Posts Tagged ‘academy’

Fast Food Workers Protest For Increased Wages Ahead Of McDonald's Annual Shareholder Meeting

One week ago, the McDonald’s Corporation reported a 35-percent increase in profits (from $811.5 million in the period last year to $1.1 billion) in the quarter that ended 31 March. A few days later, former McDonald’s President and CEO Ed Rensi published an opinion piece in Forbes to explain why raising the minimum wage would be a huge mistake.

Let’s do the math: A typical franchisee sells about $2.6 million worth of burgers, fries, shakes and Happy Meals each year, leaving them with $156,000 in profit. If that franchisee has 15 part-time employees on staff earning minimum wage, a $15 hourly pay requirement eats up three-quarters of their profitability. (In reality, the costs will be much higher, as the company will have to fund raises further up the pay scale.) For some locations, a $15 minimum wage wipes out their entire profit.

Recouping those costs isn’t as simple as raising prices. If it were easy to add big price increases to a meal, it would have already been done without a wage hike to trigger it. In the real world, our industry customers are notoriously sensitive to price increases. (If you’re a McDonald’s regular, there’s a reason you gravitate towards an extra-value meal or the dollar menu.) Instead, franchisees can absorb the cost with a change that customers don’t mind: The substitution of a self-service computer kiosk for a a full-service employee.

What Rensi doesn’t mention is that U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing McDonald’s profits.

As Ken Jacobs reports,

Workers like Terrence Wise, a 35-year-old father who works part-time at McDonald’s and Burger King in Kansas City, Mo., and his fiancée Myosha Johnson, a home care worker, are among millions of families in the U.S. who work an average of 38 hours per week but still rely on public assistance. Wise is paid $8.50 an hour at his McDonald’s job and $9 an hour at Burger King. Johnson is paid just above $10 an hour, even after a decade in her field. Wise and Johnson together rely on $240 a month in food stamps to feed their three kids, a cost borne by taxpayers.

low-wage

In fact, according to a study by Jacobs, Ian Perry, and Jenifer MacGillvary (pdf) for the UC Berkeley Labor Center, 52 percent of fast-food workers make so little that they’re are on some form of public assistance.*

That’s the social cost of McDonald’s (and other fast-food corporations’) private profits.

 

*Note also in the chart above the following observation about nominally non-profit higher education in the United States: “high reliance on public assistance programs among workers isn’t found only in service occupations. Fully one-quarter of part-time college faculty and their families are enrolled in at least one of the public assistance programs analyzed in this report.”

Georgetown

In Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s UniversitiesCraig Steven Wilder laid bare the uncomfortable truths about race, slavery, and the American academy. What he showed is that the founding of many of America’s revered colleges and universities―from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton to Rutgers, Williams College, and the University of North Carolina―came soaked in the sweat, tears, and sometimes the blood of people of color.

Now, we now that the list also includes Georgetown University.

At Georgetown, slavery and scholarship were inextricably linked. The college relied on Jesuit plantations in Maryland to help finance its operations, university officials say. (Slaves were often donated by prosperous parishioners.) And the 1838 sale — worth about $3.3 million in today’s dollars — was organized by two of Georgetown’s early presidents, both Jesuit priests.

Some of that money helped to pay off the debts of the struggling college.

“The university itself owes its existence to this history,” said Adam Rothman, a historian at Georgetown and a member of a university working group that is studying ways for the institution to acknowledge and try to make amends for its tangled roots in slavery. . .

What has emerged from their research, and that of other scholars, is a glimpse of an insular world dominated by priests who required their slaves to attend Mass for the sake of their salvation, but also whipped and sold some of them. The records describe runaways, harsh plantation conditions and the anguish voiced by some Jesuits over their participation in a system of forced servitude.

“A microcosm of the whole history of American slavery,” Dr. Rothman said.

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That’s right. According to the Wall Street Journal, only 60 percent of Americans with federal student loans are current on their loans. The rest, about 22 million people, are in default, delinquent on their payments, or have received permission to postpone current payments.

Even many borrowers who are current on their loans are paying very little. More than a third of borrowers on an income-based repayment plan had monthly payments of zero because their incomes were so low, according to a Navient survey last year.

The Education Department, through private debt-collection agencies, garnished $176 million in Americans’ wages in the final three months of last year for student debt, federal data show.

Is this any way to fund higher education?

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The “drown the bunnies” scandal at Mount St. Mary’s University has opened a debate about the growing role of college and university presidents who come from outside the academy, especially the business world.*

The problem is, only one participant in the debate, Shelly Weiss Storbeck, even raised the issue of governance. As I see it, the challenge facing colleges and universities is not where their presidents come from but how the institution itself is organized and governed. Without faculty governance—or, in Storbeck’s phrasing, “shared governance”—trustees will hire presidents who govern by decree in order to create and reinforce the corporate university. Then, students will be treated as customers, as passive recipients of an increasingly costly (and debt-accumulating) education, and the members of the faculty will be treated as employees, who in a pact with the devil will be paid to teach and conduct research and stay out of the key decisions facing the institution.

A good example of the real problem is James Ramsey, president of the University of Louisville. Ramsey is an economist, not a business leader, who taught at five different universities before being hired as president in 2002. But he has presided over an escalating number of scandals that, while they’re not as dramatic as putting a Glock to the heads of underperforming students, run from hiring and protecting top administrators who embezzled or otherwise misused federal funds through refusing to submit conflict-of-interest forms and yet offering university contracts to friends to sponsoring a basketball program that supplied dancers and prostitutes to basketball players and recruits (not to mention throwing a Mexican-themed Halloween party, replete with stereotypical sombreros and mustaches).

Both Mountain St. Mary’s Simon Newman and Ramsey, like many other college and university presidents, became embroiled in such scandals not because they came from outside the academy, but because faculty governance in the new corporate university has been undermined to the point where it barely exists. Increasingly, trustees and academic administrators make the key decisions and everyone else, including the faculty, is supposed to follow along and just do their jobs as corporate employees.

The problem, in other words, is the corporate model. We know it’s an undemocratic way of organizing enterprises in any sector of the economy. And it’s certainly an undemocratic way of governing the academy, where the main goals are critical thinking and creating an environment in which students and faculty can work together to produce a high-quality education.

 

*According to a 2012 report from the American Council on Education, “the share of presidents whose immediate prior position was outside higher education has increased since 2006, from 13 percent to 20 percent. Much of this growth occurred in the private sector, both nonprofit and for-profit.”

humanities

I often tell students that, if they don’t change their major five times before they settle on one, they’re not really taking advantage of what college has to offer. They need to try out different ideas and areas and see where it takes them. It’s my attempt to push back against pressure from many sources for students to choose a major quickly and stick with it, and to focus only on how much they’ll earn after graduating based on what they study.

As it turns out, performance-based funding [ht: mfa] is going to ramp up that pressure and shut down alternatives for many college students, especially in the humanities.

When the Kentucky governor, Matt Bevin, suggested last month that students majoring in French literature should not receive state funding for their college education, he joined a growing number of elected officials who want to nudge students away from the humanities and toward more job-friendly subjects like electrical engineering.

Frustrated by soaring tuition costs, crushing student loan debt and a lack of skilled workers, particularly in science and technology, more and more states have adopted the idea of rewarding public colleges and universities for churning out students educated in fields seen as important to the economy.

Most of the push toward performance-based funding in public education is coming from Republican governors and state legislatures. But it’s also coming from inside the academy itself. One example is Anthony Carnevale, a Georgetown University professor who apparently runs the Center on Education and the Workforce. Here’s his gem of an idea:

“You can’t be a lifelong learner if you’re not a lifelong earner.”

And, yes, that is an example of sarcasm.

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In the United States, we’ve heard a lot of crazy stuff about building walls, expelling populations, carpet-bombing countries, and so on in recent months.

But Amitai Etzioni’s suggestion [ht: ja] that Israel “flatten” Beirut with overwhelming use of extreme weapons, including fuel air explosives that incinerate everything in their path, along with George Washington University’s refusal to condemn Etzioni, surely takes the cake.

Endowed chair Amitai Etzioni published the article on Monday in the Israeli paper Haaretz, a supposedly liberal bastion, originally using the headline, “Should Israel Flatten Beirut to Destroy Hezbollah’s Missiles?”

In the latest version of the piece, the headline has been modified.

In the piece, the Israeli-American scholar Etzioni argues that “it is time” to seriously consider unleashing extreme weapons against Beirut with the power to incinerate and level everything within a wide range. Beirut’s greater metropolitan area is home to over one million people.

“Most of Hezbollah’s 100,000 missile arsenal are hidden in civilian areas,” Etzioni writes, echoing rhetoric from Israel’s brutal 2006 onslaught on Lebanon, in which it justified killing large numbers of civilians and dropping over a millioncluster bombs by dubiously claiming innocents were being used as human shields.

As for Etzioni’s university:

When asked whether the article violates academic standards of civility, GWU spokesperson Jason Shevrin told AlterNet, “The George Washington University is committed to academic freedom and encourages efforts to foster an environment welcoming to many different viewpoints. Dr. Etzioni is a faculty member who is expressing his personal views.”

Etzioni, who teaches in the department of international affairs and is the director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies, is no ordinary professor. At the private school, he has the highly competitive rank of University Professor,described as a status “reserved for a select few individuals who have attained the accomplishments and associated stature to be so recognized.” The position is funded through an endowment, according to GWU materials.

Etzioni did not immediately respond to a request for comment, submitted through his publicly available office contact.

But Steven Salaita, who was fired in August 2014 from a tenured position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for social media posts criticizing Israel’s military assault on Gaza that year, was quick to weigh in. The vague charge of “incivility” played a key role in Salaita’s wrongful termination, for which Salaita eventually sued the university and settled. However, he never got his job back and maintains he has suffered a major blow to his career.

“I can think of no better example of the profound moral inconsistency within academic spaces than this article by Amitai Etzioni, in which he advises Israel to ‘flatten Beirut,’” he said. “Will all of the pious academics so devoted to civility dare speak out? Will they express deep concern about the safety and comfort of Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians in Professor Etzioni’s courses? Will they wonder about his ability to be properly disinterested and balanced?”

 

Disclosure: one of my nieces is a graduate of George Washington University.

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The United States suffers from an obscene cult of CEOs. Whether we’re talking about “Neutron Jack” Welch (who was celebrated for raising GE’s market value while laying off tens of thousands of workers) or Bill Gates (who made Microsoft competitive by engaging in anticompetitive practices) or Lloyd Blankfein (head of the “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”)—they’re routinely feted as being ruthless, “transgressive” leaders who make change happen in the corporate world.

I suppose it comes as no surprise, then, that two business professors—Hamid Bouchikhi and John R. Kimberly [ht: kc]—would extend that celebration to CEOs in the academy, by studying the decision by Dean of Arts and Letters Mark Roche to divide the Department of Economics at the University of Notre Dame.*

Transgressive leaders are those who are expected by members to abide by sacred organizational norms but who deliberately violate them for the sake of what they believe to be the greater good of the organization. . .The model of transgressive leadership we propose emerged in the wake of field work at the University of Notre Dame, where a new Dean of the College of Arts and Letters forced a paradigmatic, organizational, and managerial reorientation of economics after a long period of repeated and failed attempts by others to redirect the department.

What’s bizarre about this study is that the authors make clear that Roche did, in fact, violate many of the “sacred organizational norms” of the academy—and then they go on to celebrate him as a transgressive leader who managed to create a new, exclusively neoclassical department of economics.

What did Roche do to get to the point of forcing a split within the department? According to the authors, he “committed a series of lower intensity transgressive acts,” including expressing his own view of the paradigmatic orientation of the department, producing and publicly sharing numbers about members’ research productivity, and violating “the sacred norm of academic self-governance and democratic decision making in a research university” by appointing an advisory board, vetoing hiring proposals, and recruiting a new outside chair against the formal opposition of the existing departmental faculty. Those, of course, were all in the way—once the department itself didn’t cave to his demands—of preparing for, in 2003, the splitting of the department into two separate and unequal departments.

The department voted (15-6) against the split. So did the College Council (by a tally of 25 to 14). And the decision was challenged by several prominent mainstream economists, including Robert Solow (in a letter to the president of the university):

You should know that I am a mainstream economist, in fact a mainstream mainstream economist. But I am not an uptight mainstream economist. Economics, like any discipline, ought to welcome unorthodox ideas, and deal with them intellectually as best it can. It does pretty well, in fact. To conduct a purge, as you are doing, sounds like a confession of incapacity. I grant that you are not shooting the Trotskyites in the back of the head, but merely sending them to Siberia, That is not much of an improvement.

And Deirdre McCloskey (in an article in the Eastern Economics Journal):

What’s the problem nowadays at Notre Dame? … The Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, one Mark Roche, together with his agent in Economics, Richard Jensen, and with the backing of the Provost, Nathan Hatch, and the apparent entrepreneurship of the Dean of the Graduate School, Jeffrey Kantor, has decided that Notre Dame’s Econ Dept is broke . . . and should become mainstream…The Department has resisted. It’s being punished with appointments imposed on it; its promotions have been turned back. It may be abolished entirely, its distinctive graduate program scrapped, and a new one started that will be drearily Samuelsonian.

But the dean, with the protection of the university administration, ultimately got what he wanted. And, according to the authors, Roche’s transgressions ultimately served the good of his college because he sought to appease the faculty (by opening new communications channels and rewarding faculty members whose work met his criteria), thus leading to a celebratory self-evaluation (in his own private notes):

When I stepped down there was a truly joyful reception, as much like a wedding reception as a retirement party. It may be self-deception, but my sense was that there was more gratitude for what had been accomplished than for my leaving office.

Ultimately, Bouchikhi and Kimberly celebrate the cult of CEOs—who “have a clear vision of what needs to change and accept the collateral human cost, for others and for themselves, if they perceive causing hardship to others as a requirement.” It is a model that is well established in the corporate world and is increasingly becoming the norm in the new corporate university.

 

*Disclaimer: as regular readers of this blog know, I was a member of the Department of Economics when, in 2003, Roche, with the support of the university administration, decided to divide the department into two (one of which, the Department of Economics and Policy Studies, of which I was also a member, was dissolved by Roche’s successor, in 2010). I didn’t know about this research when it was being conducted but I am cited numerous times in the paper.