Adjusting deck chairs on the “HSU-Hindenburg”
By George Clark
HSU President Rollin Richmond is only the second president to retire in half a century, offering a rare opportunity for sobering reflection. Former HSU president, geologist Alistair McCrone, emerged from a library basement office after mining a $1 million “working retirement” following decades of campus scandals. McCrone’s $50,000 chandeliers, (on display in Founders Hall “Green and Gold Room”), and Richmond’s multimillion dollar HSU-vanity signage will be maintained for generations, joining two other enduring legacies that they share.
The first is their role in revolutionizing lower academic expectations by canceling numerous courses, introducing crowded classrooms, early-retiring HSU’s most experienced professors, eliminating the nursing, German language, and applied technology degrees, amid unrelenting and prohibitive increases in tuition, program fees, user fees and housing costs. To counter the negative impacts, Richmond and McCrone focused $200 million on expanding HSU’s “endorphin addiction centers”: recreational, entertainment, leisure and sports compounds, remodeled venues, and expanded bureaucracies, including a pretentious locked-gate housing community, all designed to maintain enrollment by appealing to the impulsive lifestyles of wealthier students that are less affected by high costs and academic divestment. Poorer students, whose families also funded and built the UC system, face higher risks from lost academic opportunities, unaffordable tuition, user fees, costly leisure programs, frivolous high-security housing, celebrity entertainment, sailing lessons, and library lattes, but must subsidize them anyway through both taxes and by accumulating unprecedented personal debt, (student loans exceed $1 trillion nationally).
Impulsive over-consumption, oppressive debt and devastating public divestments are primary causes of unparalleled environmental, economic and social collapse respectively creating unsustainable cycles that merit vociferous opposition.
In her book “Fear and Conventionality,” E.C.Parsons observes, “To all of us, the animal, the savage or the civilized being, few demands are as uncomfortable, disquieting or fearful as the call to innovate, adaptations we dodge as best we may.” HSU’s “dodge” is the second legacy enforced by McCrone and Richmond; a persistent campus environment of fear from arbitrary and capricious employment practices, part of academia’s archaic system of cronyism, illustrated in the $15 million fraud perpetrated by HSU executive John Sterns. Investigators concluded, “The fraud continued undetected for many months due to employee’s fear of being labeled disgruntled,” (and fired). Fear and conventionality has invoked self-censorship, (for millennium), ensuring that dissent and protest by staff, faculty and administrators remains unlikely while students “self-medicate,” by borrowing funds that subsidize HSU’s excessive “Bread and Circuses.”
At least one archaic legacy has ended with the selection of HSU’s first female president 90 years after women attained the vote, (and a generation after most university students stopped voting). However, meaningful reforms addressing cronyism, nepotism, incompetence, fraud, irresponsible expenditures, cut-backs, fee increases and crippling student loans, requires that all top university executives model academic excellence within their fields by holding advanced degrees in public administration, human resources, public finance, mediation, or communication.
Qualified university professionals could reorganize campus operations and supervise upper-division and graduate students hired to manage them, thereby extending critical leadership opportunities that reduce top-heavy administrations. For perspective, consider how 20-year-olds once commandeered the world’s largest sailing vessels in charge of dozens of men for years at sea. Today, German campuses offer graduates paid apprenticeships into government research facilities and manufacturing industries, paid by industry, while hundreds of HSU Center student employees perform low-wage jobs that are denied due-process rights guaranteed under the California Education Code, Section 89900c. Thousands more students are traditionally exploited without pay or recognition for assigned research projects that quietly appear in paid publications, books, lectures, and next year’s lesson plans.
Academia’s “free flow of information” became predatory when free tuition ended, when the promise of living wage careers largely vanished, and when corporations became common beneficiaries of U.C. research, (corporations putting Chinese children to work, hiding profits in Lichtenstein).
Germany and Brazil are now decades ahead in transforming to prosperous green economies while HSU’s Center for Appropriate Technology must periodically fight for survival. Climate change, biodiversity collapse, and economic instability for 47 million impoverished Americans will worsen until demands for change permeate our culture, and expanded leadership opportunities allow students to utilize skills that can put innovations into practice. Or, we can continue manufacturing impulsive, non-voting and underutilized citizens, oblivious to future generations that will have far better uses for the last whiffs and chunks of “cheap” oil than hauling 4,000 pounds of steel to go “shopping,” or the “freedom” to burn one ton of jet fuel per-person to see Vienna before it’s submerged (caused by the carbon released from impulsive, frivolous travel).