Is Your University Doing This?

I was initially going to add this brief post as a comment on Ulf Kirchdorfer’s new post “Papa John’s Pizza Plot: Heimlich Maneuver Needed for Schools, Parents, and Students,” but then I realized that I had more to say than would be appropriate for a “comment.”

Ulf’s post is insightful and wryly humorous, and you really ought to read it–and not just this concise summary, which doesn’t do it justice. He discusses the corporatization of education-related fund-raising. Our system of public education becoming increasingly corporatized and, worse, blatantly and unapologetically so, even where the public schools are not being replaced by or undercut by corporate-operated charter schools.

Along these same lines, at my university, there is apparently a plan afoot to allow students to print for free because an advertisement for a corporate sponsor will appear along one of the margins of each printed page. At this stage, it would be fair to describe this as a rumor, but my experience has been that these sorts of rumors are almost never false and almost always just a hint of what will actually occur. For these sorts of initiatives almost never occur in isolation. They move from one institution to another, repeatedly proving that bad ideas are as difficult to contain as virulent illnesses.

With that in mind, I would truly like to know if this has been occurring elsewhere and with what permutations?

In the meantime, let me explain the context in which this latest innovative idea has surfaced.

At my university, a consolidation of printing and copying services is underway and creating considerable uneasiness that is gradually escalating to the level of a full-blown controversy. Printers in individual faculty offices will no longer be supported by the university; so the faculty member will be responsible for all of the cost of the supplies and maintenance necessary to keep a printer in her or her own office printing. As the university-supported alternative, faculty will now need to go to a single location in each department to do their printing and copying.

To be honest, these changes have already occurred in several colleges–namely, in Liberal Arts and at our regional campus, the places where one could readily predict that such “efficiencies” would be implemented first. And, to be fair, the administration has anticipated that some precautions might need to be taken to avoid issues related confidentiality. So there is a code that one can use that will keep a confidential document from printing until the sender is standing in front of the copier/printer and activates the printing. And, some exceptions are being made for physically-limited faculty members and faculty with research grants, who will be allowed to keep their individual printers in their office and labs.

But what rankles is that an across-the board exception is being made for any administrator with the rank of dean or higher. At our university, this is a much more sizable number of people than one might expect, and all of them have administrative assistants–in some cases, whole staffs–who do most of their clerical work, including printing and copying.

So, although in the general scheme of things, this is a somewhat small issue, it does reflect the corporatization of our institutions in providing still further evidence of the growing inequality in the institutional revenues and resources being allocated to administrators and faculty. What is a necessity for administrators becomes an extravagance when it is extended to faculty.

Add in the corporate sponsorship of student printing, and it starts to make one wonder what is coming next. Perhaps everyone who now wears shirts and jackets in the university’s colors and with the university logo on them, will soon have to become a walking advertisement for some corporation as well. One of our business classrooms has a stock ticker running constantly around the top of the four walls. Perhaps advertisements that run continually across the top of the whiteboards in all of our classrooms will be the next thing. And I am sure that I cannot even imagine more than a fraction of what some geniuses are almost certainly already planning to do with our online courses.

When former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel was named president of Youngstown State University, it seemed an ass-backwards choice. But the corporate sponsorship that has long been omnipresent in college athletics now seems to be extending to our institutions as a whole. So perhaps the Tressel appointment was simply ahead of its time. But if you think that Gordon Gee has been grossly overpaid as Ohio State’s president, imagine what will happen to presidential salaries when the likes of Mike Krzyzewski and Nick Saban  start being considered for the presidencies of our major universities.

One finally has to wonder whether it wouldn’t be a hell of a lot simpler all around just to restore state subsidies to public colleges and universities to a more sustainable level. Because all of this relentless exploitation of public institutions for corporate profit isn’t entrepreneurship. Where it is most direct, it is nothing but another form of corporate welfare. And where it is more indirect, it is nothing but a corporate version of what the mob calls the “skim.”


2 thoughts on “Is Your University Doing This?

  1. When I read the Kirchdorfer’s blog post, one quote stood out: “Make sure your school gets a piece of the pie”. When I saw your title and the preamble, I assumed it would be about MOOCs.

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