Rethinking the University, Day 2, Final Part

I didn’t make it to the final day of Rethinking the University. But here are some concluding notes from day 2. I hope to have more to say about this topic during the upcoming days.

Panel - Surplus Value And The University In Crisis

Morgan Adamson - “Student debt and the finacialization of academic life”

Since the early 1970s students have been at the center of experiments in financial life. This trend is in direct reaction to the student movements of the 1960s. with the goal of moving funding for education from state to student. In response to the student activism of the 1960s financial institutions and government created Sallie Mae in 1972. Today this quasi-private company gets an almost 37% profit from student loans. Since the 1970s the university has built an infrastructure to facilitate connections between students and lenders. Moreover, student debtors are exceptional because they can never get away from debt through bankruptcy.

Ellen Messer Davidow - “Situating higher education”

Not much to add here. My notes are too sketchy because I was starting to get tired. Will academics ever stop reading papers in front of large audiences? Do these same people read their lectures to students in classrooms?

Elizabeth Kissling -

Branding is what you do when there is no difference between your product and others. Kissling is from Eastern Washington University. A few years ago they introduced a new branding campaign - “Start something big and the big red box.” She showed the video to much laughter. She then showed a great editorial cartoon of a student talking to the big red box - “what are you”, “im a metaphor for all your dreams and expectations…”, “man my dreams suck ass.” At the same time as the marketing campaign was being unveiled the university was in protracted contract negotiations with faculty. So the end result of these years is more continget faculty, a costly branding campaign that is an embarrassment, and hiring practices that diminish the distinctiveness the branding campaign promoted.

Jeffrey Williams - “Debt Education” in Dissent 2006. 1982 avg debt $2000, 1992 avg debt $9200, 2002 $18900 from the National Council of Education Statistics, project on student debt. Academia justifies teaching as a progressive endeavor but the rise in student debt teaches different lessons.

Two possible solutions might be free higher education which would take a little more than $30 billion to cover all current students or income contingent loans. What academics need to do about debt: develop new methods - ethnography, statistics (ah, methodology, the clarion cry of the academic) ; analyze; propose solutions.

Williams concluded by comparing student debt to indentured servitude in early American history.

QA - frameworks: middle of a shift between episteme (Foucault), enveloped by global capital; enfolding of big science by military/industrial complex after ww2 - mentioned from Andrew Pickering; indebting is a political strategy; trilateral commission 1975 - governability, how to control citizen students