Weekend Reading

After a few weeks’ hiatus, the Weekend Reading makes its triumphant – albeit sporadic – return! Between traveling and caring for a sick pet while preparing to move, I’m glad to eventually get back in the groove here at Backslash. This edition of weekend reading is a teaser – link roundups will return in weekly form soon. Other posts have been terse lately, but I’m hoping to be back to blogging in full force soon. Without further ado, catch up on some reading from the past month!

By the middle of the twentieth century, this public mission had expanded to include the provision of mass higher education, an ideal embodied most fully by the California Master Plan (1960), but also embraced by many other states, especially in the Midwest and West. By about 1970, public higher education had come to dominate the landscape American higher education, enrolling nearly eighty percent of all American students in postsecondary institutions (up from fifty percent in 1950). As historian of higher education Roger Geiger has explained, “The English language has no word for the opposite of privatization. Yet, that is what occurred from 1945 to 1980 in American higher education (as well as other spheres). American states poured enormous resources into building public systems of higher education: flagship universities were expanded and outfitted for an extensive research role; teachers colleges grew into regional universities; public urban universities multiplied and grew; and a vast array of community colleges was built.” Today, public institutions still educate a large majority of postsecondary students (about 72 percent), but they do so in ways that, I would contend, represent a growing departure from their historic mission(s). In at least several areas, public institutions and systems—at all levels—are much less “public” than in the past: in their sources of funding, in their governance structures, and in their cost and accessibility to students, among other things. Some of these changes are most striking at the elite institutions, such as UW-Madison or UC-Berkeley, but they filter down to students at all levels, with perhaps the most important consequences for those at the margins of the public system: community college students. As a recent report from the Center for the Future of Higher Education demonstrates, budget cuts and enrollment limitations at the top of the public higher education pyramid have “cascaded” down to those students—often low-income, non-traditional, and first-generation—at the bottom. For the first time since the rise of mass public higher education in the middle of the century, willing and able high school graduates are being turned from the very institution—the community college—that was supposed to be a last bastion of educational opportunity beyond high school.

When we try to conceive of American greatness on our national day and our first resort is gratitude for those who enact the will of the government, we’ve done something very wrong.  Service is necessary and commendable, as I’ve said, but its celebration on July 4th is antithetical to what Independence Day ought to evoke in us: an appreciation for the greatness of what America is, not what it does. What it does is not so different from what other states do, and what all states must: accumulate power, flex its muscles, fight to gain, fight to survive. But what it is is different: it is a nation of laws, conceived in liberty, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal—not just those who fight, or those who are rich, or those who are elected, or those who rule by divine right. When we thank American soldiers and veterans for American greatness, we celebrate the survival of a polity more than the national embodiment of this radical political ideal.

Twenty-two murder cases in that given year of 1988 went under the rug, with neither side in this dynamic taking responsibility for the outcome. The police department took credit for the arrests, even though the cases were dumped unceremoniously without even a grand jury indictment. And the prosecutor in Baltimore took no responsibility for these cases in assessing his own office’s performance. By such statistical dishonesties — of which this is not the only one, believe me — the Baltimore department was able to maintain a clearance rate in the high 60s in that given year and the state’s attorney was able to claim a conviction rate in the low 80s in that same year. But of course the actual chance of anyone going to jail for any length of time for killing anyone in Baltimore in 1988 was just below 40 percent. Whoever said there were lies, damn lies and statistics needs to create a fourth, more extreme category for law enforcement stats.


What? Russell Pearce is Racist?!

The ever-wonderful ACLU of Arizona has obtained e-mails to and from Russell Pearce, the architect of SB 1070, and have released a number of them. There are lots of racist treasures buried within, but I wanted to give a brief look at the monstrosity of his psyche.

“One look at Los Angeles with its Mexican-American mayor shows you Vincente Fox’s general Varigossa commanding an American city.”

“They create enclaves of separate groups that shall balkanize our nation into fractured nightmares of social unrest and poverty.”

“Corruption is the mechanism by which Mexico operates. Its people spawn more corruption wherever they go because it is their only known way of life.”

“We are much like the Titanic as we inbreed millions of Mexico’s poor, the world’s poor and we watch our country sink.”

“Can we maintain our social fabric as a nation with Spanish fighting English for dominance … It’s like importing leper colonies and hope we don’t catch leprosy. It’s like importing thousands of Islamic jihadists and hope they adapt to the American Dream.”

And these gems are the only things Pearce says that are correct, apparently from an e-mail rant with the subject line “What’s a racist?”

“I’m racist because I don’t want to be taxed to pay for a prison population comprised of mainly Hispanics, Latinos, Mexicans or whatever else you wish to call them.”

“I’m a racist because I object to having to pay higher sales tax and property tax to build more schools for the illegitimate children of illegal aliens.”

“I’m a racist because I dislike having to push one for English and/or listening to a message in Spanish.”

Those are just a taste of Pearce’s racism.

Publishing vs. Touchdowns at Mizzou

On the impending closure of the University of Missouri Press:

University presses are nonprofit enterprises. Though these presses may reach a level of financial self-sufficiency in their operation, they are by and large underwritten by their host universities. This is part of the investment of higher education.

Most of the monographs produced by scholars have a limited audience — and very few make their publishers any money. However, their publication is still an important aspect of scholarly activity and knowledge dissemination.

The University of Missouri system afforded its press a $400,000 annual subsidy.

To gain a perspective on this figure and the value of the press to the university, one only has to consider that the head basketball coach at Mizzou makes $1.35 million per year — and the head football coach makes $2.5 million per year. The interim director of the press makes just under $75,000 — less than an assistant baseball coach. The acquisitions editor makes just under $35,000 — less than an athletic trainer.

Meanwhile, Mizzou announced new uniforms for five sports:

Through a decade-long partnership with Nike, the Mizzou athletic department was able to work with Nike designers on a special project to help bring the university’s brand values to the surface and create a color, font and logo palate that help reflect those values. This new identity system sets a foundation for all athletic communication including products, uniforms, fan gear and facilities for this generation and future generations. In addition to providing teams with a consistent appearance, Mizzou student-athletes will benefit from the continued innovation and unique performance advantages that the partnership with Nike will deliver. Throughout the project, equal attention was devoted to maintaining an appreciation for the traditions of the past, while positioning the athletics program for the future.

To be clear, the University of Missouri will be shuttering their press and giving athletes new uniforms. This is on top of the press’ staff already being half of what it was before the recession, while many coaches have gotten raises. Oh, and the Athletic Department spent about $58 million last year. Priorities in higher education.