Chained to a sinking ship.

24 02 2011

Somebody on Twitter declared this national solidarity with Wisconsin government workers day. As an ex-Cheesehead, I not only had my red and white handy – I’m wearing my Bucky Badger t-shirt. Despite my concerns, I’m feel strangely optimistic about the fight going on in Madison. Governor Walker is completely tone death. As many other people have already pointed out elsewhere, he’s the best union organizer the labor movement has seen in years.

Suppose the worse happens and the Koch Brothers get the bill through. I just read on H-Labor that the Madison area AFL-CIO has started planning for a general strike. That’ll certainly be interesting. More importantly, if that happens Walker will get recalled in January as soon as it’s legal. Madison is the kind of place where people take the idea of voting for the Socialist Labor Party seriously. That is an idea born out privilege, and now that the effect of doing that (or more inexcusably, sitting out the election because Obama hasn’t brought about the millennium yet) is painfully obvious, I don’t think the people of Wisconsin will ever let that happen again. Russ Feingold for Governor, anyone?

What worries me the most though is not Wisconsin, but Nevada. This article, for instance, is much more depressing than its premise suggests:

Professor Michael Young began to think last year that he should look for a job outside of Nevada.

It was not the craziest thought; the recession was in full swing and legislators were slashing the higher education budget.

Young was a departmental director at the Desert Research Institute. Now he’s an associate director at the University of Texas, Austin.

During the recession, Nevada has had a difficult time keeping research professors like Young.

The best students already seem to be leaving for out-of-state colleges. The same thing seems to be happening with faculty.

Good for Michael Young, but he’s a scientist. What’s happening to all the humanities professors in Nevada who work at state schools? You know, the ones who can’t get million dollar grants and who aren’t paid well enough to take the huge loss they’d have to take to sell their underwater houses in this market. And where are all those humanities professors going to go, when the job market is saturated with new Ph.D.s and state representatives everywhere are talking like this?:

“You’re really good at coming and asking for money,” said Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, to Dan Klaich, NSHE chancellor, at a higher education hearing this week. “But what we need now is help and places where we can make reform. Drastic reform.”

Reform, of course, is code for sinking the ship to which most faculty are chained.

I actually feel lucky compared to these other academics. There are obviously brutal cuts coming our way in Colorado, but state aid has been down so far for so long that a huge percentage cut of very little makes a much smaller difference than it does in places like Wisconsin or Nevada. We are all headed towards public universities being tuition driven, which means they will essentially be privatized. We’ve been testing that model in Colorado since the 1990s here, and it seems as if that ship can float.

The problem with this model, however, should be obvious: the ability to keep your doors open is not the best way to offer quality higher education. Neither is a corporate university where the only departments that matter are the ones that get patents. [Apparently, this is the way that Nevada wants to head.] Higher education is an investment by society for society that may not pay off immediately and may not pay off in dollars and cents, but it does pay off in the long run.

And if our Tea Party overlords don’t believe me, there is always another way to go



One response

24 02 2011

Spoken like a true member of those who teach a subject with few, if any, tangible benefits to our society. 😉

But you summed it up nicely. It’s an investment, but one with a long wait for any pay off.

Do you personally invest in the future when you can barely meet this month’s bills? If not, why expect society to do so?

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