Today, March 1, students are walking out of their classes across
If you read the pieces I’ve been writing recently, you’re aware I’m not all that enthused by new university president, Margaret Spellings. There’s something about a right-wing coup d’etat, which promises to negatively impact the school and university system I hold dear, that just doesn’t have me that optimistic.
I’m not the only one, either. Last weekend, the Raleigh News & Observer ran an editorial called: “At UNC, a drift toward University of Inc.” It’s a drift that the author points out “has been going on for years,” well before Spellings. Spellings is merely the most recent and perhaps most telling, chapter in a story of austerity and privatization across the system.
Previous chapters have included tuition and fee hikes, the targeting by the Board of Governors of HBCUs, Gender Studies departments, centers for the study of anything remotely related to matters of importance to social justice. Western Carolina’s campus is creating a “Capital Center for the Study of Free Enterprise” funded by the Koch Brothers, despite faculty protestations that such a center would bully what can or cannot be taught in the economics department, by way of threatening funding.
When the state cuts funding to universities, school institutions have to look other places for that funding. It is groups like the Koch Foundation, or corporations like Bank of America or Duke Energy often fill those funding voids. But the Koch Brothers, or the banks or the energy monoliths never come with funding “just because.” They always come with an agenda of profit, and their funding is always conditional.
When are universities are funded by foundations and corporations, there is no education or academic freedom. There is only a factory of conformity and moneymaking. Considering that the UNC system was once the gold standard of affordable and critical education, this is all the more tragic. Campus workers have hurt, adjuncts and full-time faculty have hurt and students have hurt because of the neoliberal privatization efforts of a right-wing political establishment in North Carolina.
Ned Bartlett, who wrote editorial for the News & Observer, doesn’t blame Spellings for the privatization and austerity already behind us and neither do I. But I don’t have hope she’ll turn things around, either – not while she’s calling students customers, not if she was selected by an extremely political Board of Governors, not while she’s drawing on her experience working with the University of Phoenix and in the Bush Administration. Students, workers, and faculty are going to have to stand up and fight back against the entire scheme of university corporatization and cuts.
And we will, starting with a statewide walkout across campuses in North Carolina today, March 1, at 11p.m. in Belk Plaza.