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Archive for May, 2010

The silence in the English-language press about the student strikes at the University of Puerto Rico stands in stark contrast to the roar produced by the growing number of students who have moved to shut down UPR to protest state disinvestment from public education.

The basic terms of the strike: As the state legislature has systematically diverted money from Puerto Rico’s only public university system, UPR has been left with a $100 million budget shortfall. In response, the Board of Trustees wants  to make up that gap on the backs of the students, more than 60% of whom qualify for need-based aid. The Trustees want to force the students to choose between receiving federal Pell Grant aid and aid from the University based on merit or special skills. They call it double-dipping. The students call it class-based discrimination, a clever way to prevent poor and working class students from receiving honors and recognition along with the money necessary to make the $12,000-a-year education possible, and they aren’t having it.

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My visit to Kent, Ohio for the 40th anniversary of the Kent State killings, when four students were killed (Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandy Scheuer, William Schroeder) and nine injured (with Dean Kahler left paralyzed and in a wheelchair for the last 40 years) was both nostalgic and informative.

Although I was not on campus the day of the killings, I did see the burning of the ROTC building and the shattered bank windows over that weekend in downtown Kent.  I also saw the Ohio National Guard occupy my campus, the FBI invade student dormitories looking for weapons and photograph classrooms to see what appeared on blackboards that May 4 morning which might have incited students to “riot,” the indictment of 24 students and one faculty member, and the exoneration of the Ohio National Guard and its leaders for any guilt in the killings. However, it was the town-gown hostility that mostly affected me. About a month after the killings, six townspeople attacked me, badly beat me, and repeatedly kicked me in the head. I reported this event to the police over the phone, but when I later checked to see what would appear in the local Kent newspaper, I was told, “Townsperson beat up by six hippie-types,” a reversal of truth that made me question every civil rights or anti-war “riot” I had ever read about.

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As oil gushes into the Gulf in quantities too large to understand (millions of barrels, with no end in sight), it’s perhaps worth thinking a little about the controlled vocabularies that collate coverage of this and other petroleum disasters. If oil spills, drilling catastrophes, ground seepage, and general pollution are simply part of the oil industry-as-usual, how does starting from the point of the event make these seem like exceptions rather than the rule of dependence on petroleum-based fuels? (more…)

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This is my fourth and final post on the academic job market and the future of college teaching as a profession.  Quick review:  in earlier installments I noted the devastation that came to academic employment via the crash of 2008; proposed that recovery from that crash will not restore the jobs lost, either across the whole economy or specifically in higher education; suggested that our profession is a moribund institution; and laid out some lines of action it (for instance, the Modern Language Association) would need to take in order to have a chance of rebuilding its market haven. (more…)

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