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Academia, Grassroots Organizations, and Debt

Academia, Grassroots Organizations, and Debt

Ann Larson

What if the president of the United States, along with Congress, cancelled student debt and made public college tuition free? Just a few years ago, these goals would have seemed like the pie-in-the sky dreams of a marginal sect. Today, free public college is supported by major presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

What if people just paid for what they bought, and made the decision on whether or not they wanted to spend the money after deciding whether it was worth it?

What about letting the people who either chose not to go to college, or paid for it themselves (or paid off their loans) not be required to pay for freeloaders who don’t want to pay for what they bought?

This is just a proposal to take money from the population at large and transfer it to academia. After 50 year of inflating the cost of education at more than 2x the rate of inflation, academia is afraid it is pricing itself out of the market, and wants government to bail it out.

If you opposed bailing out the banks, or the auto companies (as any sane person would) you should also be opposed to bailing out academia.

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Analysis absent action is essentially academic autoeroticism

Thank you for highlighting the work of the Debt Collective and UCLA’s Institute on Inequality and Democracy. The work of you, and the other organizers, is inspiring.

There is a great need for putting the knowledge and resources of academia to use in collaboration with grassroots communities, however, this is no easy task. I agree with such efforts, but they won’t be easy. Over the last decades, colleges and universities have come to put their primary focus on operating as corporate businesses. These institutions general reject any initiative that does not lead to an increase in monies.

Additionally, to cut spending, universities and college are hiring fewer fully employed faculty and many more disposable non-tenured faculty and adjuncts. These people are given much higher course time which limits their ability to engage in such initiatives. It is often made very clear to these people that any straying from acceptance of the status quo will lead to their loss of employment.

For those seeking a tenured position, tenure has become focused on number of publications, impact factors of publications, amount of research funds brought in, ratio of publications to research funds. Community based collaborations are not part of the tenure process in many college/university departments.

Finally, many science, engineering, economics, business, and other programs have come to embrace the paradigm that they are, largely, instruments of business and the military. Funding is almost exclusively for corporate or military end, even when it is from sources such as the National Science Foundation, Recall: The National Science Foundation was started by Vannevar Bush who sought research to promote military -

  1. Barker, K. (2017). The Quiet Military Buyout of Academia. In W. Wiist & S. White (Eds.), Preventing War and Promoting Peace: A Guide for Health Professionals (pp. 141-152). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781316551158.013

  2. www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=191333

It isn’t just debt. This is about who owns our lives, and not merely in academia. The exploitation of debt as a substitute for production is wider than academia, as much as it is a large amount.
Essentially we are becoming sharecroppers in our own lives. Our very own “private” notes don’t belong to us. They are on some phone company’s “cloud.”
Software is now by the month. Everything else is becoming subscription. The “Nickel and Dime” method of reducing us to poverty, just like the sharecroppers.
One indication that these debts can be cancelled without bringing down the money temple or society is that they do it themselves when the first debt carriers sell someone’s debt for pennies on the dollar to another debt agency which then goes after the original debtor for the full amount. And it keeps going down the line that way.
These predators produce nothing but they take and take and take, leaving the rest of us on our knees. They want all of us there.

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Grassroots organizing: