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September 2008

The Latest Right Wing Assault on Higher Ed, or "Those who make revolutions by halves do but dig themselves a grave."

One of the few lasting institutional impacts of 60s and 70s student activism is the proliferation of identity-based academic departments: black studies, women's (and now gender) studies, queer studies, native studies, Hispanic studies, etc.

Direct Action Gets the Goods

Here's a great example of students taking matters into their own hands, and bypassing "authorized" methods of student participation (student government/council).

A Court Victory for Student Free Speech

Earlier this month, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed the right of public school students to criticize school policies. The First Amendment Center:

Militarized Campuses: a Bipartisan Affair

rotcLast week, Barack Obama confirmed what many had hoped was a misstatement made in the primaries. Washington Post:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took the occasion to chide Columbia for its lack of on-campus ROTC. "I don't think that's right," Mr. McCain said. "Shouldn't the students here be exposed to the attractiveness of serving in the military, particularly as an officer?" Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) readily agreed, calling Columbia's anti-ROTC stance a "mistake." 

Flash back several months:

From last night's Democratic debate, as reported by The Hill:
Obama and Edwards both said that they supported withholding funding from higher education institutions that do not provide ROTC programs to students. Clinton initially said she would enforce laws to stop funding but later said of prominent schools that do not have ROTC programs that "there are ways they can work out fulfilling that obligation."
What they were talking about is the Solomon Amendment — a law passed in 1996 (and upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court) that allows the Secretary of Defense to strip a college or university of all Federal funding if the school bans/prohibits ROTC or any other military recruitment on campus.

If you recall, the LGBT and anti-war communities flipped out at this, and rightfully so.

Having ROTC and military recruiters on campus violates many university non-discrimination regulations. To create sympathy for their argument, the Post casts it in classist terms of elite universities being the only ones without recruiters. But the long shadow of the Pentagon does reach these institutions, in the form of "defense" research into everything from smart bombs to spy satellites to bioweapons. 

And the Post wraps it up with a bit of flag waving:

"Don't ask, don't tell" is a misguided policy. For the time being, though, it is the law of the land, and we see no sign that the Ivies' protest is having any impact on it. Meanwhile, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines defend all Americans, gay or straight.

But it is having an impact, as all boycotts do (to a greater or lesser extent). They're also serving as an example to others. As more and more universities refuse to bow down and subsidize Empire, we'll see reduced capacity for another set of Middle East (or South American) adventures, which is, scarily, still a possibility nomatter who wins in November.

When Academia Puts Profit Ahead of Wonder

I ran into a great NYTimes article describing the changing face of the hard sciences at Universities, and their tanglings with massive bio/tech corporations. It boxes in creativity and innovation, and pushes the distorting effects of the market into one more aspect of academia (and apparently is actually a money losing proposition for most schools!).

Update on the Greek Student Movement

In prep for a presentation I'm giving at Muhlenberg College this weekend, I ran into a nice (if a bit dated - April 2008) summation of the current state of the student movement in Greece - particularly its resistance to neoliberal "reforms." (Check out our earlier coverage of the issue early last year for some background.) Apparently the joint work between students and faculty against these reforms has for the most part collapsed.