I’ve tried to keep myself as anonymous as possible on this blog, particularly since future employers will be Googling me to see what I am all about. But today, I am unveiling a bit of anonymity to talk about the university at the local level, because it is symptomatic of a larger issue. And it forms the heart of this post.
While I am not a resident of Wisconsin, I go to school here–not at the UW system, but a private school. As it turns out, I am actually being protected by the un-unionized private school more than I thought, because now all UW schools are under fire. Governor Scott Walker has unveiled a glorious new plan (read: sarcasm here): cut funding to the entire state University of Wisconsin system by $300 million, and provide $200 million so that the Milwaukee Bucks can have a new stadium. The sheer chutzpah of this plan boggles my mind, because you just know that of the $300 million getting cut, it will not be administrators and six-figure salaries, nor sports. Majors and programs are going to get slashed left and right, which means fewer academic jobs for an already gutted profession.
I just can’t even.
And then, Gov. Walker defended his brilliant plan. I’ve linked to the article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here, but I’d like to leave with this quote. It’s the money shot, in my opinion:
“In the future, by not having the limitation of things like shared governance, they might be able to make savings just by asking faculty and staff to consider teaching one more class a semester,” Walker told reporters at the Madison hotel. “Things like that could have tremendous impact on making sure we have an affordable education for all of our UW campuses at the same time we maintain a high-quality education.”
It is clear that Gov. Walker has absolutely no idea what goes into preparing, teaching, and grading a course, not to mention the committee work, the mentoring, and the research each faculty member conducts on his or her personal time, otherwise, he would not be asking them to add an additional course for no additional pay.
I just can’t even. It’s insulting, and it tells me that my PhD, which I am soon to receive, and which took years of toil, time, and MONEY, is of absolutely no monetary or intellectual value. It makes me so f**king angry sometimes.
But I’m not here to rant. Instead, two peculiar insights emerged this morning.
The first came when I was packing up my lunch. What if, I thought, I’ve been sent here for a time and purpose–like Esther? It was a momentous insight, one that I probably very much needed to gain. I’ve never second-guessed my love of writing and literature, higher education, or the desire to teach others the subjects that help us understand our world in ideological and abstract ways. But I have definitely questioned the sanity of it. I’ve spent years trying not to read thought pieces basically accusing me of being quixotic, of irresponsibly throwing away my economic future for a shadow, a dream. It’s been disheartening. Instead, here are the words that entered my heart this morning:
“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, NKJV).
Such a time as this. Yes. Perhaps when I felt the call to be an academic, I was meant to enter the storm, not prosper in the calm. Weirdly, I find it encouraging.
The second insight came when one of my students, a total rockstar, had his meeting with me today. Tuesday, we watched Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary Blackfish, which chronicles the sad, sad story of orcas in captivity at SeaWorld, and the violence that has emerged when humans collide with such magnificent and pent-up creatures. He showed me screen captures that he had taken from SeaWorld’s website, which included accusations of a documentary being one-sided (really. You don’t say), and the idea that there may be no zoos or aquariums is just crazy. My student said, of the former, “it’s not like you show Hitler’s side in a documentary about Auschwitz” (I lol’ed at that, but it’s totally true), and of the latter, “If we had things always the way they were, you could make that case about civil rights. And equality.”
My heart grew three sizes today. This freshman in college is making an argument supporting civil rights and equality, and it all started with a discussion about Blackfish. That’s why we need college. That’s why we need teachers who are creative and passionate and innovative.
And it’s likely why I will spend years toiling as a poorly-paid adjunct. Because I feel the need for a good education. Because I had a good education. Because our nation’s children and young adults deserve a quality education.
And that’s why I’m staying.