October 10, 2016 - admin

Volume 42 Issue 7/8: The Neoliberal University: Ascent of the Spiralists

[Editor’s Comment: This commentary outlines a process that began many years ago, devastating public institutions nationwide, especially those that serve poor and often predominantly minority urban communities. Rising tuition rates to make up for declining public sector support, increasing class size, a greater reliance on precarious employment of adjunct faculty, and administrations that take an ever greater share of an ever shrinking resource base all negatively impact students and stifles opportunity structures for those who need it most. The upshot is a growing divide between relatively rich institutions that reaffirm privilege, and those institutions that fail to do more than burden students with debt without providing the ability to fully participate in the current economy. UC Berkeley is important because it heretofore represented what was excellent about public education, in a state that has built the gold standard of a state-sponsored higher education system. If this is happening at Berkeley, one cannot imagine what has and continues to happen at less prestigious public institutions. At the same time, if this process can be challenged at Berkeley, it may point the way to resist and perhaps reverse these trends.]

The UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks will resign. We now have to understand what happened and what lessons it holds for the future. Undoubtedly, he inherited a challenging fiscal situation, which was made more challenging by the deal struck between UC President Janet Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown. This was a year ago. Since then, Dirks has shown himself to be out of touch with the campus. There was the fence around his home, the cover-up of sexual harassment, the bungling of structural realignment, the athletics scandal and the escape hatch. From tragedy to farce.

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