The Organic Intellectual

If our greatest task is to liberate humanity, as Paulo Freire asserts, then it is absolutely essential that we create a culture of resistance from below that is able not only to counter, but transcend the limitations of the ruling culture imposed by above. Hopefully, The Organic Intellectual will help serve this purpose.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Bonuses for Them, Bull for Us: Fighting Back at UT

This is not intended to be a full article, only a brief update concerning the most recent development in University of Toledo administration's continuous attempts to screw over students and faculty. To put things in perspective, check out this prior article concerning UT and the various sources it links to.

It turns out that in the face of the economic crisis, forced furloughs, layoffs, and budget cuts, there is an ample amount of money to go around for administrators at the University of Toledo.

The Board of Trustees Finance Committee is recommending approval for the new budget, which will require “mandatory furloughs of employees to achieve spending reductions necessitated by institutional budget deficits," according to The Independent Collegian. Mandatory furloughs are expected to cut $1.3 million from workers at UT this year. In conjunction with this, a 3.5% budget hike is expected to garner another $2 million for UT.

However, these "spending reductions" to deal with "institutional budget deficits" seem only to affect two groups of people, namely, workers and students. At least $580,000 (more if we count in bonuses for the real fat cats like Lloyd Jacobs) of this $3.3 million, or a little under 1/6 of this could be covered quite easily: don't pay out massive bonuses to a select few administrators. It is absolutely disgusting that in the face of such an economic crisis these administrators, most of whom do very little for any of us and are not accountable to us in any way, are making over half a million simply in BONUSES. Some of these "bonuses" are double or triple the yearly wage of workers. As noted in the excellent article "Pigs at the Public Trough," (credit for the graph below goes to them as well) these do not "include bonuses approved or paid to President Jacobs including a bonus of $150,000." Below is a graph of the breakdown:

Even the amounts dished out show the priorities of the heads at UT. At the apex of this pernicious theft we see Jeffrey Gold, who runs the Health Science Campus and has his hands tied up in the the Medical Center and College of Medicine, with over $200,000 whose bonus ALONE could provide at least four well paying jobs for a year. Next is the universally disdained Rosemary Hagget who, more than anything else, is the largest mouthpiece for the administration and their policies; she gets $73,000. Next comes Scott Scarborough who, according to UT's website, is "responsible for the overall financial health of the university’s main campus and health science campus." Perhaps returning his $60,000 bonus and not allotting hundreds of thousands of dollars aside for a few individuals while the rest of us suffer could promote the "financial health" of the university, no? That would, of course, be fundamentally against his stated principles cultivated around the concept of a business-run university where immense profits can be garnered for the few while the rest of us are hit with the bill. Even the athletic director gets nearly a $30,000 bonus while entire departments run off less than that (the budget for Asian studies, for instance, runs off $4,000 according to a friend who just graduated).

This is little more than a kick to the face of both students, who are facing tuition increases next semester alongside state cuts to the Ohio College Grant, and workers who are being terminated or forced to take time off.

We, of course, are not the only ones battling such theft from public funds for administrators to maintain their ostentatious lifestyles. Peralta Community College students and faculty are going through the same thing: "Teachers, staff and students are bracing for furloughs, increased class sizes, retroactive tuition hikes and cuts to services and programs this fall." In April students at the University of Vermont occupied a building to protest the budget cuts. In Seattle "members of three campus unions, five student groups and the American Association of University Professors came together on April 28 at a meeting to denounce the budget cuts being imposed on the University of Washington." Students are articulating demands to tax oil companies, not students, to pay for higher education in California. Just today Socialist Worker printed a report of San Fransisco students and faculty gearing up for a battle against recent budget cuts. The list goes on and on. The point is, we are NOT alone in this struggle, people are fighting back. So should we.

The question then becomes, what will we do about it? This year at UT we have a host of battles that need to be fought. The most pressing issue for the majority of students is, obviously, parking. Yes, we can ride bikes, but not in the winter, and the parking situation is absolutely mad. President Jacobs patronized most of us last week when he commented that the parking situation was "fine" and that "students just don't want to walk." This coming from a man, mind you, who has his own reserved parking spot and obviously does not walk very much himself. Perhaps they could redirect the half a million dollar bonuses and slice a bit off the top of the bloated administration budget to actually fund a new parking garage somewhere that makes sense.

But even more serious political issues face this very working class campus than parking. The UT College Republicans have essentially sworn themselves to an ideological holy war this year, claiming they hope to "recapture the university with conservative values." They are even in the process of creating a list of liberal professors who they exclaim have expressed bias against conservative students in the classroom. Aside from their freindly rhetoric, the obvious McCarthyite tendencies spewing from the plan are noxious. This issue is of vital importance, of course, especially when you have administrators stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Ohio tax payers and working class people. Even more obnoxious are the "Stop Obama's Healthcare" tables that are beginning to make an appearance around campus with a photograph of Obama sporting a Hitler mustache, the comparison is not only cliché, it's moronic. Word is, although I cannot confirm this, there was also a noose hung outside of the Law Center yesterday; obviously racism has not seen it's way out with the election of Obama. So, as we can see, the level of political maturity is not quite developed yet from our friends on the other side of the political fence; over there they defend corporate firms, hedge-fund managers, private military contractors, etc. and attempt to equate a timid healthcare reform with Hitler's massacre of six million Jews, along with however many Communists, gypsies, homosexuals, and every other group he saw fit. Way to go Republicans, you ought to be proud.

Needless to say, given the socioeconomic makeup of UT, it's fairly obvious that the vast majority of people do not identify with their politics. The youth of UT showed adamant support for Obama during the election. That does not mean we can simply let all this happen without a fight, however. As Obama begins more and more to disappoint those who hoped for the more broad and encompassing change he promised people may become disillusioned; this is where the forces of the right may gain their ground. Therefore, it is all the more important that we wage our own ideological campaign to combat them. We cannot allow the ideological struggle to be one-sided, or else they will gain by default. We need to be debating them, engaging them, and organizing ourselves to take them up on every issue they attempt to espouse their virulence. This is what the university should be about, right?

We must be careful, however, not to place our hopes in a purely ideological struggle. We have to be involved materially as well, understanding, especially in light of the current crisis, that it is essential for us to develop "knowledge of the historical process in it's entirety." As George Lukács notes, "This means that 'ideological' and 'economic' problems lose their mutual exclusiveness and merge into one another. The history of a particular problem turns into the history of problems." We must be able to formulate this concept to meet the needs of today. It is absolutely vital that we combat, here and now, the measures being taken by UT to force us to tighten our belts while they make room for extra food in theirs. That being said, it is absolutely essential that we articulate the idea that this is a universal problem with particular circumstances. While our struggle at UT is important, it is vital that we link up and share our experiences and extend our solidarity to people struggle all over against similar conditions.

We, as students, also have to show solidarity with both workers and professors. From the talk on campus the union leadership, such as Harvey Wolfe who heads the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) for UT, has been silent on the issue. Murmurs of faculty strikes are buzzing, but, nothing serious has yet developed as far as I know. I will be glad to update on the issue if I hear otherwise, but students must be adamant in their support for faculty resistance through strikes and other means.

At the VERY LEAST we should be organizing some sort of united front against the budget cuts and layoffs. Until UT administrators ENORMOUS salaries and bonuses are cut, we should be arguing that students should not see a god damn penny increase in tuition or workers one forced furlough. There is no doubt in mind that this should be pragmatically linked with the struggle against the attempt to "recapture the university along conservative values."

They will only get away with this as long as we let them. The question is, do we have the courage to stand up to them?

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