Whose Schools?! Our Schools

BY TIFFANY KRAFT

Are you kidding me? University board chairs and college officials justify fat salaries while faculty and students are starving? This is not only unconscionable business practice, it’s intentional economic injustice that’s killing the American dream. Enough is enough: fight exploitation.

Here’s a holiday story that is all too familiar for faculty and students: poverty. While some at the top are cozy, nestled with their loved ones by the fire, sipping champagne and exchanging gifts, the majority of us are on pins and needles, stretching the last dollar on discount Top Ramen, sleepless at night wondering what to pawn to cover the water bill. That isn’t right, but it is reality.

Adjunct faculty in particular experience economic hardship over the holidays, as they are out of work for the latter half of December and face a long January without a paycheck until the first winter term payroll is issued at the close of the month. It’s neither joyous nor merry for the working poor through the holidays. Welcome to modern day academe, where your professors live in poverty and board chairs and college officials justify their wealth. It’s sickening.

Does the general public realize that a great number of its higher education faculty are a month away from living homeless? Do students know that some faculty indeed are teaching while homeless, seeking out food pantries in church basements, and stretching an already thin paycheck to make ends meet? Making ends meet means shuffling the bills and calculating which sub-minimum payment toward heat, rent, gas, et cetera will keep the lights on. It’s happening, and I have to wonder who really cares and why we’re not all outraged and fighting the system?

When administrators and board of trustees openly justify taking more skin off our backs, I get angry. Here’s what they say:

University board chairs and college officials defended how much they pay their leaders, arguing that industry pressures and the unique demands on their specific chief executives necessitated significant compensation. Several chairmen echoed the same point: High-level compensation reflected high-level performance.

Who are they fooling, and what does this line of reasoning say about the commitment to university values and the mission to educate for freedom and success? This is a slap in the face for faculty who are required to perform the core tasks of education and research. Faculty are sick of being gamed, and students are the benefactors of debt, to the tune of $1.4 trillion and growing. What type of leader justifies squeezing faculty and students for profit? A greedy leader whose race to the bottom McDonald’s business model paradigm is feed the rich and bleed the poor.

The reason education is great is because it is a public not a private good. Our public universities and community colleges should stop acting like the proprietary school sector, open for business while trading on ideas. Or as I say in a previous post: “The rich are getting richer and schools appear to be a front for what Malcolm Gladwell calls: ‘the core money management business.’” We’re witnessing high-level sophistry, alright; let’s reflect on that.

We’ve seen how for-profit schools deceive students and game the system, and to think that regulations that are in place to prevent fraud, deceptive marketing, and unreasonable student debt may be rolled back while some at the top make obscene financial gains threatens to diminish the quality and the state of American higher education. President-elect Trump’s two paragraph plan for education promises “relief from U.S. Department of Education regulations that inhibit innovation.” If innovation means settling a $25 million Trump University fraud case, American education faces moral bankruptcy. But, hey! It’s wide open for business and student “customers” are sucker punched into debt financing the American dream for a sip of that champagne.

Faculty and students need to exercise resilience and resistance against the corruption of our cherished public institutions, and that means fighting exploitative business practices that benefit the few at the expense of the many. It’s time to be courageous, not bullied and commodified. It’s time to fight exploitation. Are you in the fight? Get in formation.

2 thoughts on “Whose Schools?! Our Schools

  1. Tiffany — I’ve been at this for more than a decade. Your passion and intelligence, courage and resiliency remains an inspiration to everyone in the battle. But, as you know, I have retreated to a different territory inside present kingdoms of education and entertainment to raise economic and physical armies. I invite you to create and defend new models, very small, local, and international ways of protecting our heritage as professors, academics, artists, and citizens of this very odd century. This is for the students, for our children — not for the bosses or their bosses (the billionaires who pay the millionaires to watch over the six figure minions of the status quo that’s killing the rest of us). Our appeal to moral sensibility like our repeated offering of intelligent analysis and the hoped for (fought for) solidarity across mutually invested parties FAILED. I remain in a state of mourning, the kind that produces action and reveals new ways forward (“Forward, always” — Luke Cage). I look forward to sharing this piece with as many people as possible. But, right now the choices are violent direct action or nonviolent creation, regrouping, creative answers to hellacious problems. I don’t see a third way. –rcb

    • Thank you, Robert. I appreciate your vision and work. One thing that has made an impression on my life and activism is involvement in non-violent direct action with Don’t Shoot Portland. In particular, Teressa Raiford has shown me love, acceptance, leadership, and opportunities to lead in our community with various community art and education projects. She is my North Star, and she won’t cower to bosses or brutality in any form.

      Please inbox me with any ideas or resources you may have to share. I’d to hear more about your current projects, too.

      Love and solidarity –

      Tiffany

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