stadium has nothing to do with education, we need to stop being such snobs and take it upon ourselves to explain to them why that is.

Colleges and universities must stop competing with each other and begin coordinating themselves by region, and in some cases, nationally.

Most important, and this will be the hardest thing for some of us to give up, we must all give up the notion that the prestige attached to some of us entitles us to greater consideration. This is perhaps the greatest lesson of the protests in the California system which, a system that for almost a century has dedicated itself to lifting up every citizen who was willing to study hard and dedicate him or herself to learning.

That is the mission, my friends: that is what we are here for. When we organize only on behalf of our own salary, benefits and research accounts, institution by lonely institution, we are missing the big picture. But if we get the big picture, and are willing to work across the class and interest lines that currently divide us, the rest will come.

We are all Californians now.

Right on sister. And I have only given excerpts. This whole post should be required reading for the Morrill Hall crew.

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