Educating for austerity

Social reproduction in
 the corporate university

“It is only in its era of monopoly that the capitalist mode of production takes over the totality of individual, family, and social needs and, in subordinating them to the market, also reshapes them to serve the needs of capital. . . . How capitalism transformed all of society into a gigantic marketplace is a process that has been little investigated, although it is one of the keys to all recent social history.”

—Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital

A state university paying its president $6 million in a single year. Another accumulating more than a billion dollars in liquid reserves. Administrative spending surpassing academics at some 200 US research universities. Alongside higher-education headlines like these comes this sobering story: Just as the school year was about to begin, 83-year-old Duquesne University French professor Margaret Mary Vojtko collapsed outside her dilapidated Pittsburgh home. Although she had taught a full-time schedule for more than a quarter century, administrators at this

Catholic Church-affiliated institution treated her like a temp, hiring her from semester to semester and paying her less than $25,000 a year. When they learned that, her furnace broken and roof collapsing, Vojtko was sleeping in her office, Duquesne administrators called in the police to evict her, thus ending her employment without severance or retirement pay. Her penury was so great, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that her neighbors referred her to Pittsburgh’s Orphans Court.1

The Dickensian dimensions of Vojtko’s hand-to-mouth life, like tales of students swamped by debt and senior administrators awash with wealth, have become commonplace on US college campuses. These rags or riches tales also represent the reversal of fortune that neoliberalism—the employers’ offensive of the past 40 years that has smashed unions, slashed wages, and eliminated healthcare and retirement provisions—has brought to all employment sectors in the United States. The college campus does not stand aloof from these assaults on the working class. Nevertheless, the ivory-tower idea of the university continues to mask the full extent to which the employers’ offensive has unleashed itself against a university’s terms and conditions for both learning and work. This essay approaches the university both as a site of employment and as a site for reproducing the differentiated labor power for a future generation of workers. Such an approach allows us to examine how the neoliberal offensive in the United States has reversed the gains of the last great round of struggles over education and why it seeks to reimpose higher education’s traditional functions under capitalism—functions that have also been trimmed to match the neoliberal program of lean production and lean reproduction.2

From the neediest to the greediest
While 75 percent of US college and university faculty at the start of the 1970s had the security of long-term tenure-track employment, today more than 75 percent of instructional faculty are classified “contingent,” teaching on contracts as short as a single semester, typically without healthcare, disability, and retirement benefits. Half of these precariously employed professors are classified part-time and paid a per-course median rate of $2,700. Dubbed “freeway fliers,” they must frequently speed from one campus to the next, and still they fall short of a living wage.3 The history professor at the head of the classroom, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education, may well be supplementing her meager income with food stamps.4

Yet hard times have not come to all on college campuses. Administrators in US colleges and universities now outnumber faculty and reward themselves with salaries worthy of Wall Street.5 Duquesne University, whose administration contends that a unionized faculty will interfere with this private school’s Catholic mission, pays its president $700,000 annually.6 By 2013 nine public university presidents were drawing more than $1 million in annual compensation, up from four the previous year.7 Skyrocketing, too, are public universities’ net assets. The University of California and the University of Michigan reported $2.5 billion and $1.8 billion in liquid reserves in 2010. In 2010 alone—a year in which, pleading poverty, administrators hiked tuition and furloughed faculty—the University of Illinois increased its wealth from $65 million to $385 million.8 Public and private universities alike foreground in their mission statements the business-like goals of efficiency and external investment opportunities. Far from existing as an island apart, the university is subjected to that transformation described by Harry Braverman at the start of the employers’ offensive forty years ago: the transformation of all society into a “gigantic marketplace.”9

Providing public institutions with a further pretext for market behavior is the drop-off in state funding—with the state share of revenues for Michigan State, the University of Illinois, and the University of California at Berkeley reduced by more than half between 1987 and 2012, and state support for the University of Oregon plummeting in that period from 36 percent to 9 percent.10 To make up for waning state support, so the argument goes, public universities must court corporate investors. “We are the University of Nike,” proclaimed an administrator at the University of Oregon, where Nike cofounder Phil Knight has purchased $300 million in influence.11 To be sure, state shares of public university and college budgets have declined so precipitously, that state funding could be reduced to zero by 2022 at the University of Colorado, and by midcentury at fifteen other institutions including the University of Minnesota, the State Universities of New York, and the University of Texas.12 But despite these cuts, carried out in boom times as well as bust, spending at US colleges and universities between 1975 and 2005 tripled.13 

Public dollars don’t account for this spending increase.14 Proletarianized faculty plus debt-saddled students have paid instead. Between 1978 and 2012, US college students have borne a total tuition and fee increase of 1,120 percent. (To put this in perspective, consider that in the same period the other great burden on US households—medical expenses—grew 601 percent.)15 Public universities with the highest-paid presidents, reports the Institute for Policy Studies, spend two to one more on administration than academics and drive their students deepest into debt.16 When the University of Vermont’s scandal-plagued president took a princely pay-off for stepping down, Los Angeles Times cartoonist Jeff Danziger depicted him lugging a fat bag of cash labeled “$500,000 for doing nothing.”

Alarmingly clear, however, is that these robber barons are doing something. They are cutting faculty, moving classes online, and shuttering departments of French, philosophy, and theater. They are erecting new athletic and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) complexes, and expanding not only the size and expense of their administrations but also their managerial power. What they are not doing is using that power to jettison core curricular requirements. Instead, administrations and governing boards increasingly insist on holding faculty and students “accountable” for a growing list of required “outcomes” even as they hollow out the programs, faculty, and classes needed for such requirements. Recently added General Education requirements on my campus include “diversity,” “sustainability,” and “foundational writing and information literacy,” with the administration promoting the idea that students might also fulfill “competencies” through “co-curricular” activities—through, that is, do-it-yourself education. This push for competency-based or DIY education—first piloted at low-wage diploma mills like Western Governors University—comes as much from the Obama administration as from conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute. Such initiatives are trumpeted as a twenty-first century innovation that values “hands-on” learning over “seat time.” In the context of the intensifying employers’ offensive, however, they are innovative only in so far as they provide administrators with another means for expanding their size and expense through downsized staffing, outsized tuition, and outsourced education.

Looting the commons?
What drives these university administrations and governing boards to hike tuition, reduce spending on instruction, and transfer institutional wealth upward? Out of a rich literature documenting these trends, two explanations have found wide acceptance: David Harvey’s “accumulation by dispossession” and Sheila Slaughter and Gary Rhoades’ “academic capitalism.”

Accumulation by dispossession, or what Henry Giroux terms “casino capitalism,” holds that profit and accumulation in the neoliberal age depend entirely on “smash-and-grab privatization” and financial speculation.17 Just as early capitalism’s primitive accumulation depended on seizing the feudal commons, argues Jean Anyon, so too does contemporary capitalism owe its ability to accumulate and expand on enclosing, privatizing, and stripping education for parts.18 For proponents of this theory, US higher education isn’t so much being restructured as looted. The theory of academic capitalism, conversely, sees more than short-term plunder at work as the new army of academic administrators carries out a long-term project of repackaging education and research as profitable commodities in an economy presumed to depend on the production of services and ideas rather than the production of durable goods.19 Necessitating such a transformation, Slaughter and Rhoades assert, is the emergence of a new “knowledge economy… sharpening corporate leaders’ interest in restructuring intellectual property” so that knowledge can become “alienable, privatizable, and commercializable.”20

These theories of casino and academic capitalism have their differences—short-term v. long-term, financialized v. knowledge economy—but they also share three core beliefs: that neoliberalism has subjected the US university to an intrusion of market interests that is unprecedented; that this intrusion is driven by a fundamental economic shift from Fordist or goods-producing to post-Fordist or idea- and service-producing; and that being pillaged or price-tagged away is a presumed tradition of a university serving the public good. Through most of the twentieth century, Gaye Tuchman in Wannabe U asserts, “Earning money had not been a ‘core value’ of American education.” What had once been a “public good/learning regime,” Slaughter and Rhoades agree, is being replaced with an “academic capitalist knowledge/learning regime.” Such a regime, warns Giroux in Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education, is bringing about the “slow death of the university” as a “democratic public sphere.” Destroyed, laments Christopher Newfield in Unmaking the Public University, is “the public university’s traditional and distinctive mission of broad cultural and human development.”21

This literature can be clarifying, especially as it enables campus workers and students to link local symptoms to national and global trends. When an email arrives from my university’s provost calling on faculty to “develop metrics” to “measure” and “message” “scholarly productivity and impact,” I know from Tuchman’s Wannabe U that the University of Vermont is not dealing with its own unique Mr. Gradgrind—the strict utilitarianist of Dickens’ Hard Times who boasts that he stands “ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you what it comes to.” Rather, we are up against a consolidated class of higher-ed execs who are, Tuchman stresses, “besotted” with financial rituals that recast education as a quantifiable, auditable commodity.22 When a memo from that same provost dangles seed money and expert assistance from the “pharmaceutical, technology, and venture capitalist sectors” to bring faculty “research discoveries to the marketplace,” we find echoes of Academic Capitalism’s opening chapter. There Slaughter and Rhoades detail how Texas A&M researchers, in launching a business to clone the cherished pets of the very rich, “trad[ed] their expertise for equity shares.”23

Yet gaps abound in these two popular explanations for higher education’s marketization. For instance, with its focus on how faculty research, academic programs, and university sports teams are commodified and sold, Slaughter and Rhoades’ theory of academic capitalism leaves unexamined broad areas of the curriculum that can neither be easily packaged for profit nor, as accumulation by dispossession would hold, sloughed off. At state universities across Arizona and California, many students no longer sit in first-year composition classes with eighteen or twenty peers; they are instead corralled into sections of ninety or 120 students under the tutelage of low-wage undergraduate teaching assistants or they work through online tutorials on their own.24 Introductory writing, language, math, and science are among the core teaching activities of a university. However, because this is costly work that does not bring ready market returns—given students’ varying levels of preparation25—the core of undergraduate education represents a limit on the full market conversion of the university. The various methods now being tested to deliver that curriculum on the cheap—from undergraduate TA-led math and writing studios to massive-enrollment online courses and dual credit for high school classes—also signal that the capitalist class is unwilling to dispense with the general education enterprise altogether.

Certainly the imposition of austerity mechanisms gives the appearance of government abandoning this commons. But in thrall to that appearance, we would miss how state and federal officials have not divested themselves of any involvement in higher education. To the contrary, they have doubled down on assessment, accountability, and—what accumulation by dispossession doesn’t account for—direct curricular involvement. President Barack Obama’s proposed College Scorecard is a No Child Left Behind set of benchmarks that includes defunding penalties for colleges that don’t meet workforce-preparation targets, plus financial-aid cancellation for students who cannot graduate within six years.26 Obama’s quip that “folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree” sends a clear message to state and community colleges in particular about the curriculum they are expected to offer.27 Similarly, Vermont’s Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin proposes subordinating university education to corporate interests by sending the state appropriation exclusively to STEM disciplines.28 

Evident here is that neoliberalism is not about a real reduction in government expenditure but instead, as Neil Davidson argues, a reallocation as government officials funnel money into those activities that serve the interests of the class they serve and from which they hail. Between 1970 and 2012, for instance, Department of Defense university outlays rocketed in real dollars from $356 million to nearly $2.8 billion. In the same period funding for potential social-good university research and programs has increased marginally (the Environmental Protection Agency university outlays growing from $19.4 million in 1970 to $53.8 million in 2012) or, as in the cases of Agricultural Extension Services and the National Writing Project, suffered cuts and elimination.29 “It is not the amount of state expenditure and areas of state intervention that have changed,” observes Neil Davidson about similar reallocations in British social spending under neoliberalism, “but where the money is spent and how activities are carried out.” Through carrots and sticks—funding provided and funding denied—the neoliberal state exacts compliance and ensures that where money for education is directed and what activities education carries out fully serve the interests of neoliberal capital.30

And what are those interests? Here too we can fall prey to appearances. Neoliberalism’s most evident features—financialization or quick profit through speculation; globalization, including the ever-changing locations of production and the complex logistics of distribution—give the appearance of a freestanding knowledge or information economy. Nevertheless, the financial realm remains tied to—its speculative bubbles expanding or bursting—a real economy concerned with producing, warehousing, and transporting goods including within and across the United States.31 Indeed, the employers’ offensive has proven so successful in decimating private-sector unions and driving down wages, some industries are reshoring jobs in low-wage America, a trend that helps explain the recent push by employers and government officials for colleges to train students specifically for manufacturing, technology, and logistics.32

Above all, it matters that defenders of higher education see beyond the appearance of an industrial/post-industrial divide, because attending to the linkages enables solidarity connections among workers across economic sectors. The same measures of lean, just-in-time production imposed on production-line, warehouse, and retail workers are now brought by the employers’ offensive to education’s “knowledge” workers. With university work increasingly cast as piecework, the Fight for Fifteen becomes a campaign as applicable to university faculty and staff as to Walmart and McDonald’s workers—a fact underscored when analysts at the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education added “part-time college faculty” to the list of other service workers—fast-food, child-care, and home healthcare—needing government assistance to make ends meet.33 

Keener attention to the employers’ offensive across economic sectors—both those concerned with making saleable goods and services and those tasked with provisioning people to make, distribute, and manage those goods and services—brings into view how contemporary capital consistently pursues a dual strategy. Neoliberalism is characterized by the strategy of lean production: high-intensity, minimum-security, and low-wage employment. Neoliberalism is also characterized by the strategy of lean reproduction: diminished and eliminated provisions for education, childcare, transportation, and more, that like direct wages, would cut into profit. Decimating the working class is not only the imposition of lean production but also the reordering of the terms of social reproduction—specifically, contractions in the means of socially reproducing labor power. That contraction, the imposition of lean social reproduction of labor power, is what devastates the contemporary university both as a place of employment and as a prime social reproductive institution—one on which capital has long relied.

Production and reproduction: One integrated process
Social reproduction, explain Meg Luxton and Kate Bezanson, involves all the necessary activities for “maintaining and reproducing people, specifically the laboring population, and their labour power on a daily and generational basis.” Beyond providing such necessities as food and shelter, the activities and institutions of social reproduction equip a population with “knowledge, social values, and cultural practices”—reproducing the social order and social outlooks on which the relations of production depend.34 Capitalism benefits from the ideological and rhetorical categorization of reproductive labor as separate from production—a categorization that facilitates the off-loading of some costs onto the family or bootstrapping individuals and that justifies low wages for “feminized,” caretaking professions. But materially, Luxton stresses, “the production of goods and services and the production of life are part of one integrated process.”35 The social reproduction of labor power is not ancillary, write Susan Ferguson and David McNally, but “the very pivot of the capitalist economy.”36 

Classic ethnographies of schooling such as Paul Willis’ Learning to Labor, Jay Macleod’s Ain’t No Makin’ It, and Jean Anyon’s “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work” provide disturbing illustrations of education’s reproductive role—through what Samuel Bowles and Howard Gintis emphasize is the close correspondence between a society’s economic base and its institutions for schooling.37 Education, Bowles and Gintis argue, “neither adds to nor subtracts from” the inequality and oppression of capitalist society but rather “reproduces and legitimates” the existing social and economic order, reinforcing each student’s place within it. No matter their individual aspirations, the youth of Macleod’s study exit school into a world of low-wage underemployment. Students in Anyon’s working-class and middle-class schools learn rote memorization and consult books for correct answers while students in the “affluent professional” and “elite executive” schools are groomed to direct their own learning, critique and debate ideas, and see themselves as leaders and creators, including the creators of society’s right answers.

The US system of higher education is designed for the same sorting and ordering functions: the Ivies charged with elite formation; other privates and a handful of public “Ivies” credentialing a professional middle class; and the many state university regional campuses, state colleges, and community colleges training skilled workers. The university whose loss Giroux, Newfield, and other commentators mourn has never existed. What they mourn instead is the period following World War II when across the United States and western capitalism a dramatic expansion brought the working class—and increasingly a multiracial working class—into the academy and into contact with a curriculum formerly reserved for elites.38 Though that expansion aimed to service the postwar economic and technological boom, it also raised democratizing aspirations and struggle. Such aspirations are worth fighting for as the neoliberal program has sought aggressively to restore higher education to what its actual traditional role has been: education molded for ruling interests, including a continued and intensifying interest in a working class trained for its needs. Austerity measures in no way reflect a rescission of that commitment. In fact, with more than 90 percent of the coming decade’s projected job growth in fields requiring at least some postsecondary education, austerity and accountability mandates facilitate a measurable increase in the number of students at little cost to capital.39 

But against any belief that higher education is a great equalizer or provides a ticket to upward mobility, consider: Only 13 percent of US adults whose parents do not hold a post-secondary degree obtain one themselves.40 Top job-placement agencies, reports The Economist, recruit from elite universities not for what students may have learned in their years at Princeton or Yale, but because to get into these institutions, students “have already gone through a very elaborate sorting mechanism.”41The Economist thus underscores the central insight of Bowles and Gintis’ Schooling in Capitalist America that schooling works to reproduce a society’s class, racial, and gender order not so much through the content of any given class but through “the form,” the “social relations of the educational encounter” that “correspond closely to the social relations of dominance, subordination, and motivation in the economic sphere.”42 The neoliberal project has both continued this tradition and, via disaster opportunism and appropriated civil rights discourse, experimented with even tighter integration of social reproduction with production, particularly through curricular engineering and curtailment. For example, backed by corporate funders, Purdue University has launched a charter school, Purdue Polytechnic Institute, to funnel poor and mostly minority Indianapolis teens into technician jobs in fields like robotics, manufacturing, and cyber-security. Though dressed in equal-opportunity rhetoric, such a learning-to-labor program is designed to limit students’ curricular options and funnel them to specific area employers.43

This isn’t to suggest that reproducing capitalist social relations and ensuring a desired quantity and quality of labor power are schooling’s only possible functions. Workers historically have fought for education benefitting the development of their human capacities rather than restricting them to serving as instruments of profit. In England’s early nineteenth-century, Sunday school workers rioted for an expanded education that included writing and math. Central to the radical reforms enacted by workers in the Paris Commune of 1871 was universal education, including girls’ education, wrested from church control.44 While capitalist schooling aims to create “docile workers” and equip elites with the “skills of domination,” Bowles and Gintis point out that it has also fueled “misfits and rebels” for radical movements that, especially in the US civil rights and Black power eras, have challenged docility and domination.45 To those 1960s movements especially we owe the now-imperiled idea of higher education as a broadly distributed right.

Even so, Bowles and Gintis also observe, that the “history of twentieth-century education” is not one of “Progressivism but of the imposition upon schools of ‘business values’ and social relationships reflecting the pyramid of authority and privilege.” 46 In today’s No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and College Scorecard testing and accountability regimes, we find once again the reassertion of Frederick Taylor’s “scientific management,” a Gilded-Age philosophy of bureaucratic audit and control. Capitalism remains utterly committed to and dependent on keeping schooling aligned with its requirements. For this reason, and not because schooling is inherently oppressive, social control asserts and reasserts itself over social justice.

This thin-skin correspondence between the forms of schooling and the larger social order isn’t a matter of policy or prejudice; it is instead hard-wired into the capitalist system of production itself. As Marx uncovers in the first volume of Capital, the production of goods and services depends on something more than raw materials and machinery—something to set their transformation into saleable commodities into motion. That something is labor power, identified by Marx as the “special commodity” because it alone has the capacity to produce value beyond the costs of production. “The historical conditions for [capitalism’s existence],” Marx writes, “are by no means given with the mere circulation of money and commodities. It arises only when the owner of the means of production and subsistence finds the free worker available, on the market, as the seller of his own labour-power.”47 

But how is labor power itself reproduced? At first glance, it can seem that Marx paid scant attention in Capital to this precondition for the capitalist mode of production. He even remarks at one point that “the capitalist may safely leave [reproduction] to the worker’s drives for self-preservation and propagation.”48 But throughout Capital’s first volume, Marx also spotlights how industrial capitalism was just coming to grips with the human toll—including, as Engels details in his 1845 The Condition of the Working Class in England, the appalling death toll—of exploitation as well as the limits of leaving to the family the task of ensuring bodies fit for work. Written alongside the spread of state-sponsored primary education across industrializing Europe and the Morrill Act creation of land-grant colleges in the United States, Capital also provides an in-the-moment record of industrial capitalism’s growing recognition that state-sponsored education is needed (albeit, Marx wryly observes, “in prudently homeopathic doses”) for “preventing the complete deterioration of the great mass of the people.”49 

But more than the capitalist class’s need for able bodies spurred the spread of Sunday schools, industry schools, and compulsory education laws. Capitalist social relations also require that workers be conditioned to keep the labor peace—to accept, as Marx puts it, “the material process of production as the property of another and as a power which rules over him.”50 For this, he argues, “a special education or training is needed,” one that can “modify the general nature of the human organism.”51 With his phrase “to modify the general nature of the human organism,” Marx signals that capitalism depends on an education in habits and values as much as an education that imparts a particular set of skills. This modification of human nature, when education is molded to capitalism’s needs, includes naturalizing a whole set of ideas—racism, sexism and misogyny, nationalism, and more—that divide workers and ensure their subordination to capital. Naturalized, too, are the exploitative conditions of production, to create a class of workers “which by education, tradition, and habit looks upon the requirements of that mode of production as self-evident natural laws.”52

The long history of Corporate U
When Capital’s first volume appeared in 1867, US colleges and universities—some 80 percent of which were church-affiliated, the curriculum restricted to the trivium of Greek, Latin, and mathematics—played a minor role in the wider economy. But if college attendance even among elites in the mid-nineteenth century was, as Bowles and Gintis note, “a cultural luxury rather than a social necessity,”53 the 1862 Land-Grant or Morrill Act signaled rapid changes to come. These changes over the next century marked not only the spread of state-sponsored higher education but also the integration of the university into servicing the needs of capital. Dotting the midwest and western states with public universities and breathing new life into the curriculum, the Morrill Act helped harness the rural frontier and its agricultural production to an expanding nation’s requirements. Close to a century later, it was space-age rivalry with the Sputnik-launching Soviet Union that spurred the federal government’s first-ever direct infusion of cash into US public colleges in the tellingly named 1958 National Defense Education Act. Likewise, the 1944 Servicemen’s Readjustment Act—popularly known as the GI Bill—should be understood as reenlisting returning soldiers in technical training to give the United States a Cold War competitive edge.54

Such is the longer history of Corporate U that we need to make sense of in current conditions. When the Pennsylvania State University chancellor justifies his decision to add fifty-six programs in fields like software engineering and security studies while closing departments in foreign languages, music, and education, his argument that Pennsylvania’s public institutions must “produce graduates needed in the state’s economy”55 isn’t brand-new. It is instead the latest iteration of the claims University of California Chancellor Clark Kerr advanced in his 1963 The Uses of the University: “The university and segments of industry are becoming more and more alike.”56 The distribution of massive program cuts at the University of North Carolina—one degree program closure for the flagship Chapel Hill campus, forty-five program shutdowns for the rest57—shows much less a system-wide downsizing of education and much more a reestablishment of the ruling class’s aim for an expanded state university system that produces a differentiated labor force. In the neoliberal reordering of higher education, students at elite private and state flagship universities may still major in (to name just a few of the programs eliminated on campuses like North Carolina State and UNC Greensboro) women’s studies, Africana studies, German, music performance, public history, and linguistics; it is from campuses meant to produce skilled workers that such programs are cut.

Serving the needs of capital involves more, however, than the mechanical production of just-in-time graduates to be slotted into particular jobs. Paramount is the US university’s service in mirroring the order and reinforcing the ideas on which capitalist social relations depend.58 This includes, argue Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira at the start of The Imperial University, “legitimizing notions of Manifest Destiny and foundational mythologies of settler colonialism and exceptional democracy”; it also includes reproducing the “logics of racism, warfare, and nationalism” that both “undergird US imperialism” and provide “the architecture of the US academy.”59 One early example is the second 1890 Morrill Act that, while nominally requiring states to open land-grant doors to African Americans, permitted southern states to open separate Black institutions. This Morrill Act not only mirrored and reproduced the ideas of a racist social order; it also expanded and entrenched the architecture of Jim Crow. 

Historically consistent too has been the academy’s service to expanding and entrenching the architecture necessary to US imperialism and military dominance: programs like the Pentagon-funded Minerva and DARPA grants—funding to enlist faculty in “creating technological surprise for our enemies.”60 The nearly 500 colleges and universities offering degrees in homeland security take their place in a longer timeline: the World War I deployment of social scientists for geographic intelligence gathering; the World War II National Defense Research Committee’s military research funding of some 30,000 scientists; and the CIA’s Vietnam-era funding of research in torture and “pacification”. Likewise joining what Tithi Bhattacharya and Bill Mullen document as “a long tradition of US universities serving as handmaiden to the interests of the American state” is the collusion among US and Israeli universities, governments, and weapons manufacturers for the continued assault on the Palestinians and the projection of power in the Middle East.61 This military-academic-industrial complex, as Chatterjee and Maira call it, is not new to the post-9/11 period but has instead been made “hypervisible” by it.62

As for higher education’s reputation as a liberal oasis, the US university has historically proven to be intolerant of faculty whose teaching and scholarship would expose the brutality that has masqueraded as American progress and benevolence. The post-9/11 war on terror pogroms that have been waged particularly against Middle East Studies faculty are not aberrant developments, attributable solely to neoconservative witch-hunters and media bullies like Lynn Cheney and Bill O’Reilly. They also take their place in a long tradition of ideological policing: the World War I-era firing of Columbia University faculty for “disloyalty,” for instance, and the early McCarthy-era purge (the largest in US history) of some fifty City University of New York faculty “subversives.” University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise was not breaking new ground in 2014 when she fired incoming Professor Steven Salaita for his “uncivil” and “extremist” protests of the Israeli slaughter in Gaza. Rather, she echoed the administrations of earlier eras that likewise charged faculty who supported strikes or opposed war with breaches of professional decorum.63

Yet it remains important to emphasize that the liberal and even radical idea of the academy is not simply window dressing. Universities have produced genuine “countervailing forces”64 capable of challenging the entwined interests of globalizing capital and a rising imperialist state. The Black colleges launched by the second Morrill Act’s Jim Crow accommodation later launched a radicalizing generation for civil rights struggle. In the later years of the 1960s, Black students, inspired by global decolonization movements and fueled by the Black and Chicano power movements, led protests, strikes, and occupations against racist educational exclusion on some 200 campuses. Doing so, writes historian Martha Biondi in The Black Revolution on Campus, they asserted the radically democratic idea that “public universities should reflect and serve the people of their communities.”65 It’s a demand that Black and Latino activists also—for a time—demonstrably won. In the years immediately following a two-week occupation at Harlem’s City College, the number of Black and Puerto Rican students enrolled in the City University of New York’s senior colleges increased five-fold.66 Substantially challenged and altered, too, was the very nature of college study with teachers like Toni Cade Bambara, June Jordan, and Adrienne Rich providing working-class students of color with a radical literacy education.67

Notably, initiatives meant to serve ruling interests in the “American Dream” period of capitalist expansion created the conditions for the great 1960s upsurge. By bringing eight million middle- and working-class men through the academy gates, the GI bill dramatically altered not just the size but also the social character and class outlooks of the student population. Prior to World War II, the student population was small and homogeneous, mostly hailing from or seeking to join the ruling class, hence Leon Trotsky’s 1910 dismissal of students as potential revolutionaries.68 In the United States, for instance, Harvard men, in exchange for Cs on their semester’s exams, took up bayonets against Lawrence mill workers in the 1912 Bread and Roses strike.69 But, as Alex Callinicos and Simon Turner observed in their 1975 “The Student Movement Today,” with the expansion of higher education across advanced capitalist countries came the formation of a new social group of students whose class position and prospects were not so clearly determined. Most of these students were not being groomed to exercise or serve as administrators for power. They were instead on track to “become some form of worker,” their social location as students “transitional.” 70 

In such an in-between and unsettled place, these students experienced the forms of the educational encounter that alienate, atomize, and isolate: “each student’s fate . . . settled by his or her individual performance separated from that of all others.”71 They also—in a higher-ed culture that valued the free exchange of ideas, heretofore to the benefit of elites alone—encountered new contradictory and contending ideas, and they had some degree of freedom to act on those ideas. Clark Kerr’s Berkeley may thus have been intended, as Hal Draper derisively put it, to produce “intellectual servicemen for the ruling powers.”72 But even as Kerr crowed that his university would “merge its activities with industry as never before,”73 Berkeley’s students sought to merge instead with the burgeoning civil rights movement—and revolted in the Free Speech Movement when Kerr moved to stop them.

Educating for austerity
The subsequent decade of mass protest interrupted, at least partially, a trajectory for US higher education tending far from service to the public good: the university de-cloistered for integration into US and global capitalism; the dramatic post-World War II expansion in public funding meant to serve economic expansion and imperialist adventures. The victories that mass movements won—the landmark Civil Rights and Higher Education Acts of 1964 and 1965; affirmative action and open admissions; the establishment of Black, Chicano, and women’s studies programs; and more—were partial, fragile, but consequential. Though open-admissions programs were underfunded from the start, Biondi points out that they educated “a generation of lawyers, civil servants, teachers, artists, and social workers” that would otherwise have been excluded by race and class.74 As the 1970s brought more African-American and Latino students through the academy’s doors, writes Newfield, “for a time it seemed that the United States would have the most democratic higher education system in the world.”75 

The market measures, austerity cuts, and curricular controls that characterize today’s Corporate U mark the reversal of a decade’s incomplete but significant changes.76 What endangers the university as a vibrant, democratic public sphere—including through the dismantling of open admissions, eradication of affirmative action, and in Arizona the criminalization of Chicano studies—is the restoration of the university to serving the social reproductive needs, including the racial management needs, of capital. More particularly, it is a restoration of the university to serve the needs of neoliberalism—to correspond to its program of profits reaped through high rates of exploitation, scant social provisions, and a population educated in acceptance of both. Above all, suggest Canadian socialists Alan Sears and James Cairns, today’s graduates outside of elite institutions are being schooled to “walk the tightrope of life in austerity capitalism without a net.” They continue, “Ultimately, the goal of this transformation is a university system that, along with certain skills and knowledge, teaches students: ‘You are entitled to nothing. You have no right to anything you cannot afford, and you will only be able to afford things through a life of constant hustle.’”77

Such an education in disentitlement—imparted both through curricular content and the disaffecting experience of enrolling in high-priced super-sized or online classes—deflates students’ expectations, Sears and Cairns explain, to match bleak employment prospects. In the United States, with Canada and other countries eager to follow its lead, an education in service to austerity is delivered foremost through escalating debt that trains a generation of students to accept the notion (as Gary Lapon further details in this journal) that education should properly be an up-to-the-individual expense. With the cost of a four-year degree at formerly tuition-free universities rising well above $100,000—a $30,000 in-state price-tag for UCLA; $20,000 for a semester at Cooper Union, New York City’s last institution to give up the free-university ghost—also eradicated is any memory of the free university era.

In such a climate President Obama’s free community college plan seems like a startling blast from the past: a new GI bill or California Plan. But while even such notable critics of K-12 education reform as Diane Ravitch initially applauded Obama’s “America’s Promise” proposal as a return to the civil rights era of access and affordability, it presages instead the extension of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top into higher education: tuition grants only for those institutions that adopt the sorts of testing measures that have devastated K-12 education and that shift to providing “training that is relevant to the local labor market.”78 With Obama’s stress that his program is only for those who are “willing to work for it,” the free community proposal is saturated with the neoliberal discourse that has reassigned needed provisioning and supports from guarantees to individual responsibility or “hustle.”

Of course, a handful of amply funded universities continue to groom and offer progressive curricular options to a ruling elite. Educational differentiation and segregation occur on single campuses as well, with high-end services available to affluent students, increasingly recruited from an international student market, who can pay the price. At the University of Arizona, reports The Nation, wealthy students enjoy luxury digs with rooftop swimming pools while other students line up at the campus food shelf.79 The stark disparities—between administrators and adjuncts, between those students who can take a prestige unpaid internship and those who might run into a professor at the food shelf—mirror and naturalize the relations of contemporary capital. 

Meanwhile, even as the US university is retooled so that post-American Dream disentitlement sits uneasily alongside American exceptionalism, its executive class’s own exceptionally conspicuous entitlements swell. Mass criticism of administrative salaries brought in 2014 a reduction in million-dollar state university presidents, yet The Chronicle of Higher Education’s latest compensation study reveals that these reductions are offset by increased perks like mortgage payments, car service, maid service, clothing allowances, and meal stipends. As they consign adjuncts like Duquesne’s Margaret Mary Vojtko to misery’s killing frost, the ruling class—on campus just as elsewhere, in this Gilded Age as in the last—sees to it that its own social provisioning is assured.80

Reviving the school of struggle
Here again history matters. The social supports now virtually eliminated through the employers’ offensive were themselves wrested from capital by the working class’s own offensives through the twentieth century that also at their high points challenged society’s ruling order and ideas. No wonder, then, that the neoliberal restoration on college campuses is also characterized by myriad strategies to squelch a Berkeley Free Speech or CUNY student strike revival. Precarious employment strips most faculty of any meaningful sense of academic freedom and eliminates from most campuses any meaningful form of faculty governance. Manufactured conditions of fierce competition for scarce resources equip students as well as faculty with a survival-of-the-fittest, dog-eat-dog worldview that justifies the sweated labor of global capital and further feeds campus rape culture, white supremacy, and passivity or free-market opportunism when it comes to the global threat of climate change.81 Segmentation sorts students by class and color into institutions whose courses of study have been “reformed” to correspond to production’s needs and to stave off the radicalization that drove the 1960s student revolt not just at a public ivy like Berkeley but across working-class and historically Black colleges.82 Free speech zones further limit protest, and civility codes muffle dissident voices. Militarized police were marshaled to suppress University of California–Davis student protesters, the video of a campus cop pepper-spraying the faces of huddled students drawing world attention, the officer also later collecting from the university $38,000 in compensation for his “suffering.” Ten of the eleven Muslim students who heckled an Israeli ambassador at UC–Irvine—calling out “Michael Oren, you’re a war criminal!” and “You, sir, are an accomplice to genocide!”—were convicted of the crime of “conspiring to disrupt a meeting.”83 

Yet such repressive strategies and orchestrations from the top are also assisted by conditions on the ground, including sectional divides, reinforced by the fragmenting ideas of theoretical postmodernism and the paralyzing embrace of privilege politics that lead many campus leftists and activists to reject the possibility of united resistance. The shrinking numbers of tenure-eligible academics, charges Henry Giroux, “have retreated from engaging larger public issues in their work”; they prefer instead an “insularity” that “hides behind academic silos, disciplinary specialization, or the jargon of theoreticism.”84 Such insularity, on sad display when faculty respond to struggle with theoretical ennui, provides little protection against the continuing employers’ offensive. The movement to abolish tenure altogether in the University of Wisconsin system is the latest logical development in capitalism’s in-built drive to commodify all labor—to convert, as Marx wrote more than 150 years ago, “the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers”85—and prepare the way for deskilling and proletarianization.

What makes recent university strikes so important, then, is not just that they represent much-needed fightback against the corporate and austerity onslaughts; they also underscore the indispensability of and the real possibilities for solidarity bonds. At Ontario’s York University, when the campus’s most precarious faculty, teaching assistants and adjuncts (who also teach the lion’s share of classes on this campus of nearly 55,000 students) waged a winning strike, tenured faculty rallied to refuse an underhanded attempt by the faculty senate’s executive committee to turn them into scabs.86 At the University of Illinois–Chicago, tenured faculty joined with adjunct faculty and graduate student labor in rejecting the idea that a militant strike was unseemly for a priestly professorial class. Explained Lennard Davis and Walter Benn Michaels, “What we’ve all begun to realize is that, whatever [the distinction between professional and worker] meant in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, in the twenty-first century that distinction is pure ideology. Professionals are workers—and professors are workers.”87

In the social-justice, neighborhood-mobilizing climate fostered by the 2012 Chicago teachers strike, UIC faculty made explicit that they were striking for the future of working-class education and for a university that serves rather than shuts out the surrounding Black and Latino community. Solidarizing with students and the community, they deflected the demobilizing charge that faculty strikes harm students. 

It is especially the Quebec student uprising of 2012’s Maple Spring that demonstrates how great a wrench mass solidarity can throw into the gears of neoliberal subjugation. As students transformed Montreal’s avenues into a show-stopping sea of red, whole neighborhoods responded to their banner—This isn’t a student strike, it is the awakening of society—with pot-banging joy. A battle over a government’s attempt to impose a tuition hike grew into a challenge of the wider social order, overthrowing the provincial government. The movement’s revival in 2015, against a Liberal government that would impose the same austerity agenda with the added toxicity of Islamophobia and attacks on Indigenous rights, further demonstrates that protracted intersectional struggle is the only antidote to the market subordination of all society. The potential for such struggle in the United States was evident, too, when, reviving the spirit of the Madison Uprising, public-sector labor unions, and the Black Lives Matter movement conjoined to contest state violence in defunding Wisconsin’s university system and murderous police violence unleashed against Black youth. Packing the state house together, this new generation of militants can remind us too, that the dream of a genuinely public and radically democratic university was born in, and its reclamation inseparable from the Black freedom struggle.

Each of these strikes and each of these movements matter to the future of higher education, offering faculty as much as students vital, and desperately needed lessons from the school of struggle. Each strike and struggle throws up the immediate, urgent questions: Who will have the rights to education, health care, retirement, and a life, unburdened by debt, that does not end in an orphans’ home? Each strike and struggle also throws up the biggest question of all: What kind of social order will our schools serve? Capital and the university bureaucracy are showing themselves to be committed to the project of training a generation of students and teachers not inclined to raise such questions. They are committed to using everything in their arsenal to tamp down on any reprise of the last great round of struggle as they continue rolling back the reforms earlier generations won.

But there is another difference between that earlier generation and ours that should not be overlooked. While most faculty today labor in conditions of greater insecurity, they are also objectively positioned to share much more in common with other campus workers, and the working class broadly, than with their universities’ gilded administrations. While today’s students, weighted with debt and conducted through narrow curricular channels, have fewer chances to encounter and arguably less freedom to act on radical ideas, these students are not only preparing themselves to be “some kind of worker”, working eighteen hours and more each week, they are experiencing themselves as workers. The employers’ offensive is thus deepening the potential to bring to campus a class-struggle strategy in the fight against Corporate U—and to join that fight for the soul of the education with the fight for the working class a whole.

  1. Daniel Kovalik, “Death of an Adjunct,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 18, 2013.
  2. My gratitude goes to the ISR editorial board for their helpful readings of drafts of this essay. This essay focuses specifically on US higher education in large part because the United States provided the model for mass higher education that other countries, typically with higher rates of public provision, have followed. Likewise, it is the US model for a market-based and class-differentiated approach to postsecondary education that other countries are poised to adopt. “The world,” crows The Economist approvingly, “is moving in the American direction” with “brilliant, well-funded institutions at the top and poorer ones at the bottom.” See “The World Is Going to the University,” The Economist, March 28, 2015.
  3. The Coalition on the Academic Workforce, “A Portrait of Part-Time Faculty Members,” Academic Workforce June 2012, 1–2.
  4. Stacey Patton, “The Ph.D. Now Comes with Food Stamps,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 6, 2012.
  5. Benjamin Ginsberg, “Administrators Ate My Tuition,” Washington Monthly, September–October 2011.
  6. Kovalik.
  7. Susan Adams, “The Highest-Paid Public University Presidents,” Forbes, May 19, 2014.
  8. Kevin Kiley, “So You Say You’re Broke?”, Inside Higher Ed, May 27, 2011.
  9. Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century (New York: Monthly Review Press), 1974, 188.
  10. “Twenty-Five Years of Declining Support for Public Colleges,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 3, 2014.
  11. Greg Bishop, “Oregon Embraces ‘University of Nike’ Image,” New York Times, August 2, 2013. See also Patrick Rishe, “Thank You, Phil Knight,” Forbes, August 3, 2013.
  12. Sara Hebel, “From Public Good to Private Good: How Higher Education Got to a Tipping Point,” Chronicle of Higher Education, March 3, 2014.
  13. Ginsberg.
  14. As a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), federal and state outlays for higher education have fluctuated in the range of 1.4 to 1.7 of GDP since the educational funding highpoint of the 1970s. Expanding the total US spending on higher education to close to 3 percent of GDP are private outlays, with individual households bearing 45 percent of total postsecondary education costs. See OECD, “Education at a Glance: OECD Country Indicators 2012, United States” and the Digest of Education Statistics 2013, National Center for Education Statistics.
  15. Michelle Jamrisko and Ilan Kolet, “Cost of College Degree in U.S. Soars 12 Fold: Chart of the Day,” Bloomberg, August 15, 2012.
  16. Andrew Erwin and Marjorie Wood, “The 1 Percent State U: How Public University Presidents Profit from Student Debt and Low-Wage Labor,” Institute for Policy Studies, May 21, 2014, 3.
  17. See David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 159–160; Henry Giroux, Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014), 13–14 and 101; and Kenneth J. Saltman, ed., Schooling and the Politics of Disaster (New York: Routledge, 2007), 5.
  18. Jean Anyon, Marx and Education (New York: Routledge, 2011), 85–87. For a thorough review and critique of contemporary applications of Marx’s theory of accumulation by dispossession, see Geoff Bailey, “Accumulation by Dispossession: A Critical Assessment,” International Socialist Review 95 (Winter 2014–2015).
  19. See Sheila Slaughter and Gary Rhoades, Academic Capitalism and the New Economy: Markets, State, and Higher Education (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2004).
  20. Slaughter and Rhoades, 229–230.
  21. Gaye Tuchman, Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 173; Slaughter and Rhodes, 8; Giroux, 16; and Christopher Newfield, Unmaking the Public University: The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle Class (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008), 10.
  22. David Rosowsky, Memo to Academics Deans, University of Vermont, December 1, 2014; Tuchman, 12.
  23. Slaughter and Rhoades, Chapter 1 passim.
  24. For an account that attempts a sunny, we-can-adapt! spin on such a course, see Tiffany Bourelle, Sherry Rankins-Robinson, Andrew Bourelle, and Duane Roen, “Assessing Learning in Resigned Online Composition Courses,” in Digital Writing Assessment & Evaluation, Ed. Heidi A. McKee and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss (Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State UP, 2013).
  25. Newfield, 194.
  26. Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on College Affordability,” Henninger High School, Syracuse, NY, August 22, 2013,
  27. Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on Opportunity for All and Skills for America’s Workers,” GE Energy Waukesha Gas Engines Facility, Waukesha, Wisc., January 30, 2014,
  28. Kevin Kiley, “Redefining the Relationship,” Inside Higher Ed, July 25, 2012.
  29. National Center for Education Statistics, “Digest of Education Statistics 2013,”
  30. See Neil Davidson, “The Neoliberal Era in Britain: Historical Perspectives and the Current Era,” International Socialism 139 (July 5, 2013).
  31. Kim Moody points out that even though five million US manufacturing jobs were eliminated in the biggest economic reorganizing shocks between 1980 and 2004, the role of manufacturing in US GDP remained essentially unchanged. In fact, manufacturing output—aided by the decimation of private-sector unions and the imposition of lean-production methods to intensify a reduced workforce’s productivity—doubled. See Moody, U.S. Labor in Trouble and Transition: The Failure of Reform from Above, The Promise of Revival from Below (London: Verso Books, 2007), 20.
  32. See, for instance, James R. Hagerty and Mark Magnier, “Companies Tiptoe Back toward ‘Made in the U.S.A.,” The Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2015; and Bill Conerly, “Reshoring or Offshoring: U.S. Manufacturing Forecast 2015–2016,” Forbes, September 2, 2014.
  33. Ken Jacobs, Ian Perry, and Jenifer MacGillvary, “The High Public Cost of Low Wages: Poverty-Level Wages Cost U.S. Taxpayers $152.8 Billion Each Year in Public Support for Working Families,” University of California–Berkeley Labor Center for Labor Research and Education, April 2015, 3.
  34. Kate Bezanson and Meg Luxton,  “Introduction: Social Reproduction and Feminist Political Economy, ” Social Reproduction: Feminist Political Economy Challenges Neo-Liberalism, ed. Kate Bezanson and Meg Luxton (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, 2006), 3.
  35. Meg Luxton, “Feminist Political Economy in Canada and the Politics of Social Reproduction,” Social Reproduction: Feminist Political Economy Challenges Neo-Liberalism, 36.
  36. Susan Ferguson and David McNally, “Capital, Labour-Power, and Gender-Relations: Introduction to the Historical Materialism Edition of Marxism and the Oppression of Women,” in Lise Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2013), xxiv.
  37. Paul Willis, Learning to Labor: How Working-Class Kids Get Working-Class Jobs (Farnborough, England: Saxon House, 1977); Ain’t No Makin’ It: Aspirations and Attainment in a Low-Income Neighborhood (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995); and Jean Anyon, “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work,” Journal of Education 162.1 (1980): 67–92.
  38. The post-World War II expansion of public universities and colleges brought a 49 percent increase in college enrollments through the 1950s and 120 percent through the 1960s, with 74 percent of college students enrolled in public institutions. By 1969 35 percent of young adults were enrolled in college, compared with just 2 percent in 1900. See Thomas D. Snyder, ed., “120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait,” National Center for Education Statistics, 1993,
  39. US post-secondary enrollments increased 15 percent between 1992 and 2002 and another 24 percent between 2002 and 2012. See National Center for Education Statistics Fast Facts,, and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Education and Training Outlook for Occupations, 2012–2022,
  40. Rose Bolognini and Kelly Makowiecki, “Education at a Glance 2014: Country Note, United States,” Office of Economic Cooperation and Development, March 20, 2014.
  41. The Economist, “The World Is Going to the University.”
  42. Bowles and Gintis, 265. For a discussion of correspondence theory in public K-12 schooling, see Sara Knopp, “Schools, Marxism, and Liberation” in Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation (Chicago: Haymarket, 2012).
  43. Kris Turner, “Purdue’s Indianapolis Charter a Pipeline to the University,” Indianapolis Star, June 19, 2015.
  44. See Thomas Walter Lacqueur, Religion and Respectability: Sunday Schools and Working-Class Culture 1780–1850 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976) and Edith Thomas, The Women Incendiaries: The Inspiring Story of the Women of the Paris Commune Who Took Up Arms in the Fight for Liberty and Equality (Chicago: Haymarket, 2007).
  45. Bowles and Gintis, 12–13.
  46. Ibid, 44. For a concise history of Taylorism and its 21st-century resurgence, see Shawn Gude, “The Industrial Classroom,” Jacobin 10 (April 2013).
  47. Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy Volume 1, trans. Ben Fowkes (New York: Penguin Classics, 1992), 274.
  48. Marx, 718.
  49. Ibid, 484.
  50. Ibid, 482.
  51. Ibid, 276.
  52. Ibid.
  53. Bowles and Gintis, 201.
  54. For a detailed survey of Corporate U through the US twentieth century, see “Historicizing the Public Research University: Industrial Capitalism and the Professional Ideal” in Catherine Chaput’s Inside the Teaching Machine: Rhetoric and the Globalization of the U.S. Public Research University (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2008). The U.S. Department of Education’s web page, “The Federal Role in Education,” also provides a brief and useful chronology from the second half of the nineteenth century through the momentous civil rights expansions of federal involvement and funding for US K–12 and higher education. Revealingly, it does not extend the story into recent legislation and programs for education defunding and conservative curricular compliance such as No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core, and the proposed College Scorecard.
  55. Mary Niederberger, “Chancellor of Pa. State System Says University Cuts Are Regrettable but Necessary,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 10, 2013. 
  56. Clark Kerr, The Uses of the University, 5th edition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), 68. 
  57. Sam Schaefer, “Board of Governors Discontinues 46 Programs Across UNC System,” The Daily Tarheel, May 23, 2015.
  58. Bowles and Gintis, 9–12.
  59. Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira, “The Imperial University: Race, War, and the Nation-State,” in The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent, ed. Chatterjee and Maira (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), Kindle edition.
  60. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, “Bridging the Gap, Powered by Ideas” (February 2005).
  61. Tithi Bhattacharya and Bill V. Mullen, “Why Is the American Elite Scared of BDS?,” Mondoweiss, February 7, 2014. See also The Imperial University, especially Chatterjee and Maira’s introductory chapter and Roberto J. González’s “Militarizing Education.” 
  62. Chatterjee and Maira point out that an early draft of Dwight Eisenhower’s famous speech presaging the threat to democracy posed by a growing “military-industrial complex” had included the word “academic.”
  63. Faculty, too, have learned the arts of what Chatterjee and Maira call “academic containment” and accepting their place as what Giroux terms “gated intellectuals.” Leading the charge for Salaita’s dismissal, for instance, was former American Association of University Professors president Cary Nelson—who also, in truly Orwellian fashion, told Inside Higher Ed that it is a strategy of the Israel boycott movement, rather than a strategy of virulent Zionists like himself, to “silence opponents.” See Colleen Flaherty, “In a Hurricane,” Inside Higher Ed, August 15, 2014.
  64. Chatterjee and Maira.
  65. Martha Biondi, The Black Revolution on Campus (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2012), 1.
  66. Ibid, 114.
  67. Adrienne Rich’s “Teaching Language in Open Admissions” in On Lies, Secrets, and Silence (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979) provides an inspiring introduction to the aims of SEEK’s writing instructors to orient basic or remedial writing classes not on test preparation or workplace readiness but on writing for power and liberation.
  68. Leon Trotsky, “The Intelligentsia and Socialism,” 1910,
  69. “Harvard Men on Guard,” New York Times, February 1, 1912.
  70. Alex Callinicos and Simon Turner, “The Student Movement Today,” International Socialism 75, February 1977,
  71. Ibid.
  72. Hal Draper, “The Mind of Clark Kerr” (Berkeley: Independent Socialist Club, 1964),
  73. Kerr, 65.
  74. Ibid, 140.
  75. Newfield, 100.
  76. Newfield, 11, my emphasis.
  77. Alan Sears and James Cairns, “Austerity U: Preparing Students for Precarious Lives,” New Socialist Webzine, January 24, 2014.
  79. See Michelle Goldberg, “This Is What Happens When You Slash State Funding for Public Universities,” The Nation, May 19, 2015.
  80. See Chronicle of Higher Education, “Executive Compensation at Public and Private Colleges,” June 8, 2015, and Tamar, Lewin, “Benefits Grow for Public University Presidents, Survey Finds,” New York Times, June 7, 2015. The Chronicle includes bonuses, severance, and paid-out deferred compensation in calculating “total compensation” but not the houses and cars (among other perks) awarded to 80 percent of US public university and state college presidents.
  81. Tithi Bhattacharya’s “Explaining Gender Violence in the Neoliberal Era” (ISR 91) is essential reading for understanding how neoliberalism, an “integrated system of socioeconomic relationships,” relies on naturalized gender violence to facilitate offloading provisioning work back onto women and to exercise discipline and control in global sweatshop production.
  82. In addition to Biondi, see Ibram H. Roger’s The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965–72 (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013).
  83. See Joe Garofoli, “UC Davis Pepper-Spray Officer Awarded $38,000,” SFGate, October 23, 2013; Noelle de la Paz, “Irvine 11 Case Against Muslim Students Sets Dangerous Precedent,” Colorlines, September 28, 2011.
  84. Henry A. Giroux, “The End of Higher Education as We Know It,” Counterpunch, June 8, 2015. 
  85. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (New York: Penguin 2011), 67.
  86. See Jordy Cummings, “Still Striking to Win at York University,” Socialist Worker, March 18, 2015, and N. T. Rowan, “Updated Statement on Senate Policy and Actions Endorsed by 164 Faculty,” YUTalk, March 22, 2015.
  87. Lennard Davis and Walter Benn Michaels, “Faculty on Strike,” Jacobin, February 14, 2014.

Issue #103

Winter 2016-17

"A sense of hope and the possibility for solidarity"

Interview with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
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