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Miami TshirtNote: This was originally published on Raging Chicken Press earlier today. An excerpt is included below. To read the full post, click the “Continue Reading” link at the end of the excerpt or go there NOW.

I did my PhD work at Miami University. No, not in Florida – Miami University in Oxford, OH. There was a t-shirt in the bookstore that always provided a snarky retort to those who made the assumption that I was writing my dissertation in Florida: “Miami was a university, before Florida was a state.” Nope, I was far from Florida – a bike ride away from the Indiana border and about a half an hour from Cincinnati.

As a Central New York native, I had never heard of Miami University. This was before Ben Rothlesburger would help put Miami on the national map for Division I football and just about the time Wally Szczerbiak would lead the Redhawks  to the Sweet Sixteen in the 1999 NCAA basketball tournament. I found out about Miami because two amazing mentors, Jim Zebroski and Nancy Mack, spent part of a spring break coming up with a list of PhD programs in composition and rhetoric that they thought I should apply to as I was nearing the end of my Masters degree at Syracuse. Miami had one of the top PhD programs in the country in composition and rhetoric and I still think my decision to go to Miami for my PhD was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Many of my fellow doctoral grad students have become leaders in the field – Scott Lyons, Malea Powell, Pegeen Reichert Powell, and Gwendolyn Pough just to name a few.

I loved my time at Miami. My education was stellar and the intellectual commitment of the people I studied with was unparalleled. That doesn’t mean that Miami was some kind of utopia. In 1998, for example, I was one of seven students arrested for protesting a series of racial hate-crimes on campus. I was the one grad student and the only white student arrested in the protest. On the way to jail, we heard police refer to us as the Miami 7. We took the name and used it to fight our arrest and draw further attention to long-standing, institutional racism at the university. We refused a plea bargain and demanded a jury trial. In the year leading up to our trial, the discussion about racism and racial intimidation became intensely complex and complicated, but that did not change our resolve. We fought and we won. We were acquitted of all charges (you can read Pegeen Reichert Powell’s critical reading of the context of the protests and the administration’s handling of the issue here).

Also, like many research universities, Miami relies heavily upon the labor of adjuncts and graduate teaching assistance to teach a significant percentage of their undergraduate, general education courses. Miami University also has two branch campuses in Hamiltion, OH and Middletown, OH – both more urban and working class campuses. Miami’s administrations had a long history of treating their branch campus faculty as second-class citizens in relation to the Oxford Main campus faculty.

Up until 1997, Miami’s mascot was the “Redskins.” Activists had long sought to change the name, which seemed especially important for a university that took its name from the Miami Indian Tribe, in a state that boasted the sambo-esque  “Chief Wahoo” plastered all over Cleveland’s baseball legacy. It was not until leaders of the Miami Tribe made direct appeals to the university to change the name, that Miami adopted the Redhawks as its new mascot.

Miami’s main campus was almost entirely white, suburban, and middle to upper middle class. It has the reputation as a “public ivy” which it cultivates aggressively. In 1996, as I was in the middle of my PhD coursework, the university’s administration through the leadership of the new university president, James Garland, began a process of “transformation” that many of us found deeply troubling. The new plan was to put Miami at the forefront of the corporatization of higher education. Literally. Miami administrators began to refer to Miami as a “corporate university,” a term they still use in their own webpages to describe the period between 1996 and 2009 in the university’s history. Under President Garland’s leadership, Miami went on a building binge, seeking to turn its already manicured lawns into the country-club university in southwest Ohio.

Given Garland’s overt commitment to corporatizing Miami and building lots of beautiful buildings and luxury dorms, it was head-turning to read ProPublica’s interview with Garland published on Monday. The article, “On ‘Country Club’ Campuses: A Public University Ex-President Shares His Second Thoughts,”  is an indictment of the trend in higher education to spend millions of dollars on beautifying the campus in order to attract wealthy students to universities.

Garland’s words could not come at a more opportune time as PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) university presidents are moving forward with harsh austerity plans, slashing faculty and gutting academic programs. As I reported last month in “Wall Street on the Susquehanna,” PASSHE university presidents, administrators, and Board of Governors are all crying “budget crisis” and insist that the crisis stems from 1) the 2008 economic crisis; 2) the long-term decline in state appropriations coupled with Governor Corbett’s deep cuts in PASSHE in 2010; 3) declining enrollment; and, 4) “increasing costs” in faculty and staff salaries. The sites of PASSHE’s austerity policies have been aimed squarely at faculty and staff. What PASSHE refuses to even acknowledge is that one of the most significant contributors to the current “crisis” has been a decade long, unfunded spending spree on new buildings and “beautification” of campuses. PASSHE university presidents have bonded-out our futures so they can put their names on buildings.

James Garland seems to now be questioning the choices he made to lead the country club trend while president at Miami. As Garland put it,

As I think back, I didn’t realize it at the time, but in hindsight I worry about whether we did the right thing. As president, you to try to make campus attractive. You do things primarily to maintain financial stability.

I just think there’s a movement these days among universities that are able to do this, to turn themselves into country clubs. But inevitably that comes at expense of academic rigor and the quality of the academic program.

In my tenure we certainly contributed to this trend. And there’s a price you pay for that. For every dollar you put into building a student sports facility –- workout rooms and exercise rooms and squash courts and things of that sort — every dollar you put into that is a dollar you’re not spending on improving classrooms or paying your professors a high enough wage that you can recruit from higher up in job pool.

CONTINUE READING on Raging Chicken Press

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Here’s another small thing you can to do to join in and support efforts to resist the kind of war on collective bargaining and unions we have seen in Wisconsin and Ohio and that is now rearing its head in Pennsylvania.  Thanks to Ted Hickman for passing this along (I’ve slightly edited what he sent me):

Brothers Charles and David Koch, with a combined worth around $35 billion dollars, are waging a war against organized labor and middle-class Americans.

The Koch brothers are the majority owners in Koch Industries, America’ssecond-largest private company with revenues of $100 billion in 2009, and 80,000employees in 60 countries.

Koch Industries main source of revenue is from the manufacturing, refining,and distribution of petroleum. They are also major financiers of the Tea Party and right-wing fringe movements that seek to rollback all public services and turng them over to private corporations.

Do not allow your money to be used to sponsor attacks on the public sphere, organized labor, and the American middle-class.

Don’t buy these products! Products by Koch  Industry/Georgia-Pacific Products:

  • Angel Soft toilet paper
  • Brawny paper towels
  • Dixie plates, bowls, napkins and cups
  • Mardi Gras napkins and towels
  • Quilted Northern toilet paper
  • Soft ‘n Gentle toilet paper
  • Sparkle napkins
  • Vanity fair napkins
  • Zee napkins

Pass it on !!!

 

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Last Wednesday, March 9th, the Daily Kos published a graphic that makes it crystal clear what is going on nationally with the “budget crisis.”  As I’ve argued may times before, what we are seeing in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Idaho, Michigan, and now right here in PA is nothing short of what Naomi Klein has termed, The Shock Doctrine. You also may recall reading noble prize award winning economist, Paul Krugman pick up on Klein’s argument in his Feb. 24th column in the New York Times.  The graphic below shows the shock doctrine in process — a massive redistribution of public resources to private corporations.  If this whets your appetite for more, check out the fantastic blog, Welcome to the Matrix, Charlie Brown.  Here’s the Daily Kos introduction to the graphic:

This will be a very short diary.  I just wanted to get this chart out there.  I originally received it as a post by the Facebook group “The Christian Left.”  This chart puts the class war in simple, visual terms.  On the left you have the “shared sacrifices” and “painful cuts” that the Republicans claim we must make to get our fiscal house in order.  On the right, you can plainly see WHY these cuts are “necessary.”  The reason?  Because we already gave away all that money to America’s wealthiest individuals and corporations.

This just mirrors what we’re seeing in Wisconsin, where Governor Walker (R-Koch) claims that ordinary public sector workers need to fork over at least $137 million to save the budget.  Problem is, he just gave away $117 million in tax breaks for his corporate pals.  This is out and out class warfare.  The big corporations in America have decided that they can get even richer by raiding the public treasury.  It’s time for the middle class to stand up and defend itself!

via Daily Kos: The Must See Chart (This Is What Class War LooksLike).

And here’s the graphic:

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As our little experiment in virtual solidarity gets up and running, the spirit of Wisconsin is spreading to Ohio and Indiana — with additional mass protests and occupations of State Capitols.  The XChange will continue the Virtual Rally in Support of Wisconsin (Ohio & Indiana, too!) workers as long and the people of Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and other states are standing up and saying, “Enough!”

So, keep sending in your pics and participate in our small act of virtual solidarity.  Check out our rally site to see who’s participating so far.  Thanks for all of you who participated in Day One of this on-going Rally.  Click the image to be taken to the Rally Gallery.

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APSCUF’s statement of support for Wisconsin workers covered in the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education faculty members condemn Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s tactics | PennLive.com.

Check out APSCUF’s official statement here:

PENNSYLVANIA FACULTY ASSOCIATION SUPPORTS WISCONSIN STATE EMPLOYEES

 

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If you check out the side bar on the right side of this blog, you’ll see I have a feed for posts from the blog, “Here Comes Trouble,” written by Seth Kahn of West Chester.  A couple of weeks ago he wrote a post titled, “Who Does that Help” which began like this:

At last weekend’s APSCUF Legislative Assembly, delegates were treated to a Q&A session from our recently hired Chief Negotiator Stewart (or Stuart?) Davidson.  I won’t talk here about the specifics of what he said, except to say that he was impressive.

A comment he made about how he approaches negotiations (something to the effect of always reminding the other side that we do, in fact, have a shared mission) got me thinking (long chain of associations, the underlying rationale behind it between me and God) about one way we (all of us APSCUF members) ought to be responding to just about every management “initiative” or “challenge” we face these days.

What happens if we insist on asking one simple question: Who does this help?

Earlier today, Seth posted “Who Does that Help? (redux),” which extends the logic of asking “who does that help” to the current protests in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and others.  I think it’s worth reading his post in its entirety, so here it is:

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post contending that our faculty union ask the question, “Who does that help?” in response to every management initiative that seems to benefit nobody in any clear way.  The point is to remind management that beyond the spreadsheets, formulae, and policies are actual human lives that count for something–including their own!

The events in Wisconsin, that is, the proposal that state employees lose collective bargaining rights so that the Governor can balance the budget (a claim that’s nonsense on its face), invite the same question.

If public employees in Wisconsin give up their right to bargain anything other than salary, who does that help?  It helps the insurance companies that can change fees and coverages willy-nilly because they’re not negotiable anymore; it benefits school system managers who can make and enforce absurd curricular and other working conditions demands; it benefits employees NOT AT ALL.  And neither does it solve a single penny of the budget “crisis.”

If the public employees accept the requirement that they have recertify their unions every year, who does that help?  It helps opponents of unions who get much more frequent opportunities to intervene in organizing efforts.  While some people might contend, “Well, that’s just democracy,” the fact that unions all have had certification elections in the first place (and could vote to decertify any time they wanted) makes that claim ancillary if not dishonest.  That is, for those of you who like to shout “Elections have consequences,” yes, they do!

If public employees agree that non-union-members don’t have to pay fair share, who does that help?  It helps the employees who then ditch their union membership but still benefit from the work the unions do–unless the unions then decide not to represent those workers.  The reptilian part of my brain is OK with the idea that people could bail on their union memberships–if they then chose to negotiate their own salaries and benefits; if they never filed any grievances; if they never accepted any of the workplace protections the unions won for them; and so on.  No, I wouldn’t really want to see that.

The short version is this: Governor Walker’s proposal helps the public-sector workers of Wisconsin NOT AT ALL.  It helps the working people of Wisconsin NOT AT ALL.  It helps wealthy private interests who want to bust unions.  It helps one political party that hates unions.  That is, it concedes huge amounts of political power to people whose ethics are already so questionable that to give them even more power is, at best, utterly and completely foolhardy.

And who does THAT help?

 

 

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