Are you interested in an actual Student Union?
Not a place to hang out but a place to organize
As Professor Wagner's recent post highlights the budget cuts to education, and specifically to state University budgets, there is a a problem with our public university system. This problem exists in the neoliberalization of our education system that, what once sought intellectual enrichment and an investment in the future of our state and country, now seeks only to gain a capital return off of the necessary technical intellectual pursuits of our future generations. Take a look at the hierarchical structure of UMBC. At the bottom of this top-down pyramid rests the ever increasing student body with which financial burdens are becoming too great for many to bear. Where once most debt taken on by students could be reasonably deferred with summer jobs (which have now been taken by an elderly and middle-aged generation whose benefits have been cut or have not kept up with inflation) now is only a mere supplement to the minimum subsistence for living which for some must come from forty hours or more of work at more than one job or from the reliance on the state for welfare. In the middle of this pyramid lays the once-students now academic professionals who are stuck in between a growing debt bubble of student tuition loans and a burgeoning bloated administrative yoke. These professors are castrated by the carrot stick tied to the backs of their academic careers that is tenure. Tenure keeps tracked professors from speaking out against an economically predatory system that they exist in. As David Graeber, who was blacklisted from US universities and who formerly worked at Yale and who now is teaching at the London School of Economics, can attest too if you take action and stick to your principles you're rewarded with punishment in the form of tenure denial and then you lose your job. This is not an indictment of the traditional notion of tenure but rather a criticism of the shift to the commoditization of tenure and its use as a tool for censoring criticism from within. Then there's the top of the pyramid. As this database shows, the bulk of the highest paying jobs in the State of Maryland reside with the Administrators of their respective institutions. Take note of how far you have to scroll through the database until the bulk of payees ceases to be administrators and becomes teachers. But what do Administrators do? If they don't teach they must serve some important role within the system that is supposed to be preparing students for future endeavors in an ever-increasingly technical job market. Do you ever interact with an administrator apart from having to pay bills? Or maybe when there's a late charge on your account that is a mistake? Do you think the nice women on the third floor of the Admin building make upwards of six figures? Probably not - because they're not administrators. No, The administration is the bureaucratic wing of the education system that is supposed to implement regulations and rules that fall into line with the state and federal mandates. They handle public affairs, public image, advertising, building projects, and many other bureaucratic positions.
Do these jobs and duties oblige us as consumers of education, with which we pay our money into, to suffer the notion that the people who prepare us for the rest of life academically should be compensated to an exponentially lower degree than the people who don't directly contribute to the potential success of our futures? Shouldn't those with the most direct impact on our development - those with the most important roles in ensuring our success - be in a position, financially, where they can justify the time needed to take care of each student? In short, shouldn't our professors be making six figures and our administrators be making what professors are making now? This isn't to claim administrators are the "enemy" but rather they serve an important purpose insofar as bureaucracy serves a purpose within a system meant to advance intellectual knowledge and creative exploration.
And now, the threat of increased tuition is at our doorsteps. Furloughs for professors and administrators have been discussed. And politicians have signaled our future isn't as important as the present concerns of business. We've been assured by those who are at the top of this hierarchical pyramid that we won't be on the hook for the money that needs to be made up in light of the budget cuts coming from Annapolis and our mentors won't be furloughed to compensate for the shortage in money. But are we required simply to take their word on this issue? Indeed, on all issue in the future that can negatively impact our futures? No, We're not. We can be advocates for ourselves and pass this mantle of advocacy onto our future generations of students and professors. We need not take a reactionary role but an anticipatory and accountability role. Where our mentors are limited with what they can speak out against, I, and you, are not. We are consumers and have entered into a contract with this university. A contract that cannot be voided due to acceptable free speech and which doesn't stipulate as a requirement for future contracts that we limit our political advocacy for ourselves and those we learn from.
Are you interested in securing your peace of mind and the rights of others? Are you tired of the SGA, which typifies and is an outward expression of the failures of bureaucracy,, and their empty promises? Would you support the formation an actual Student Union, which doesn't take money for representing the best interests of students, that would demand accountability, transparency, and collective bargaining rights for students? This is a call, then, for those of you who want to put the focus back on education rather than another way to make money off of the youth whose future is determined by their success at university.