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In protest over the ongoing commodification and bureaucratization of education
June 15, 2012 6:29 AM   Subscribe

On Thursday 26-year-old Michael Vipperman walked up to the podium during University of Toronto's Convocation Hall ceremonies, held up his 'no' sign and said, "I hereby renounce this degree." posted by onwords (119 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Youth is wasted on the young.
posted by Blake at 6:31 AM on June 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Idealists are cute, aren't they?
posted by davebush at 6:33 AM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


So are big floppy red hats and fanciful signs. He looks like a Tom Baker-era Timelord.

Ah well, good on you for doing something you think is important.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:34 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Idealists are cute, aren't they?

Sneering at idealists, not so much.
posted by mhoye at 6:34 AM on June 15, 2012 [115 favorites]


The kid is right. Higher Education has become a for-profit scam. Universities graduate out thousands of kids with unmanageable debt.

I have no doubt that scores of university of professors are going to post here defending the university. Just like the banksters defend their jobs. Nevertheless, the education is a for-profit venture is a failure, and the current crop of university professors are responisble for graduating out a generation shackled to debt for the rest of their lives.
posted by Flood at 6:36 AM on June 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


>> Idealists are cute, aren't they?
>> Sneering at idealists, not so much.


Sneering at idealists... one of the greatest pleasures you'll find when you turn 40 or so.
posted by Blake at 6:38 AM on June 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


Idealists are cute, aren't they?

Yeah, having ideals, that's so funny, amirite?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 6:39 AM on June 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm a professor. All I can say is that if public universities in the US are supposed to be for-profit ventures, we're doing it wrong.
posted by escabeche at 6:40 AM on June 15, 2012 [22 favorites]


It's a bit of an empty protest, isn't it? I don't imagine that U of T will take the trouble to note "degree refused" on his transcript, and even if they do the honors transcript will still be there for all to see. Like protesting by going on a starvation diet between lunch and dinner.
posted by ubiquity at 6:40 AM on June 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


Wouldn't the right time to renounce a degree be before you and the government invested so much time and money in it?

This feels a little like renouncing Medicare on your deathbed.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:41 AM on June 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


On the bright side, if Vipperman's paid all his monies and completed all the requirements for his degree, it's unlikely that U of T will actually take his degree away from him, isn't it? So it's pretty much win-win as I see it.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:41 AM on June 15, 2012


I'm a professor. All I can say is that if public universities in the US are supposed to be for-profit ventures, we're doing it wrong.

Who says the profit is for the professor?
posted by DU at 6:45 AM on June 15, 2012 [21 favorites]


There is nothing people who don't have privileges *love* seeing more than seeing someone who gets the privilege squander it.
posted by gjc at 6:45 AM on June 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


You can laugh at him now, but once his powerful NO spell takes hold of the unsuspecting muggles rendering them unable to affirm anything, you'll be CRAWLING back to ask for the antidote!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:45 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


the current crop of university professors are responisble for graduating out a generation shackled to debt for the rest of their lives.

From everything I've heard about life as an academic, professors who got into the game more recently than, say, the mid-1970s are much more likely to be the prisoner in the other room being urged to defect than they are to be the ones running the dilemma.

Administrators, on the other hand...
posted by gauche at 6:46 AM on June 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm a professor. All I can say is that if public universities in the US are supposed to be for-profit ventures, we're doing it wrong.

That's kind of the point, yes. Nobody claims professors are taking home huge superstar salaries and gaming students...but yes "the academy" is a horribly broken idea these days and higher education really needs some fundamental changes if its going to stay relevant in the twenty-first century.

The whole way of doing things in "academia" is broken these days, from a simple BS all the way up to doctorate degrees. As a professor, you should be hopping mad too. Don't you see ridiculous amounts of waste at every level in every department? Don't you see curricula designed to meet weird arbitrary goals that have nothing to do with real world applicability upon graduation? Don't you see students getting ripped off left and right by out of control fees, tuition, textbook monopolies and a host of other terrible "business practices" that are fundamentally anti-consumer?

If not, I'd love to know where you work.
posted by trackofalljades at 6:48 AM on June 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


Wouldn't the right time to renounce a degree be before you and the government invested so much time and money in it?

This feels a little like renouncing Medicare on your deathbed.


Or after you got your job offer? I wonder if he will honestly never apply for a job that requires a college degree.
posted by OmieWise at 6:50 AM on June 15, 2012


Don't you see curricula designed to meet weird arbitrary goals that have nothing to do with real world applicability upon graduation?

I'll let people working in the system address your other comments, but when it comes to this, it's worth noting that not everyone shares a view that college/uni is primarily about job training.
posted by tyllwin at 6:52 AM on June 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


I do generally support the dude's claims, but the cynic in me would point out there is no way for him to renounce a degree once he's earned it. Even if he prevents them from posting it to his transcript, he can always go back and request it to be re awarded since he's completed the requirements for it.
posted by Think_Long at 6:53 AM on June 15, 2012


Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
-Walt Whitman

This young man is right, and I applaud him.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:53 AM on June 15, 2012 [23 favorites]


The guy made a statement, got some attention to a cause, and sparked some discussion. Good on him.

Attempts to call out his motives seem a little pointless. It's a little like when people discover someone's a vegetarian and immediately try to determine if they're wearing leather shoes. People seem eager to sniff out a little hypocrisy in anyone representing a position, as if this invalidates the underlying argument, to avoid further discussion.
posted by itstheclamsname at 6:54 AM on June 15, 2012 [31 favorites]


Actually... if he thinks that "refusing" a degree that isn't honorary is going to have any effect whatsoever, there may be something to the idea that they're charging too much tuition.
posted by valkyryn at 6:57 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the cynical responses in this thread.

When asked for comment after the convocation, Vipperman’s mom, Deborah, smiled and said, “I love my kid.’’

Aw, that is really sweet. I hope things work out for him.
posted by yaymukund at 6:58 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a professor. All I can say is that if public universities in the US are supposed to be for-profit ventures, we're doing it wrong.

Isn't this equivalent to saying "I sweep floors at Wal-Mart, and I don't see any profit" or "I make sandwiches at Subway, and I'm sure not getting rich."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:58 AM on June 15, 2012 [21 favorites]


I have no problem with this kind of gesture, assuming that the person who makes it understands that it alone does nothing whatsoever to help anyone, and that the only way it becomes meaningful is if it is a way to bring attention to the hard work you do to advance your cause, not a substitute for that hard work.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:58 AM on June 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


I wonder if he will honestly never apply for a job that requires a college degree.

The thing is, though, he got a degree, with honors, he's just "renouncing" it. As someone noted above, it's hard to imagine that the UT administrators will actually record "no degree awarded" in his file. And even if they did, any Google search for his relatively unusual name will turn up news stories about how he got an honors degree but turned it down on principle.

If his scruples are so strong that he turns down the degree, I expect he will run in circles where his action has cachet; he's not likely to go work for Bank of Canada.

So, win-win indeed.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:59 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


>>Attempts to call out his motives seem a little pointless.

I am simply calling what he did pointless. Obviously any comment I leave here is pointless. I ain't out to change the world here. If, in a year, he's still talked about, or it turns out he actually changed something, I'll print this out and eat it.
posted by Blake at 7:00 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


He said university education is becoming elitist and exclusionary with "only certain people able to afford it."

I'm not sure it's "becoming" that way, so much as it's been like that since about 1088 or so. And university participation rates are higher than ever. In my opinion social/class factors are far more exclusionary than economic factors. Moving from country to country, elite universities all tend to have relatively few students from low-income backgrounds, and this doesn't seem to vary from country to country anywhere near as much as the upfront cost of an elite university education does.

Here are a couple of graphs that I would find really interesting but have never seen (at least not presented as clearly as I would like, or for the time period I would like):

1) University participation, as a % of population, vs time for 1800-today
2) Average total degree tuition as a % of average family income, vs time for 1800-today

This would vary a lot by country of course. Clearly (1) goes up continuously but has mostly levelled off in the UK and Canada.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 7:02 AM on June 15, 2012


Have fun, kid.
posted by ReeMonster at 7:03 AM on June 15, 2012


Yes, clearly, to make a message he should have bombed the place.
posted by TwelveTwo at 7:07 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thing is, though, he got a degree, with honors, he's just "renouncing" it. [...] he's not likely to go work for Bank of Canada.

So, win-win indeed.So, win-win indeed.


That's actually why I asked my question. If he is just "renouncing" it, then it truly is an empty gesture. It's literally just words, and not a speech act. If he's not ever going to claim it, that's something else.

I agree that he's unlikely to want a job at Bank of Canada, but at least in the US there are many more types of jobs than that which require a college degree. I have spent my career in social work, and most of the jobs around me require a college degree, even the "unskilled" ones. I could easily see a kid like this wanting to work in my field, or a related field.
posted by OmieWise at 7:08 AM on June 15, 2012


...he can always go back and request it to be re awarded since he's completed the requirements for it.

Has he completed all requirements, though? He didn't kneel in front of the Chancellor and bow his head for his colours to be awarded.

And speaking of the Chancellor, I applaud any move which leaves David Peterson alone with his own mind, and confused at the emptiness therein.

Good for you, kid. I hope it turns out well for you.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:10 AM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


If he's not ever going to claim it, that's something else. ... I could easily see a kid like this wanting to work in my field, or a related field.

Understood; I just think his resume will say BA, University of Toronto, Honors [Renounced]. I doubt his academic record is going to say that he was not awarded a degree at all. If anything, it may just state that he refused to be awarded the degree. And the internet will show he was actually in the process of receiving his sheepskin when he said "no."

I find it highly unlikely (especially in the circles I expect him to run), that he would be disqualified from positions requiring a college degree. Let's face it, he is not going to be flipping burgers with those people who are unfortunate enough not to have access to quality education. I don't think there will be a mechanical bar from entering social work, as your example, or from graduate degrees, even without changing his status or getting another BA.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:17 AM on June 15, 2012


I applaud the idealism and the guts. Alas, this gesture much like the Occupy Movement...make a statement and those that are The Problem, go on doing what they do...It is going to take more than rejecting that which you paid for and owe for to bring change.
posted by Postroad at 7:17 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


He got his story, and the education funding issue, into the newspapers and the blogs. People are talking about it again. Protesting Quebec students know they have one more ally. More than a few decision makers in the Quebec government know that many of us the rest of Canada and beyond aren't happy with their recent legislation.
This act was far from pointless and meaningless.
posted by rocket88 at 7:21 AM on June 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Isn't this equivalent to saying "I sweep floors at Wal-Mart, and I don't see any profit" or "I make sandwiches at Subway, and I'm sure not getting rich."

To be fair, just about any real university (at least in the US) is technically a non-profit. This includes private colleges. The only "for-profit" schools are places like U of Phoenix or DeVrys.

Now, obviously just being technically a non-profit doesn't mean people aren't exploiting the system and sending costs out of control, but it's at least a little bit different from your random megacorp.
posted by kmz at 7:23 AM on June 15, 2012


Dear Renouncer,

This ceremony wasn't about you and your bullshit protest. If you had a problem with your university or your degree or the government, just don't go to the ceremony and write a sharp Op-Ed for the local paper.

You suck.

Love,
Joe
posted by inturnaround at 7:23 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


He mentions the school's investments, but on the topic of commodification, there's also the issues that were raised during the recent TA bargaining at U of T. For example, the administration doesn't think there's any problem with herding 100 students into a room and calling it a "tutorial". U of T's administration deserves a stick in their eye from time to time.
posted by Beardman at 7:26 AM on June 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I agree with the skepticism. When your form of protest is an actual gesture like refusing a degree, as opposed to just standing outside convocation holding a sign, then it matters whether there is substance to your gesture or whether you're just grandstanding. If Vipperman goes on to claim the degree on his resume and job applications, then his gesture has no substance. It would make him a fraud.

The citation escapes me at the moment, but there is a statistician who talks about the fact that when you are doing human-rights work (for example, reporting deaths in an alleged genocide) it is über, super, doubly important that your numbers be accurate. Any inaccuracy will be used to undermine your entire argument. It seems to me the same principle applies here. If Vipperman really does follow through, applying to non-degree jobs and such, then it's a bold gesture. It could be a very compelling form of protest. On the other hand, if he's back in line with his classmates on Monday, then it was just grandstanding that embarrasses the larger point he was trying to aid.
posted by cribcage at 7:27 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


God, I hate stupid protests. This does nothing to help his "cause" whatsoever.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:30 AM on June 15, 2012


So we're really just going to spend our time complaining about how the problem was protested rather than actually discuss the problem itself?
posted by Doleful Creature at 7:31 AM on June 15, 2012 [22 favorites]


Yep, and watch cynical jerks old people sneer at idealists.
posted by Malor at 7:33 AM on June 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, guys, I guess we better follow this kid around forever and ever just to make sure he never let's anyone know he attended college.

It's just the right thing to do, ya know? Let's keep this little fucker honest.
posted by broadway bill at 7:35 AM on June 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


This ceremony wasn't about you and your bullshit protest.
Um, actually the ceremony WAS about him. He was a member of that class.
Graduates do all sorts of things, including drunken and profane things, at graduations.

Tell me, Joe, would you be less bitter if he had done a drunken cart-wheel across the stage?
posted by Flood at 7:35 AM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


It certainly used to be possible to complete the requirements for a degree, not receive the degree and still be able to get something useful out of it. See this example, although that was hardly by the choice of the student.
posted by edd at 7:36 AM on June 15, 2012


> I wonder if he will honestly never apply for a job that requires a college degree.

I've been in the workforce for 15 years and none of my employers have asked to see a transcript or even proof of my degrees. Unless HR types have ways of checking these things out behind the scenes, I could be a high school dropout for all they know.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:37 AM on June 15, 2012


Unless HR types have ways of checking these things out behind the scenes, I could be a high school dropout for all they know.

HR can simply inquire to the university from which you claim to have a degree. It's public information.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:39 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am simply calling what he did pointless. Obviously any comment I leave here is pointless. I ain't out to change the world here. If, in a year, he's still talked about, or it turns out he actually changed something, I'll print this out and eat it.

Well, if I may get a little philosophical for the moment, he certainly changed himself. He took a huge existential leap to define himself in a very particular way, and in the hardest of ways -- against convention. So yes, he changed something -- himself. And perhaps by changing himself, he can bring about changes in his world.

Granted, it may have been a foolhardy existential leap, but what of that? If he had made some other foolhardly but well-intentioned and idealistic leap, such as a rash marriage proposal, or joining the Peace Corps, would we also find that to be 'pointless'?

Maybe. But this kid is out there trying to make a better world, and make himself a better person, and that is something to be encouraged. Life will beat him down soon enough.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:41 AM on June 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Having been in Montreal recently, it struck me how widespread and popular the ongoing protests are. The beginning may have been due to the proposed tuition hike, but it has expanded to be a reaction to a certain attitude in government. If it takes some criticized and possibly less-effective gestures to take that attitude to the rest of Canada, then I still think it's a good idea.

I remember being in college circa 2000, when similar things happened in the US (well, had been happening and were continuing) and the few who protested were marginalized and had little news coverage. Seeing how student debt is one of the largest debt issues now... well, I think Canadians have the right idea.
posted by mikeh at 7:45 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been in the workforce for 15 years and none of my employers have asked to see a transcript or even proof of my degrees. Unless HR types have ways of checking these things out behind the scenes, I could be a high school dropout for all they know.

Well, I work in the (much derided) government, and every job requires submission of a transcript. Even if you've been graduated forever. Failure to submit one leads to your resume not being considered, regardless of qualification.

To my mind, if this guy lists the degree on his resume then he's full of it.
posted by OmieWise at 7:47 AM on June 15, 2012


> HR can simply inquire to the university from which you claim to have a degree. It's public information.

Ah. How about transcripts? I've heard they're a pain in the ass for graduates to request and receive, so I'd like to believe firms can't just ring up and ask for one.

> Well, I work in the (much derided) government, and every job requires submission of a transcript.

I don't remember having to provide one when I got a job at Industry Canada, but it was the late '90s and I may have forgotten or things might have changed since then.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:52 AM on June 15, 2012


So we're really just going to spend our time complaining about how the problem was protested rather than actually discuss the problem itself?

Probably. The FPP (Front Page Post) is about Vipperman and his particular protest. That's what we do on MetaFilter: Discuss FPP material. Other discussions may occur, but they may also be offtopic and derails. If you want to make a broader FPP discussing the commodification of education, there is a "New Post" button at the top of the page.
posted by cribcage at 7:54 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blake: Sneering at idealists... one of the greatest pleasures you'll find when you turn 40 or so.

I'm not sneering, although I think what he did is a bit ostentatious.

If, in a year, he's still talked about, [...] I'll print this out and eat it.

Ya know, I can talk about something, I know how to make an event in Google Calendar, and sometimes I am taken by a perverse need to make people eat their words.
posted by JHarris at 7:55 AM on June 15, 2012


I think the red hat was a nice touch. That was to support women's heart health, right?
posted by Kokopuff at 8:03 AM on June 15, 2012


I accepted my degree but I didn't wear a cap and gown and I didn't shake hands with any of the school administrators for all of those reasons, but really, my professors were good and I worked hard, hell yes I want that degree as much as I want reform.

Kid better make this real and not claim to have a degree from UT. Protesting =/= showboating, no matter what the American counter-culture has done to protesting.
posted by fuq at 8:06 AM on June 15, 2012


But also, disrupting ceremonies is always cool in my book, for the record, even if it is for a protest that might be empty.
posted by fuq at 8:08 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow. It's really odd -- and disconcerting -- to see mefites join hands with conservatives to denounce academia and learning. Yes, of COURSE education is a commodity. How could it be otherwise? Professors will not teach for free. Research does not happen for free. Things cost money. If living in the real world is such a difficulty, feel free to abdicate to a commune in Alaska and leave the process of actual involvement in reality to the grown-ups.

Anyhow, I guarantee you that this over-entitled asshole student, much like the over-entitled assholes behind OWS, can't actually give a reasoned explanation of their incoherent ideologies, nor can they give a real, workable solution to the problems they claim to be seeing. This guy is the left-wing version of an abstinence-only education zealot, viewing the world through the reductive lens of his own sick ideology.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 8:15 AM on June 15, 2012


fuq got it: disrupting ceremonies (peacefully and briefly) is pretty much always cool.

Kid better make this real and not claim to have a degree from UT.

How much does that matter in this day and age? can't he just show potential employers the video or news story? ;)

Why claim you have a degree from UT when you can say "I fulfilled all the requirements for a degree but rejected my diploma at graduation"?

At the least, it's a good icebreaker.

When asked for comment after the convocation, Vipperman’s mom, Deborah, smiled and said, “I love my kid.’’

That made me tear up a bit.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:17 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Haters gonna hate. Good for you, kid.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:26 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anyhow, I guarantee you that this over-entitled asshole student, much like the over-entitled assholes behind OWS, can't actually give a reasoned explanation of their incoherent ideologies, nor can they give a real, workable solution to the problems they claim to be seeing. This guy is the left-wing version of an abstinence-only education zealot, viewing the world through the reductive lens of his own sick ideology.
posted by Frobenius Twist


You're adorable, and lack self-awareness.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:27 AM on June 15, 2012 [17 favorites]


Wasn't pointless, because he clearly had a point. Wasn't fruitless, because here we are talking about it. Wasn't simple youthful arrogance, because that moment he took the stage was already about him, and instead he made the moment about something bigger than him.

Idealism: It's not just between lunch and dinner anymore.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:29 AM on June 15, 2012 [27 favorites]


this over-entitled asshole student

So, what you are saying is: I disagree with this person, therefore I will mock him, and make blanket assumptions about the value of his life.

Yeah, that seems about par for the course of conservative thought.
posted by Flood at 8:33 AM on June 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Idealism: It's not just between lunch and dinner anymore.

It's unclear to me how an idealism that costs nothing differs much from simple self-conceit.

Not that I'm knocking the kid, not at all; I nearly went pantsless under my graduation robes. Besides, if his graduation was anything like some of the ones I've seen, then his refusal was probably the most dignified moment in the whole ceremony.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:42 AM on June 15, 2012


For example, the administration doesn't think there's any problem with herding 100 students into a room and calling it a "tutorial". U of T's administration deserves a stick in their eye from time to time.

My SO recently taught a class of 200+ students with no tutorials. He was the only point of academic contact for the 200+ students in what was supposed to be a third-year, core required class for the program. He was paid $13,000 for that privilege (theoretically 15 hours or so/week, in reality 30+, including 5-6 hours of office hours and meeting with students, because he cared too much to just let them hang out to dry like the university had -- some of them are still in contact with him two years later).

Meanwhile, tenure-track and tenured faculty are paid salaries in the top 5% of all Canadian salaries, starting at $80,000 and progressing to $100,000 in only a few years. The administration claims that it has to pay that much to get qualified people, but they have no problem paying "unqualified" people a fraction of the amount to do a lot of the actual teaching.
posted by jb at 8:44 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that seems about par for the course of conservative thought.

What's interesting is that you assume I'm a conservative because I disagree with this kid. I'm very much not, but the left has become a circular firing squad where disagreement with empty-headed posturing gets you labeled as (*gasp!*) a right-winger.

Wasn't pointless, because he clearly had a point. Wasn't fruitless, because here we are talking about it. Wasn't simple youthful arrogance, because that moment he took the stage was already about him, and instead he made the moment about something bigger than him.

You can say the same about pro-life activists outside of abortion clinics and anti-vaccination protestors. Does that make their causes just?

Let me be more explicit about why this guy really, deeply rubs me the wrong way. I'm currently a postdoc in a big math department. We just spent the entirety of the last academic year debating whether or not to update our calculus textbook, because the publisher came out with a pointless new edition and we didn't want our students to have to spend more money. We ended up adopting the new book but we also gave free books to students so that they wouldn't have to spend more money. Before this I was a visiting professor at a well-regarded private institution where we had the same debate. The point is that academics think all the time about the monetary impact our decisions have on students. I invite any mefites who are so knee-jerk in their dismissals of academia to come to my department and point out where, exactly, this systemic problem you claim to see is.

The irony is that the people in this thread who claim to be holding the torch of leftist thought are really no different than the anti-vaccers or the pro-lifers who protest outside of abortion clinics: they operate on pure ideological emotion without actual evidence.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 8:46 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


sorry - I should have specified: that was at the University of Toronto.

Who have also raised their tuition as high as they are legally allowed and no longer allow students to pay per course, but have a flat fee regardless of the number of courses.

When I was walking past Convocation hall the other day, I noticed that UofT had put up big expensive banners congratulating their graduates. I wondered if those banners were going to be saved for the next year -- and whether the graduating students wouldn't have rather had that money spent on teaching to help them earn those degrees in the first place.

I also know senior faculty there, as well as junior -- and they keep saying, "Don't you know, universities are expensive to run," but they seem to have no idea how much things cost the students or where the money is spent. And many of them (by no means all, but enough) really do have a "I've got mine, what do you mean our students, TAs and adjuncts live in holes in the ground?" attitude.
posted by jb at 8:48 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's unclear to me how an idealism that costs nothing differs much from simple self-conceit.

That's a really interesting point. I absolutely understand where that's coming from, but let me ask you this in return: why should idealism cost the idealist? Is the cause any more or less valid if the idealist suffers for it? Where is the value add to require suffering as proof of commitment?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:51 AM on June 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


This is what solidarity looks like. For those not familiar with the goings on in Canada - first, there has been widespread student protests in Quebec. That was the first reason reported.
Second it really is not like the US in Canada. How schools are funded is completely different, the student loan system is different (and I would argue worse than the US) and, obvioisly the culture is different, in part because Canadians haven't sunk into a hopeless cynacism* like many here.

* seriously. He held up a sign that said NO, and handed out some notes explaining why. That is it.
posted by zenon at 8:53 AM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Don't you see ridiculous amounts of waste at every level in every department?

I've seen departments at the smaller universities where I've worked where professors and staff have to pay for their own coffee, where Internet syllabi were encouraged due to the fact that the budgets were so low that copying paper and ink were barely affordable, heard of ones where travel to conferences had to be self-funded or maybe one a year was funded, etc. This may be true at some larger institutions, but it hasn't been true at most American state university departments in a long, long time, if it ever was true.
posted by raysmj at 8:56 AM on June 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wasn't pointless, because he clearly had a point. Wasn't fruitless, because here we are talking about it. Wasn't simple youthful arrogance, because that moment he took the stage was already about him, and instead he made the moment about something bigger than him.

You can say the same about pro-life activists outside of abortion clinics and anti-vaccination protestors. Does that make their causes just?


Yes, you absolutely can say that about pro-life activists and anti-vaccination protestors. And no - I don't believe their causes are just. Which actually goes to my point quite directly: judge the cause on its merits. Attacking the messengers for being idealists is pointless. So fucking what if they're idealists? Are they right?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:57 AM on June 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Metafilter on global warming denialists:
"Ahaha those idiots! Why don't they listen to the academics who clearly know what they're talking about?"

Metafilter on attending college:
"Listen to anyone but the academics! They have no idea what they're talking about, those assholes. They're just out to screw over the students."
posted by Frobenius Twist at 9:01 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It could have been far more productive for all concerned if he had switched majors to polisci and gone into public policy.

But why do that when you can make a flash in the pan gesture?
posted by Talez at 9:06 AM on June 15, 2012


much like the over-entitled assholes behind OWS, can't actually give a reasoned explanation of their incoherent ideologies

Not to derail, but OWS doesn't have a coherent ideology for the same reason that the Tea Party does not: they're umbrella coalitions, not a unified viewpoint.
posted by tyllwin at 9:06 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frobenius Twist, no one is questioning your commitment to Sparkle Motion. Good people work hard and make important decisions for others at every level of the system, and that in no way means the system isn't broken. Even if every single person individually makes the right decision with nothing but pure hearts, the system can still be broken. I come from a family of academics, so trust me when I tell you that I have no ill feelings toward educators or Institutions of Higher Learning. And I worked too hard for too long to ever renounce my degree.

But that doesn't mean the system isn't broken. If this kid wants to point me to evidence of a problem, I'm happy to do the work to see if he has a valid point. And that doesn't make your work any less important. If anything, it highlights how important your commitment really is.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:08 AM on June 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Blake I am simply calling what he did pointless. Obviously any comment I leave here is pointless. I ain't out to change the world here. If, in a year, he's still talked about, or it turns out he actually changed something, I'll print this out and eat it.

jenfullmoon God, I hate stupid protests. This does nothing to help his "cause" whatsoever.

It's actually not about him. He did this in solidarity with the student strikes in Quebec, which have seen daily protests and frequent arrests for almost three months running now. Weekly solidarity protests have started happening across the country. Unfortunately, the Star article didn't really go in to that. Because, well, they wouldn't. And English media in general have been mostly pretty happy to pretend that there's absolutely nothing going on out there. Anything that breaks that silence is a good thing.

Really, these comments are kind of funny, since that attitude -- all that matters is the individual -- is something which the strikes have been brushing up against. "His" cause? Can you honestly not imagine someone doing this for anything other than their own ego? Do you live in, you know, society? Where people work, and things? Then the right to education is your cause too.

A good place to start for some basic coverage of the Quebec movement is Translating the Printemps Erable, which posts translated versions of Quebec news reports -- because Anglo papers would just rather not know, thank you very much (even though the strikes are now getting international coverage.)
posted by Mike Smith at 9:12 AM on June 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


We just spent the entirety of the last academic year debating whether or not to update our calculus textbook, because the publisher came out with a pointless new edition and we didn't want our students to have to spend more money. We ended up adopting the new book but we also gave free books to students so that they wouldn't have to spend more money. Before this I was a visiting professor at a well-regarded private institution where we had the same debate. The point is that academics think all the time about the monetary impact our decisions have on students. I invite any mefites who are so knee-jerk in their dismissals of academia to come to my department and point out where, exactly, this systemic problem you claim to see is.

Your department spent a whole year deciding whether to adopt a "pointless" new book. You choose to do so. While I appreciate the effort and consideration for student costs that went into the decision, perhaps an academic culture that devotes the resources of so many great minds to bickering about what basically identical edition of a calculus textbook to use is somehow profoundly broken?

It's Raining Florence Henderson says it better than I can: everyone can have the best of intentions in mind, and I have no doubt that you care a great deal, but that doesn't mean the system isn't broken.
posted by zachlipton at 9:16 AM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Froebnius Twist: I missed the part where someone attacked academia and the pursuit of knowledge. I'm sure this guy respects academia, just like most of us here at mefi do. Hell, I bet if it was possible to do without walking the tightrope of poverty and destitution, this guy would likely love to be a career academic. I kind of take it that his point is that the doors of academia are not open to everyone, and they should be.

He didn't call you an asshole. He didn't call anyone an asshole. Shame that you decided to not extend him the same courtesy.
posted by broadway bill at 9:16 AM on June 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, please don't quote things that were never actually said.
posted by broadway bill at 9:19 AM on June 15, 2012


Have there been any important new developments in freshman Calculus in the past, oh, thirty years or so?
posted by Jestocost at 9:20 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Forget math books altogether and have everybody learn math from Khan academy projected onto a big screen.
posted by Renoroc at 9:22 AM on June 15, 2012


No, the English media is not covering the protests or supporting protests. A casserole in Toronto passed my house just the other day.
posted by jb at 9:22 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have there been any important new developments in freshman Calculus in the past, oh, thirty years or so?

The cost of Top Riemann Sums has gone up substantially. Still an affordable meal, though.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:24 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sneering at idealists... one of the greatest pleasures you'll find when you turn 40 or so.
posted by Blake at 6:38 AM on June 15 [4 favorites +] [!]


Not as great as the pleasure one finds in sneering at fellow older folks whose failures and disappointments have left them bitter, cynical and possessed of an irrational assumption that the youth of today will be similarly miserable when they grow up.
posted by snottydick at 9:27 AM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm a prof, and I suspect that I'd agree with Flood on many concrete criticisms of the university "system". But comparing professors to banksters is inflammatory bullshit.

The overall phenomenon at work is the corporate capture of all institutions--and that, my friends is what our collective march to fascism is all about. Blaming professors for this overarching oligarchic trend--which is indeed a corrupting influence on the university--is like blaming physicians for the problems with the health care system: sure, we can always be blamed for being passive, coopted sell-outs, because we keep getting paychecks, regardless. That is damning enough.

But on what planet would professors be like the kleptocrats who destroyed the global economy? Professors are at worst courtiers (like Chris Hedges says). We don't run the show.

But in Flood's comments, we can see one reason why the oligarchs will, at least in the short run, win so easily: the lower and middle classes will eat each other before they ever get the courage to actually take on the rich bastards that are driving the corruption. It's much easier for the 99% to find emotional gratification by clawing back those in the "top" portion of their demographic (unionized public workers, teachers, professors, doctors, shop keepers...) than to bring justice to the ruling class.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:31 AM on June 15, 2012 [33 favorites]


mondo dentro:

Very well put. I'd favorite your comment 1,000 times if I could.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:44 AM on June 15, 2012


But comparing professors to banksters is inflammatory bullshit.

I think your point about corporate capture of institutions is a good one, but it follows from that that the professors are bank tellers, not bank managers, in this analogy.
posted by mhoye at 9:47 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


that moment he took the stage was already about him, and instead he made the moment about something bigger than him.

That's valid, but I disagree. I don't think the moment was about "him." I think the convocation was about the graduating Class of 2012, of which he was one member. Ever attend a convocation or commencement at a sizable university? It's an assembly line: John is still walking off the stage while Sally is being handed her diploma while Frank's name is being announced. Look at the photo in the FPP. See the girl on the right? The moment was about her, too. (If I'm misreading the photo, correct me.)

This was already about something "bigger than him." He used it as an opportunity to make it about something different, a pet cause that was important to him. Granted, the moment was uniquely relevant to that cause; it isn't as if he held up a sign saying, "MEAT IS MURDER." But still, whether it was for personal attention or unselfish idealism, he hogged or momentarily misdirected a spotlight that didn't belong exclusively to him.

That could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your views of his message and protests in general.
posted by cribcage at 9:55 AM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm also a prof, and one from a working class background (my brother never finished high school). It's depressing to think that students like me are being squeezed out of college or taking on huge debt to graduate. Well done this young man for making a protest, no matter how futile.

it's worthwhile realizing that profs, just like many other workers, are having their power to control any meaningful aspect of university or education policy reduced year after year. I don't know anyone who is happy with the rise of adjunct labour or the abuse of sessionals (well except for one wanker in poli sci who also doesn't think we should ever pay tax), even if only out of self-interest: the less tenured and tenure track staff the more power the teachers lose. Nor do I dwell in a wood paneled office drinking fine wines and dancing merrily on student dreams of an evening (for the record I also teach massive courses with little help because it's cheap for the university to have me do so). Academia has its issues, though many of these issues were far, far worse 50 or so years ago, but the answer is not to conclude that everyone employed by the academy is some evil minion determined to ruin young hopes and dreams for a quick 50 bucks, or fits some arcane stereotype that probably only ever really existed in the flusher Oxbridge colleges.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 9:56 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Flood: Tell me, Joe, would you be less bitter if he had done a drunken cart-wheel across the stage?

Not at all. It's all bullshit. It's about the collective. No one person is the superstar and deserves it to be about them and their beliefs. If you attend a graduation, you should keep your head down and blend because you're taking time and attention away from the other people graduating.
posted by inturnaround at 9:57 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nor do I dwell in a wood paneled office drinking fine wines and dancing merrily on student dreams of an evening (for the record I also teach massive courses with little help because it's cheap for the university to have me do so).

I would never say that professors as a group are over-payed. But at the University of Toronto (the university the student attended) and some other Canadian universities, faculty pay has been increasing faster than inflation and at the same time that the use of adjuncts and class sizes have been well up. It's a problem specific to our university system, and to the belief that if we don't pay ridiculous amounts - like starting salaries higher than the Ivy League - then we won't get "good" people -- at the same time when there are literally hundreds of applications for every position from qualified and talented people who would be happy to work for just a plain old middling wage. And then we could hire 2-3 times as many tenure-track professors.
posted by jb at 10:15 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, of COURSE education is a commodity. How could it be otherwise?

That is a rather sad confession of unimaginativeness.
posted by fairmettle at 10:28 AM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's about the collective. No one person is the superstar and deserves it to be about them and their beliefs. If you attend a graduation, you should keep your head down and blend because you're taking time and attention away from the other people graduating.

I fail to see how what he did hurt anyone, nor do I think that this is ever good advice. Unless you are on the lamb.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:29 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I fail to see how what he did hurt anyone

If I'm right that the girl in the FPP photo is also graduating, then someone in her family was probably taking photos of her at that moment. Some folks take that particular photo op really seriously, like cutting the cake at a wedding. Instead of having a photo of their daughter (?) graduating with normal, unobtrusive graduation-related scenery in the background, they now have a photo of Vipperman's political protest.

That's one possibility.
posted by cribcage at 10:41 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


keep your head down and blend because you're taking time and attention away from the other people

I refused to take this approach to earning my degree, and consequently I actually received a pretty good education. I'm therefore dubious that it's an appropriate way to recognize the achievement. I'd much prefer to see all of the people find (non-disruptive) ways to be individuals than that they march through the proceedings like good little sheep.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:46 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unmanageable debt

Canada is not the US. People here spend so much less on education. Not only is tuition lower, but people are less likely to travel across the country (or out of province) for a degree. There's also less difference (both in terms of cost and "prestige") between the schools, for most undergrad degrees.

The protests are more about avoiding the kind of situation we hear about in the US than about the current crop of graduates. Depending on who you talk to, they're also about the cost of textbooks, top-heavy administration, and of course the special law.

Anecdotally (I still have friends graduating), student debt here, right now, is at a manageable level. It's not zero, but people have loans they can pay down. Being able to afford a house is another story entirely...
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:51 AM on June 15, 2012


ubiquity: Like protesting by going on a starvation diet between lunch and dinner.

Or from sunup to sundown, right? Because there can't be more than a couple of billion people in the world who think that's a perfectly serious way to honor God.
posted by localroger at 11:33 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd much prefer to see all of the people find (non-disruptive) ways to be individuals than that they march through the proceedings like good little sheep.

That's fine. I amend my statement then. I'm all for being individual, but non-disruptive is the key.

The Graduation Ceremony wasn't the platform for him to say "Hey, look at me. I have something to say!"

I mean, Kanye does that. Don't be a Kanye.
posted by inturnaround at 11:35 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Canada is not the US. People here spend so much less on education.

But a lot more than Canadians did 20 or 30 years ago, and a lot more than our parents' generation (the one that voted for low tax rates). Tuition in Ontario went from being about $1000/year to $5000 per year between c1990 and c2000. Student pay did not increase 5 times.

I was in undergraduate in Toronto in the early 2000s. The only way that I could get out of university without working ridiculous hours and/or crushing debt was a) I lived at home with my parent, an option that only exists for students who have a local university and b) I found an awesome job that paid twice the then minimum wage. When my SO was teaching in 2009-2010, many of his students were living at home AND still working 20-30 hours a week to pay tuition and, in some cases, even help support their parents.

And these are all GTA based students who can at least go to university without paying room and board as well - what about all the people who don't have a local university?

No, we're not yet in the $30,000 tuition-only range (except for medical school and law school and ....). But we don't want to get anywhere near there. We're protesting to NOT go there.
posted by jb at 11:35 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


jb, thank you for mentioning casseroles... every night this week a casserole has marched down my street and while I still don't know what they're protesting, I'm glad I know a new term. So thanks!
posted by palomar at 12:35 PM on June 15, 2012


why should idealism cost the idealist? Is the cause any more or less valid if the idealist suffers for it? Where is the value add to require suffering as proof of commitment?

Idealism by itself isn't a bad thing necessarily; it may even be the foundation of any genuine commitment to action. But absent sacrifice, or cost, idealism is hard to distinguish from taste or whim or spectacle.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:44 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


you should keep your head down and blend

Right, because the university system is all about producing sheeple, not individual self-actualized people.
posted by Flood at 1:20 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Graduation Ceremony wasn't the platform for him to say "Hey, look at me. I have something to say!"

I mean, Kanye does that. Don't be a Kanye.


Yeah, screw people who use a administration-centric celebration for something other than congratulating the university for how great it is...oh, and at some universities, they actually charge you for the privilege of having a ceremony you have 0% control over, other than which one student gets to say something for the whole class.

99% of the content is about the university administration and the big contributors. They sit on stage in their ceremonial costumes and focus what, two seconds, on each student? At my university, if you didn't attend the four hour ceremony, you had to wait 8 weeks to get your degree, making it a pain in the ass to show your credentials to a new employer.

So yeah, somehow I see the small disruption this kid caused as a lot less annoying than famous Kanye West stealing spotlight from also famous Taylor Swift.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 1:51 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unless you are on the lamb.

You mean on the lam.

see also: viola, this dane age, the tenants of reason

posted by jacalata at 2:02 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a little irritated at all of the "let-the-kid-have-his-fun,the-world-will-crush-him-soon" type comments. Why? Why is it assumed that the world will crush every idealist?

Is it so hard to believe, just because YOU became cynical and hopeless, that others can actually grow STRONGER in adversity, become more rooted in their ideals and also more skilled at fighting for them? Is it not possible that some of us are idealists, at least in part, because we are inspired by the example of our elders, who were struck down over and over for their ideals and every time got up more determined, more powerful, more capable?

The elders that we look up to aren't the former idealists who gave up and grew cynical and snide- who gave up- when things proved a lot harder, victories fewer, defeat more humiliating than they expected, those who now only complain and bicker and snark and snarl and condescend and humor and are nice even though they believe we'll fail- nice out of sentement only- and ignore the point, the spirit, in favour of the letter. (I'm not saying every ex-idealist is all of those things- those are just some manifestations).

Our role models are those of our elders who, when faced with a far more painful struggle than they could have anticipated, became far more capable of tolerating pain. I know people, idealists, my parent's and grandparents' age who haven't been crushed by the world. They continue to fight tirelessly for what they care about. Some of them are harder than other folks. But the hardness comes from a strong core, not a thick shell. Those people DO make a difference. THOSE people are who I admire.

In the future he may use his degree or not. He may look back on this and regret it or not. But this is important because it is a public battle that he chose to fight and he did it with his head high in front of hundreds. (thousands?). And surely he'll learn a lot from it, whether it's effective or not.

Not only that, he drew attention to his issue by using a captive audience. Pretty effective I'd say. And he was disruptive, but only mildly- after his turn, he stopped disrupting and let the ceremony continue. Guy's got guts. I would like to shake his hand.
posted by windykites at 2:42 PM on June 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's OK people, we're talking about a BA.

It would be really funny if later, when he (inevitably) goes to get his transcript, the University pretended to have no record of him.
posted by biochemicle at 3:05 PM on June 15, 2012


And teenaged attention-seeking does not an idealist make.
posted by biochemicle at 3:06 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


teenaged attention-seeking

Because there's no other possible explanation for his actions. Oh, wait, there is: it's right there in the FPP links.

And, hold on a minute, if he'd just accepted his degree and... how did someone put it up-thread?... keep his head down and blend (gotta prepare for the job market and parade of crushing disappointment that is Successful Adulthood, after all), would that have been "teenaged conformity?" No? So you were just taking advantage of his youth to belittle his political views? Was that an example of mature attention-seeking?
posted by Mike Smith at 3:51 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Professors are at worst courtiers. We don't run the show.

Really now? Of all the workers of this world, shouldn't the academics, those who write the theory behind policy, be keeping their house in order?
posted by sammyo at 4:01 PM on June 15, 2012


As a working class student who worked 30 hours a week and couldn't afford to attend her own graduation, good for this guy.

I don't understand blaming the professors, though. Maybe I don't understand university politics enough, but most professors that I've gotten to know on an informal level seem to be just as furious with the administration as student protestors like this guy.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:15 PM on June 15, 2012


Really now? Of all the workers of this world, shouldn't the academics, those who write the theory behind policy, be keeping their house in order?

Yes.
posted by mondo dentro at 5:32 PM on June 15, 2012


By "keep his head down and blend" inturnaround was pretty clearly taking about the graduation ceremony specifically, where it's already annoying enough to sit through folks cheering for 999 people you don't know, individually, waiting for the one you do know.

(Personally I don't agree, and I think if he's going to renounce his degree in support of the protests, the graduation is the right venue for that.)

Right, because the university system is all about producing sheeple, not individual self-actualized people.

Sheeple are on the lamb.

God, I hate typing that word. What a juvenile concept. Wake up, sheeple!
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 6:27 PM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Graduations make me a little giddy because I'm just so proud! Of my friend! Or family member! But even so, I don't see why anyone would get bent out of shape about this. It took a few seconds, it didn't detract from anything, and it was a voice that wasn't university-approved, which is a good thing. And protests at graduations aren't really that uncommon, are they? We had arm-bands and some more disruptive actions in support of striking college workers at my graduation. And you hear about similar things when someone odious is invited to speak. I do wonder if he's actually going to go forth in life as if he didn't earn that degree.
posted by Mavri at 7:07 PM on June 15, 2012


BTW "Honours" at the U of T doesn't mean what the rest of the world things it means. In Ontario, they dole out "honours" degrees to anybody who does a standard 4-year degree. So you get to say, for example, "BSc (Hons), Biology" when you graduate from the U of T or any of the other aggressively average universities in Ontario just by sitting on your ass for 4 years. They give (or used to give, I really don't know anymore and don't care either what passes for education in that province) a 3-year consolation prize which was still a BA (because Ontario high school students were extra special and did something called grade 13 that counted as a year of uni even though it was taught by high school teachers) but with which a person couldn't, for example, go to get an MA.

So yeah refusing a BA "Honours" degree isn't quite as big a sacrifice as you might think.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:09 PM on June 15, 2012


@Blake: Sneering at idealists... one of the greatest pleasures you'll find when you turn 40 or so.

As a person considerably past 40, I'd never consider using age as an excuse for becoming an asshole. As for youth: I but for the inexperience of youth, we "older wiser" humans would long ago have perished from our own excrement.

Obviously "Blake" is not short for "William Blake".
posted by Twang at 7:55 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well he is certainly less of a whiner then a lot of the people in this thread.
posted by delmoi at 8:21 PM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


yes, as ethnomethodologist points out, an "Honours BA" or "BA with honours" just means that you did 4 years instead of 3. At UofT, high GPA get "with distinction" or with "high distinction" (equivalent of cum laude, magma cum laude, etc - I prefer the Latin).
posted by jb at 8:36 PM on June 15, 2012


> God, I hate typing that word. What a juvenile concept. Wake up, sheeple!

I don't like the word particularly - the concept behind it is inevitable.

I welcome your suggestion for an alternate word that expresses the same concept - unless you're claiming that there are no "sheep people", that all humans are self-actualized and make informed and reasoned decisions, in which case I have a bridge to sell you.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:07 AM on June 16, 2012


davebush: "Idealists are cute, aren't they?"

There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except an old optimist. Mark Twain
posted by Deathalicious at 6:59 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


davebush: "I'm not sure it's "becoming" that way, so much as it's been like that since about 1088 or so. And university participation rates are higher than ever."

There are a couple of things going on: first of all, I think participation rates are going up out of necessity, not because of better access. There was a time when someone could reasonably support a family with a HS diploma. I think that's not really the case anymore. Secondly, it's uncontroversial that the cost of education for everyone is going up, at a rate that far exceeds any other kind of cost-growth-rate (except maybe health care/health insurance?). Which is weird, because in theory with greater participation costs should be going down, but they're not. Part of the problem for public universities is state funding, which has pretty much been slashed. Another problem is earmarked funding, which means that unsexy things like staff salaries or maintenance has to be slashed at the same time that the University is building a flashy and largely unnecessary state-of-the-art sports complex (totally happened at my alma mater, I was told that campus facilities "squeezed the nickel until the buffalo squealed" and at the same time we were getting a sports center with squash courts. The most exercise most of the students got involved climbing the hill from the computer lab/dining hall to the various classrooms.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:07 AM on June 21, 2012


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