What we don’t want to know
Rodolfo F. Acuña
There is an old saying that goes “Out of sight out of mind.” If we don’t think about the shit that we live in, we won’t smell it. And if we don’t think about it, we are not compelled to do anything about it. In other words, the more you know, the more you smell the injustices. Perhaps my grandmother was right when she told me, “Hijito don’t read so much te vas a volver loco.”
When in college, I learned that liberalism that was partially based on a political philosophy or worldview founded on liberty and equality. It melded into the drive to secularize modern states in the 19th Century. Liberals believed that individuals should have the freedom to use land and other resources in the ways they wanted, and that they should not be limited by government. Accordingly, communal properties hampered progress.
This philosophy again melded into the positivist belief of the survival of the fittest. Liberals believed in the secularization of Church property and abolishment of communal property. The individual should public properties and profit from the land and resources of a society; the individual’s freedom to exploit the land should not be limited.
I have always believed that micro-history better informs us best of the lessons and definitions in history. In the mid-1990s Bill Clinton spread the cult of neoliberalism. It was a blend of 19th century and modern liberalism that favored free-market capitalism. It was based on the policies of Ronald Reagan; Clinton triangulated it. Neoliberalism was also nurtured by the 1970s the ideas of Milton Friedman and Chicago University economists who popularized the myths of the free market. Under Augusto Pinochet, Chile became a proving ground for neoliberals who spread the phenomenon worldwide; this same neoliberalism is today destroying Mexico where people are getting poorer and the number of billionaires is increasing.
While I have no problem understanding neoliberalism on a macro-level, my understanding is enhanced by micro events. Arizona, for example, taught us that we sometimes simplify the cause of racial conflict by blaming white racism, while true in some cases, it is much more complex. The more I studied events, the more I realized that neoliberalism was the underlying cause of the anti-immigrant and anti-ethnic studies legislation. Arizona made possible the Trump disaster. There was widespread profit and privatization.
Comparatively little literature exists on the impact of neoliberalism or privatization on higher and public education in the United States. Articles mostly focus on the spread of charter and for profit schools. I thus found it necessary to apply my experiences in Arizona and my home university both of which are totally privatized. The process was so rapid that it was hardly noticeable. Within the universities the main casualties were faculty governance, a decline in fulltime faculty employment and the elimination of civil service employment.
Confrontations with the administration and the idiot deans have made most Chicana/o studies faculty more aware of the threat, which brings me to my main point we cannot allow any further erosion of governance.
I was browsing the CSUN web page on my IPhone when I came across an item that said that CSUN was a leader among the Masters’ Level universities in the number of foreign students. This article which I cannot now find put the information in the context of CSUN having achieved academic stature nationwide because of this increase. Immediately it came to mind that our campus is impacted and that students in certain majors are being turned away. The ratio of Black students has fallen to about 5 percent; it would be lower if the Education Opportunity Program had not made a special effort to recruit Black students. Lastly, it brought to mind that we have about 4200 out of state and foreign exchange students. The administration profits about $80 million dollars annually that goes into a plenary fund for the administration to use. Faculty does not get the accounting that they did in years past.
Another item posted on March 2 reported that “CSU Campuses Recognized Nationally as Leaders in Diversity and Inclusion.” The number of Hispanic serving Institutions has mushroomed. This was news to me since the administration has increasingly excluded Chicana/o studies from consultations. For close to fifty years we have requested data on the number of Mexican origin professors which the administration has refused to give us. The Dean of Humanities who in the past has done everything she could to obstruct us is promoting grants, and although she knows nothing about Mexicans and indeed has an antipathy towards them, is attempting to monopolize research and Latinx programs. At one time racists like the Dean Beth Say did not want to have anything to do with Mexicans, but now that there are so many of them she sees the dollar signs. For the record, outside ChS only about one percent of the CSUN faculty is of Mexican extraction. This ratio has not changed in fifty years.
The last disturbing item reported in the Los Angeles Times: the California State University Trustees voted to increase student tuition. Today increasingly minority students are dropping out of college because they cannot afford it. When I first began my trek at LA State College the state paid 100 percent of the costs. I paid $5.00 a semester. Today students pay about 80 percent of the costs of instruction. Aside from tuition students are charged $1.75 for a cup of coffee. They pay for the parking structures, the dorms where they pay $900 a month for a single bed, forced to pay for meal tickets, etc. The university is a Big Mercado; they even have a coffee shop in the library.
No doubt that neoliberalism has converted us from educators into merchants. The problem is that few people notice or care. Like the movie “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” we are the patients and the administration gives us our daily tranquilizers. This is unfortunate because the privatization greatly impact all students. It will severely limit the expansion of ChS and the ability to advocate for Mexican/Latinx students. Latinx students are the new gold who because of their numbers they are valuable commodities.
Times have changed. In 1969 white administrators and faculty did not care about ChS because the number of Chicana/o students on campus was small. Today Mexican/Latinos are too large to ignore, witness the growth of Hispanic Serving Institutions. The lack of faculty diversity deprives students of mentors and most of all advocates. The rising tuition limits students from the bottom of the economic ladder from enrolling in college – and finally they don’t have the collateral consume what the neoliberal college peddles.