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I don’t think I’ve written about the choice to run for GSA executive board here at all. As many of my more regular readers are undoubtedly aware, I do fancy myself a bit of a public intellectual and I think that civic involvement is both my right and my duty. I think I’ve found a situation that I can address from my perspective and my power, and add something to with my skills and knowledge. I want to make clear here that what I write in this blog is not the official line of our coalition, but rather my reasons for being a part of it.

One of the things that excites me most about the election is the very real possibility that we stand on the cusp of change. This is a critical time for public higher education, and it is also a critical time for the SUNY system, with Albany crumbling and funding drying up from the public sector. I don’t think I’m the only UB graduate student who’s alarmed by these developments — far from it. In fact, this isn’t an issue that is limited to people who are supposed to be “left-wing intellectuals” anymore. The public university is a critical site for scientific research, too — the kind of scientific research that needs to take place without being beholden to shareholders, for example.

Many newly-minted Ph.D.s and others with terminal degrees are being siphoned off to universities abroad. Now, I don’t think there’s a problem with finding a job in another country — I have fantasies about pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Copenhagen — but if U.S. institutions can’t keep Americans here, the American university system is going to go hollow. But more immediately than that, current graduate students are suffering because all kinds of resources are drying up. These are only some of the complaints and concerns I hear from graduate students. I also think that, if we combine our forces and present a united front, we might have a shot at getting listened to.

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I’ve been following the UC occupation at least a little bit, because I think that it’s only a matter of time before these issues crop up here, too. I think that the public university system is one of the best things that there is — it’s served me well so far, and I am skeptical about the restrictions that an institution’s leadership can place on the institution if it isn’t run by the public. It makes me sad that people we elect to take care of our public resources feel that it’s their prerogative to essentially privatize them. I can see why they might think it’s the right thing to do, but I think the problems that many people point to about our public universities won’t be ameliorated through privatization. While government-run institutions are often bloated, costly and ungainly, privately-held institutions frequently ignore the public good for private profit and quell dissent against their leadership. That’s not to say that the main problems of the one don’t occur in the other. And I also think that a lively public education system is part of what makes a democracy work.

I have a lot of things to say about this matter that really need more time and energy on my part; and I need to think more about them in order to write coherently about them at this point. I think the public university system is ripe for reform, not privatization. I think that it’s obvious the current structures are not working — many students feel alienated by the very structures that should liberate them. I worry that this conversation will fall into the same traps and pitfalls as the so-called health care debate (so-called in the sense that it scarcely resembles a debate). And, I worry that in large part the model of occupation ➝ escalation as received is so old as to be ineffectual. (But I also worry that the alternatives are too ephemeral to make a difference.)

Really, though, it’s hard not to get behind some people who really like J.U.S.T.I.C.E.


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