Posts Tagged ‘academy’

-1x-1 -1x-1-1

. . .and students go on food stamps.

According to a new report by Moody Investor’s Service (cost: $550), the richest American universities are getting even richer.*

The coffers of the nation’s 40 wealthiest universities, including Harvard University, Stanford University and the University of Michigan, are filling at a faster rate than those of other schools, thanks to particularly strong investment performances and generous donors, according to a report to be published Thursday by Moody’s Investors Service.

“It’s really a tale of two college towns, if you will, or cities,” said Karen Kedem, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s. “Looking ahead, the expectation is that this [gap] will only widen.”

The 10 richest institutions held nearly one-third of total cash and investments at four-year schools in fiscal 2014, while the top 40 accounted for two-thirds. Wealth was concentrated among elite schools at similar rates before the financial crisis, but the gap shrunk as top schools lost big on more-volatile investments in 2008 and 2009.

They have more than recovered since then. Schools on Moody’s top-40 list saw assets grow by 50% between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2014, significantly outperforming other schools with strong credit ratings but smaller asset bases.

Meanwhile, with tuition skyrocketing and wages remaining stagnant, more and more students are forced to rely on food stamps.

the price of tuition has risen 1,120% between 1980 and 2010. Tuition at four-year public colleges has gone up 25% since 2007. Many students are forced to choose between low-wage jobs to help pay for tuition and unpaid internships for credit to build experience in their chosen field.

Colleges, aware of the financial troubles their students face, have begun opening food banks on their campuses. In Massachusetts, 12 of the state’s 29 public college campuses operate pantries, according to the Boston Globe, and about 200 colleges nationwide now operate pantries, reports the Wall Street Journal.

It’s no surprise then that on Wednesday, Fight for $15 campaign organizers expected students from 170 campuses to join in what was the largest US protest by low-wage workers.

“It’s important for students to be involved because even if we aren’t working for McDonald’s or Walmart, we are still on McDonald’s or Walmart type of wages,” Robert Ascherman, a student activist from NYU, told the Guardian on Wednesday. He says some students have to choose between buying food or buying textbooks.

From 2001 to 2010, the percentage of US students on food stamps has more than doubled to 12.6%, up from 5.4%, according to a 2013 analysis by Philip Trostel, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine.

*Here are the lists of the ten wealthiest private and public universities in the United States:

universities universities-public

Disclaimer: I relied on food stamps in graduate school, until the Reagan administration cut back the program. I now work for one of the 10 richest private universities in the country.

David Simonds cartoon showing oil firms preparing for mergers

Special mention

162566_600 jeffstahlercartoon-sunshinestatenews_8

bloguob-further-notice

There is no doubt, for those of us who work in and around institutions of higher education, that the university is dying.

Terry Eagleton has been making that argument for a long time. Now, he’s making it in the Chronicle of Higher Education [ht: ja], with his characteristic incisiveness and wit.

Eagleton’s argument is about the death of the British university but much of his analysis holds for the United States as well.

Universities, which in Britain have an 800-year history, have traditionally been derided as ivory towers, and there was always some truth in the accusation. Yet the distance they established between themselves and society at large could prove enabling as well as disabling, allowing them to reflect on the values, goals, and interests of a social order too frenetically bound up in its own short-term practical pursuits to be capable of much self-criticism. Across the globe, that critical distance is now being diminished almost to nothing, as the institutions that produced Erasmus and John Milton, Einstein and Monty Python, capitulate to the hard-faced priorities of global capitalism.

Much of this will be familiar to an American readership. Stanford and MIT, after all, provided the very models of the entrepreneurial university. What has emerged in Britain, however, is what one might call Americanization without the affluence — the affluence, at least, of the American private educational sector.

But Eagleton, I think, focuses a bit too much on the decline of the humanities, as if English and art departments were the only source of critical thinking. Better, it seems to me, is to identify and analyze the crisis of critical thinking across the length and breadth of the university—in economics as well as English, anthropology alongside art. Critical thinking in all the disciplines is disappearing as “Philistine administrators plaster the campus with mindless logos and issue their edicts in barbarous, semiliterate prose.”

The death of critical thinking in and across all its disciplinary forms is the real death of the university.

Print

Special mention

10398026_815970565149823_7666504074406913666_n 162193_600

11-04-11-75

One of the themes of the conference this past weekend was a university mired in a crisis that has, at least in part, been created by the top-down management of boards of governors and academic administrators. So, there was a great deal of discussion of “unsettling the university” by forming unions and instituting more faculty governance.

However, otherwise dedicated and creative scholars had some difficulty imagining another alternative: the self-governing university. A university without bosses or, if you prefer, a university in which the workers are their own bosses.

As it turns out, that’s the topic of an essay by Shaila Dawan that was published while I was at the conference. She explains that, in the face of massive inequality (as analyzed by, among others, Thomas Piketty),

The oft-proposed remedy for this state of affairs is redistribution — namely, taxing the rich to benefit the poor. Piketty, in fact, proposes a global tax, one that can’t be avoided by private jet. Others want to raise the minimum wage. In contrast to those Band-Aids, worker co-ops require no politically unpalatable dictates. And by placing workers’ needs ahead of profits, they address the root cause of economic disparity. “If you don’t want inequality,” says Richard Wolff, the author of “Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism,” “don’t distribute income unequally in the first place.”

Exactly. The same, of course, might be true in universities. Perhaps even more so, because our colleges and universities both include profound inequalities (e.g., among campuses, academic units, and individual faculty members and staff) and reflect the growing inequalities in the wider society (e.g., in terms of unequal access to different kinds of higher education).

Creating colleges and universities that are owned and run by their workers (both faculty and staff, mind you) can—just like the bakeries and other enterprises mentioned by Dawan—change the way education is produced and, particularly important, the way the surplus is appropriated and distributed. In both private and public universities, the faculty and staff produce a surplus that is appropriated not by themselves, as a group, but by their “bosses,” the small number of individuals who sit on boards of trustees or regents (who, in turn, hire the growing number of administrators who run the institutions on a daily basis).

What if, instead, the university workers made up their own board (or, in larger institutions, elected representatives to a board) and hired the university administrators? Such a board would directly involve the workers in appropriating and distributing the surplus they produce and mean that they—not a board filled with representatives of large business and political cronies from outside the university—would decide on the general parameters of how the university functions. The worker-board would then hire administrators to carry out those decisions on a daily basis.

I understand, there are no guarantees. But it’s certainly likely the worker-owned university (with new roles for both students, who have to work with professors to get a good education, and members of the larger community, who want their children to get a good education) would both include and create much less inequality than is the case right now. And, at the same time, they would work with others to improve the quality of higher education.

Now, that would be real unsettling of the university. And the people who work in our institutions of higher education know they don’t need bosses to accomplish that.

ykdkqhstdm1ptubyuct2

I’ve made the case before that student-athletes are performing unpaid labor. That is, U.S. colleges and universities produce and sell athletic performances—especially, but not only, football and basketball games—that are produced by student-athletes who are not paid anything for their labor.

screen_shot_20140407_at_9.34.07_am.png.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge.34.07_am

source

The question then is, who’s benefiting from that unpaid labor? It’s certainly not the professors who teach at those schools (nor, for that matter, the staff who keep the academic programs and infrastructure running). Faculty members are not making anywhere near what the athletic coaches do, and their salary increases have lagged far behind the amount of money being paid to coaches in recent years.

table1

source

And much more money is being spent on athletic programs—although clearly not in the form of pay to the players—than on academic programs.

Figure2

source

So, where are all those revenues from the athletic program going? As it turns out, the single biggest outlay—more than a third—is for coaches’ salaries.

Apparently, according to a recent article on the Huffington Post [ht: ja], that’s the reason so many coaches are opposed to paying college athletes for their labor.

“Schools quite often move around or spend money to basically get rid of excess revenue — what would be called profit in a profit-making corporation,” said Michael Leeds, a professor of economics at Temple University. “‘[That’s why] you have several coaches [in the NCAA] getting paid NFL money, despite working for an enterprise that really does not match what the New England Patriots and the New York Giants take in.”

That would explain why some universities end up with state-of-the-art sports facilities. Or why Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski makes nearly $10 million per year, much more than the typical NBA coach. Or why in so many states, the best-paid public employee is a basketball or football coach. . .

“The coaches very likely are very upset over [the prospect of] players being paid because, for one thing, that means a pay cut for them,” Leeds said.

55090d62806e9.image-1

This, according to Kevin Carey, is what a university looks like:

Mr. Trachtenberg understood the centrality of the university as a physical place. New structures were a visceral sign of progress. They told visitors, donors and civic leaders that the institution was, like beams and scaffolding rising from the earth, ascending.