Just a quick thought about the UC tuition hike

The UC regents voted for a steep increase in tuition.   Some have pointed to the unedifying spectacle of whining middle class students taking to the streets to protest the tuition increase, since they prefer to have California’s working class, most of whom will not attend the school, bear the financial burden.  Although I agree in principle about California’s spoiled brats, I’m not sure that’s the right argument for the UC problem.  The point of public education is that everyone pays so that some may benefit — on the theory that those who benefit will contribute to society for the benefit of all.  Of course, what we actually have in California is a punitive tax system that means that those who actually benefit, if they’re smart, promptly leave the state, taking their skills, education and tax dollars with them.  But still, the theory is that the tax payers get a secondary benefit from having an educated class within their midst.

The real problem, I think, is the UC system itself.  I’ll freely admit that I last attended a UC college more than two decades ago, but I’m assuming the situation then has gotten worse, not better.  With the exception of three hugely talented teachers who brought their subjects alive, my Berkeley professors could easily be lumped into a single descriptive class:  Except for the three mentioned, none could teach worth a damn — that is, those who bothered teaching at all, as opposed to handing the task off to grossly underpaid graduate students, many of whom had only a limited grasp of the English language.  The professors would read from yellowed notes, or waffle on in monotones, sucking the life out of everything.  Despite their manifest limitations, because they published (remember:  publish or perish), they were tenured, and their pathetic inability to teach was irrelevant.

The beauty of tenure was that they were paid sooooo well.  Professors didn’t live middle class lives — they lived upper middle class lives.  They had houses in the Berkeley hills with expansive views of the San Francisco Bay.  Their kitchens were cleaned by the Hispanic help and their gardens groomed by the Japanese.  The fact that so many of these professors were Marxists was irrelevant to these delightful living arrangements.

If one queried the lavish way in which these state employees lived, one was told that Berkeley, to keep its world standing, needed to compete with such private facilities as Harvard or Yale.  I don’t know about that, but I do know that many professors at City College in San Francisco were doing a much better job teaching.  At the same time I took a mind-numbing art history class at Berkeley, my mom took the identical class (at least in terms of subject matter) at City College.  My teacher was a mumbling, boring drag.  Her teacher was a dynamo, who brought the class to life.  Whenever I had time, I’d go to his class, not my own.  He wasn’t at a world class institution, but he was a world class teacher — and there were so many like him.  Unburdened by the cachet of Berkeley, and the “publish or perish” imperative, these people simply got down to the job of actually teaching.

Another problem with Berkeley and tuition is the absolute garbage being taught.  Should anybody be paid to teach, on the taxpayer’s dime, the politically correct effluvia that flows from the Gender Women’s Studies department:

The Department of Gender and Women’s Studies offers interdisciplinary perspectives on the formation of gender and its intersections with other relations of power, such as sexuality, race, class, nationality, religion, and age. Questions are addressed within the context of a transnational world and from perspectives as diverse as history, sociology, literary and cultural studies, postcolonial theory, science, new technology, and art.

The undergraduate program is designed to introduce students to women’s studies, focusing on gender as a category of analysis and on the workings of power in social and historical life. The department offers an introduction to feminist theory as well as more advanced courses that seek to expand capacities for critical reflection and analysis and to engage students with varied approaches to feminist scholarship. The curriculum draws students into interdisciplinary analysis of specific gender practices in areas such as feminism in a transnational world, the politics of representation, feminist science studies, women and work, women and film, gender and health, and the politics of childhood.

The department offers an undergraduate major and minor. It also houses an undergraduate minor in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies, a program whose courses overlap productively with feminist and gender studies. Faculty in the department collaborate with an extensive group of extended faculty through the Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender and Sexuality, which provides graduate students across campus with a site for transdisciplinary learning and teaching. The department is now in the process of developing a Ph.D. Program in Transnational Studies of Women and Gender, which will involve faculty from a range of departments. The department fosters connections with scholars in feminist and sexuality studies throughout the campus by cross-listing courses, collaborating in research, and participating in the Gender Consortium, which links research and teaching units that focus on gender.

African Studies is equally bogus, functioning, not as a way for African-Americans to learn about their culture, but as an umbrella for Marxist theory. You don’t have to believe me.  You can convince yourself with a visit to the UC Berkeley African-Studies Events link.  Scroll down and click on “Robert Allen Celebrated: A 40th Anniversary Tribute to Black Awakening in Capitalist America.” I optimistically thought this would be a program about the benefits of capitalism for African-Americans (because I believe capitalism benefits all people, just as a rising tide lifts all boats). Silly me. At that link, you can hear audio files from the celebration. I know you’re hungering to hear about:

“Malcolm X and Robert Allen on Domestic (Neo-)Colonialism and Revolutionary Nationalism, and Black Awakenings as a seminal bridge between the ‘organic’ and ‘traditional’ intellectual traditions of activist-scholarship.”

or perhaps

“Colony Over-the-Rhine: Gentrification and Econocide.”

or even

“Social Justice and state crisis: Lessons for the future from the 1960s Black Liberation movement.”

This scholarship isn’t about enabling blacks, at taxpayer’s expense I might add, to advance in American society. Instead, it’s firmly intended s to keep blacks locked in the perpetual victim servitude of identity politics.

This kind of “academic material,” if I can dignify it with that title, is for hobbyists and obsessives, not for people nominally being educated for the benefit of (and at the expense of) the people of the State of California.  It’s equally easy to attack the other “politically correct” departments that populate the school, all providing the “mick” classes (i.e., Mickey Mouse or easy classes) that people with a high tolerance for BS will take, and that have absolutely nothing to do with a classical education of great thought, science, languages, history and, perhaps, world culture.

Students and taxpayers alike would benefit substantially if the UC system, rather than repeatedly imposing an ever greater burden on students and taxpayers alike, would actually examine its own flaws.  It should purge those who can’t teach (or at least stop pretending they’re teachers), and it should peel away the politically correct classes that weigh down the curriculum (at great expense) and focus on core education that benefits, not just the students, but the long-suffering people of California.

Here’s the way I would do it:  I would create a two tier UC system.  The bottom tier, primarily funded by taxpayers, would offer the same core curriculum that existed before the free speech movement, before Marxism and before political correctness ate away like a canker at the heart of the system.  This tier would focus on science, mathematics, history, languages, etc.  It would pretty much resurrect the 1958 (or thereabouts) catalog.  In this way, the state would still get the benefit of an educated class that, in theory, would then raise the whole tone of the state.

All other classes at UC would be a la carte, with students interested in them paying extra for the privilege of learning something outside of the core curriculum.  Those who want a basic education would get it.  Those who want more, would pay, either out of their parents pockets or, if they approached college as I did, by getting a job.  This approach would bring the marketplace into the mix, and allow the Regents, the state and the taxpayers see just how many people are actually willing to dig into their own pocket for “womyn’s studies” and Afro-centric Marxist victim classes.

Somehow, though, I think both taxpayers and students are going to be gouged in perpetuity in order to fund a significantly large group of Marxist professors intent on teaching identity politics papulum to our poor, vulnerable youth.

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  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    There’s certainly a lot universities could do to reduce expenses if they really cared to do so. See my post Fisking Fish’s Fishy Financial Findings:


  • Oldflyer

    I read a comment by the Chancellor, or whatever, in which he said there were no other options to raising tuition more than 30%.  Really?
    I attended a state university about 55 years ago.  Other than room and board, we paid $75/semester.  That money also bought our football and basketball tickets.  The taxpayers paid the rest without being overly burdened.  True, the faculty, to my mind, was awful; but then again mine was  not a reliable opinion as I had little interest in what they offered anyway.  They certainly did not stimulate me.  I left after two years to pursue another agenda.  My contemporaries, who finished their course of study, have done just fine in the world.
    Many years later I attended another institution of higher learning.  The faculty was supposedly first rate; I saw little difference overall.  But, I had learned how to find the knowledge I sought–and that which interested me.  And, of course, I got 4 letters after my name.
    Next to government, I consider higher education to be one of the bigger scams going.

  • Oldflyer

    PS  I should have observed that $75/semester was about what it was worth–to me; if football and basketball tickets were included.  Fortunately, after one year I was able to find a position that paid room and board.

  • Gringo

    The idea of a two-tiered UC system, whereby one could have a UCB and a UC-BS  sitting side by side, intrigues me. Unfortunately , the rot has infested universities so much that any such split would result in  some PC idiots on the side of the old-style U. A clean split would be impossible. It would not surprise me if, once split, the PC idiots who got into the old-style U, would then commence a march through the institutions such as began in the 1960s.

  • http://phillips.blog.com phillips1938

    I think you have a good idea with the two tiered system.
    My problem is with a system that rejects meritocracy in its content and in its process.  Tenure makes very little sense under any circumstances, but even less in a system where there are no measures of market output or productivity.
    Good teachers and bad teachers get the same pay most of the time and often the relationship is perverse, as you point out.

  • Indigo Red

    A UC system official said in an NPR report this morning that without the fee increase there would be no instructors next term. Apparently, not much has changed in twenty years; the professors still require their high salaries to maintain their Marxist lifestyles.   


    Wonder if these students know what their professors and head coaches are earning.

  • JKB

    Yea, universities went a different way.  Requiring students studying real subjects to take general education electives designed to force them to take the idiot program courses.  Not a bad idea originally when engineers were required to take courses in the classics, etc.  However, then the “studies” programs got in the game.  
    My niece was required to take a course called “Liberal Arts”.  Heavy on the liberal, light on the arts.  And this was as a southern university in flyover country.  Having independent thoughts of her own, she  had issues with the so called teacher when her opinions weren’t his.  I had to counsel her to either take a bad grade or suppress her opinions and write what the fool wanted to hear and move on.  Cut out BS like that and you could save a fortune or spend that money on core subjects of value to society.

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  • http://thoughtyoudneverask.blogspot.com/ zabrina

    But the California taxpayers have already split up their state’s higher educational system by having the University of California campuses and the California State campuses. Your proposal would just increase the layers, not solve the problem, I fear. I say, raise the tuition (if they refuse to cut spending) and let the marketplace sort it out.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    Interesting to read this post – yesterday,  I came across the following, which is directly related:
    http://www.aei.org/docLib/Bauerlein.pdf Foreword Is the publication of more research the same thing as the publication of better, more informative, or more useful research? How should institutions of higher education and public officials think about the balance between scholarship and instruction—and when these tasks are complements and when they are in conflict? Scholarly “productivity” has soared over time, with the number of academic publications increasing 500 percent over the past fifty years. One need not be a fierce critic of colleges or universities to question the utility of much of this additional scholarship. Meanwhile, there is cause for concern that the engagement and performance of undergraduate students has gradually declined—despite steadily increasing investments in higher education. The established hiring and tenure systems encourage young professors and graduate students to zero in on research and devote little attention to the collegiate classroom. Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University and former director of the Office of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts, examines the pressure on humanities professors to “publish publish publish” and explains why the abundance of research offers diminishing returns. He laments the consequences for undergraduate education and student engagement and suggests that students, faculty, and the broader society would be well-served if we revisited this aged and problematic compact. What do these trends mean for the future of higher education and the role of professors in teaching and research? How can we realign the incentives and rethink the traditions to effectively serve both ends? Bauerlein’s recommendations for how to upend the existing framework challenge us to consider how we hire and reward professors, staff our classrooms, serve students, and spend our public funds. I hope that you find this essay as thought-provoking as I have.