Friday, September 12, 2014

College Students are Cash Cows




By Professor Doom

     I’ve certainly done my share of slamming community colleges for their ruthless exploitation of kids. I’ve not given universities a free pass, but it’s been a while since I’ve highlighted that university administration is not above exploiting the vulnerable, either.

     The textbook scam, where students pay hideously exorbitant fees for books that are filled almost entirely with public domain information, can only exist with the help of university administration, and today’s little essay highlights it.

     It’s the modern world, after all, and the amount of information, quality information, available online is more than sufficient for just about any undergraduate college course. Many professors, especially the ones with enough integrity to realize the young are not to be exploited, try to help their students save a fortune by directing them to free (or at least much cheaper) sources of information.
 
    Upon hearing that students weren’t being squeezed of every last bit of money, and that there were human beings trying to help the young, university administrators at George Washington University were appalled leapt into action in a letter to faculty:

“…we want to remind you of the university’s contractual obligation of the operator of [the campus bookstore]…”
 

     One might think academic freedom might protect faculty from telling students “hey, you can get that book for $50 cheaper on Amazon” or “there’s a free website that we’ll use instead of the $200 textbook”, but, apparently not. In fact, administration referenced the Federal Higher Education Opportunity Act in its quest to screw students in every possible way get faculty to only direct students to the school’s bookstore. Who knew federal laws could be perverted so? Oh wait, this always happens.
 
     I almost managed to go for two weeks without saying “I can’t make this stuff up”, but higher education is so insane that even my active imagination is no match for the antics here.

“…alternative vendors may not be endorsed, licensed, or otherwise approved or supported by the university or its faculty…”
 

     Naturally, saying “here’s how you can save $50” would count as endorsement in the eyes of demented administration, and faculty that did so would risk punishment (perhaps even psychological evaluation?). The administration rationalizes this behavior by pointing out that certain financial aid students are given vouchers that are only good for purchases at the hideously overpriced company store campus bookstore.
 
     The letter concludes with a hysterically insulting reference to “the partnership” between the university and the faculty, which is why the faculty should slavishly follow administrative demands or be beaten. That’s how a partnership works, right?
 
     Faculty at the institution protested, and the university decided to back off its ridiculous attempt to claim monopoly rights over the abuse of children its students. Good for them. I guess. The fact still remains: administration actually thinks so little of students, is so eager to suck them dry in every possible way, that they tried this.
 
     When I first started my blog I advanced a notion that the hideous Penn State sex scandal was only a symptom of the moral degeneracy of the rulers of higher education. It isn’t simply that these rulers will casually overlook a decade-long abuse (and “abuse” is a very gentle word for it) of children in the showers in the name of growth (i.e., profits for the university)…these rulers, their avarice utterly out of control, will stop at nothing to squeeze every last dollar from every source, and that totally includes the young people coming on campus.
 
    Their greed has been restrained quite a bit by the sheer resistance of our institutions to change. It’s taken decades for higher education to go from “pretty much legitimate” to “pretty much a scam”, but I fear there is now so much momentum that our current system is beyond saving. The resistance to change that slowed higher education’s descent into degeneracy implies the existence of a momentum that can’t stop that descent once it’s well on its way.
 
    That’s a shame, because most of the real knowledge breakthroughs of the 20th century happened in settings of higher education. It’s a shame to see a system that did much good, now nearly totally perverted towards evil, with only minimal hope that it can be saved.
 
     I’ll still try, however.