Weekend Reading

Another edition of weekend reading is here!

On Hurricane Sandy, Government Response, and Climate Change:

The presidential candidates decided not to speak about climate change, but climate change has decided to speak to them. And what is a thousand-mile-wide storm pushing eleven feet of water toward our country’s biggest population center saying just days before the election? It is this: we are all from New Orleans now. Climate change—through the measurable rise of sea levels and a documented increase in the intensity of Atlantic storms—has made 100 million Americans virtually as vulnerable to catastrophe as the victims of Hurricane Katrina were seven years ago.

This may seem obvious to some readers, but since the major media has been so neglectful, it seems to make sense to set the record straight. The majority of districts that are the most affected by Hurricane Sandy via power outages, no running water and lack of access to food are the same that are affected by broad, systemic patterns racial and economic injustice. Historically, most of the neighborhoods are the very same that experienced white flight during the mid-20th century while simultaneously being disenfranchised via redlining by banks and real estate agencies–a legacy that still greatly affects residents of these areas access to a long list of things other parts of the city take for granted: public parks and healthy, affordable food. Redlining succeeded in shutting off all opportunities for loans and other forms of economic investment in poor, minorities neighborhoods (in the instance of areas such as the South Bronx, Red Hook and East New York in Brooklyn).

The residents of these neighborhoods are the ones who still do not have power, who have not been featured in major news outlets cannot necessarily afford to take off from work, as stated in the Reuters article Hurricane Inequality: “Those with a car could flee. Those with wealth could move into a hotel. Those with steady jobs could decline to come into work. But the city’s cooks, doormen, maintenance men, taxi drivers and maids left their loved ones at home.”
For those working class folks who have been forced to take off work because they physically cannot leaves their homes or neighborhoods due to an utter lack of MTA service for days, they face even more challenges. [Working class people] “are losing money daily though rents are due today. And those who live here but work elsewhere can’t get there. It’s the end of the month and people can’t get their paychecks or if they are on government assistance and get their cards re-charged,” says one resident of Chelsea in lower Manhattan, “no one is taking cards and there are lots of poor people with no access to money – to cash. So, even if they are able to walk north to find stores open they can’t shop. it really is neoliberalism at it crudest – if you got [money], you can fend for yourself. if you don’t, f*** you – no one cares…” The city’s mass income inequality is indeed the root cause of disproportinate attention given to certain neighborhoods but still we find very few news outlets using basic critical thinking skills to understand why (save for this one by the Washington Post that was posted 7 hours ago).

And more reading:

The decline of professorial hiring is not due to overproduction of Ph.D.s. More people are in college than ever before; advanced research is more important, we all seem to agree, than it ever has been. The problem is universities’ refusal to create good academic jobs. As in the rest of the American economy, employers are waiting out would-be employees, seeing how low the cost of labor will fall. Hence the endless spate of articles with titles such as “Graduate School: Just Don’t Go” and “The Disposable Academic.” A much-beloved (among academics) series of animated videos stages conversations between undergraduate naïfs and embittered academics, all on the theme of “So you want to get a Ph.D. in ___.” Conservative pundit David Brooks chose the word “tsunami” to describe what awaits academia.

But this is a political conflict over priorities, not a natural disaster. And in this conflict, academics are losing. These changes in higher education are the result of concerted efforts by a coalition of university administrators, donors, and conservative politicians to seize institutional power and reorient the university system toward private purposes. As Johns Hopkins political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg argues in The Fall of the Faculty, corporate backers have installed an ever-growing army of overpaid administrators to superintend universities. From 1975 to 2008, faculty-to-student ratios stayed level, albeit with the portion of faculty who are tenured or tenure-track crashing. Meanwhile, the number of administrators doubled. This administrative staff is charged with supervising the faculty, making money off them where possible, and otherwise enlarging the endowment by extracting tuition and skimming funds from research grants. In return for the exorbitant tuition, administrators provide undergraduates with an increasingly fun experience, rather than an increasingly serious education.

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