Universities: Requiescat in Pace

The "modern" university has completely transformed itself from a bastion of humanism and critical thinking to a corporate business model, where the riches reside in the top administrative positions and athletic programs. By contrast, faculty have become more and more irrelevant. Students are sold (hustled) that it's all about passing with good grades. Actually, learning something is all right as long as it doesn't interfere with business. Students are consumers and college presidents and administrations want that tuition to keep flowing. "Retention" is the term. This results in lowering of standards, so that students can actually pass courses and graduate without having learned anything.

So, now we have adjuncts and some of the regular faculty beginning to protest the exploitative labor practices. We hear a one-way conversation. What do the administrations reply back? Do they apologize? Do they agree reform is necessary? Do they even try to defend the necessity of these practices, that poverty compensation for adjuncts is bad but somehow is necessary because it serves some greater mysterious good? I haven't heard any responses.

Who among them loses sleep at night over this or cannot look themselves in the mirror? Or, leaves their position as an ethical protest?

Of course there are exceptions. Ruth McCambridge reported in Non-Profit Quarterly (2014) two instances of colleges presidents taking pay cuts to raise the wages of employees who made less than $10.25 per hour. What type of employees is not discussed. Sure, even the custodial staff working full-time deserve a living wage. But the institutional corruption of the adjunct system is not addressed.

Finally, the general public's understanding is misdirected, although we know that command of facts is no longer a pre-requisite for asserting a position. To the woeful, complaining adjuncts, we hear things like: "you shouldn't have got a Ph.D in American Literature" or, my personal favorite, "liberal arts courses are foo-foo." "You shoulda got an advanced degree in the STEM disciplines." When I calmly explain that, as far as teaching goes, the STEM adjuncts are paid the same--at least my school. Do something else? There have been stories of software engineers, maybe with advanced degrees, delivering pizza because their jobs have been outsourced for cheaper labor. See HB1 visas. The New York Times reported in June of this year that "about 250 Disney employees were told in late October that they would be laid off. Many of their jobs were transferred to immigrants on temporary visas for highly skilled technical workers, who were brought in by an outsourcing firm based in India. Over the next three months, some Disney employees were required to train their replacements to do the jobs they had lost."

In 2014, U.S. News and World Report (Hal Salzman) ran a piece called, " STEM Grads Are at a Loss."
"Those who claim there's a STEM skills shortage are ignoring the evidence." And apparently there is much to support this: "All credible research finds the same evidence about the STEM workforce: ample supply, stagnant wages and, by industry accounts, thousands of applicants for any advertised job. The real concern should be about the dim employment prospects for our best STEM graduates: The National Institutes of Health, for example, has developed a program to help new biomedical Ph.D.s find alternative careers in the face of "unattractive" job prospects in the field."

I sometimes quote Chris Hedges to the "foo-foo" naysayers: "We've bought into the idea that education is about training and "success", defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and to challenge. We should not forget that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers. A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death."
― Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

No one seems to answer back, maybe because they are so befuddled by Hedges as to literally be incapable of understanding what Hedges meant. "Nah, the purpose of college is to get a job." That's a chasm of understanding I fear cannot be bridged.