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Occupied Sonoma State University: No Billionaire Left Behind and the sordid tale of the financialization and corporatization of one California State University

green11 300x198 Occupied Sonoma State University: No Billionaire Left Behind and the sordid tale of the financialization and corporatization of one California State University

Part I

Introduction

By Danny Weil

In the early part of the 20th century the fertile valley of Sonoma county was the former stomping grounds of author, Jack London and refuge for Jewish chicken farmers fleeing Russia and Eastern Europe.  Now beautiful Sonoma State University sits at the foot of those majestic cascading mountains nestled in the lap of bucolic wine country.  The institute of higher learning is seated on the far eastern edge of the city of Rohnert Park, just 50 or so miles north of San Francisco.  In the late winter and early spring, the morning fog rolls in from the ocean and moves westward, draping the luscious green landscape in an eerie cloak of steel-grey. White clouds hover mysteriously like cotton balls high on top of gently rolling hills to the east while mallard ducks and Canadian geese clothe the sky, making their noisy way through generations of southern migration routes.

The campus is pristine; it always has been.  The topiary that makes up the campus is lush with fantastic duck ponds, majestic meadow-like manicured lawns and upscale residential villages complete with pools and hot tubs.  Built like a fortress, the walkways and various trails that mark the campus allow for a contemplative, philosophical peripatetic meandering through cascading water fountains and variegated old growth vegetation.

The history of Sonoma State University (SSU) tells the remarkable story of one, tiny California public state university and the corporatization and transformation of this diminutive liberal arts college into a muscular mini-investment bank, now $300 million dollars in debt and hovering on the precipice of bankruptcy.

Against the backdrop of the stunning northern California hillside, it’s a grim tale of the corporate colonization of a public college and is replete with a peek into the ‘life-styles’ of the New Gilded Age millionaires and billionaires who have flocked to the public university with pockets of cash, looking to convert the campus into their own private cultural grounds for music, fancy eatery and arts center, complete with symphony orchestras. These rapacious captains of high finance have unceremoniously tagged themselves as new-age philanthropists in an epoch of cunning thievery and plunder. They now literally ‘occupy’ Sonoma State University, turning the college and its culture into their own private hunting grounds.  Meanwhile, students wander around campus, ferreting out accessible classes so they might graduate, wondering if they will ever find work or be able to start a civic and family life or pay off staggering debts in the form of student loans.

In this four part series, we will look specifically at Sonoma State University (SSU or “the college”) one of the 23 state universities in the California State University system (CSU), the financialization of the college, its corporatization and the dire consequences this all poses for public education at the college and beyond.  Most notably, we will examine how the college and its governing structure have been compromised and autocratically restructured in the interest of financialization and corporatization.  The article will examine how SSU has been quite literally turned over to the exigencies of the private capital market and Wall Street bond underwriters with reckless abandonment coupled with deleterious effects for both those who work at the campus and for students who yearn to receive an education.

It is also the intent of this article to shed some light on the role of the new uber-billionaires, in what can only be labeled the new ‘Gelded Age’ of public institutional castration; this to distinguish our epoch in history from the Gilded Age at the close of the 19th century and dawn of the early 20th century — a time when industrial Robber Barons, like the financial Robber Barons and buccaneers of today — roamed the national landscape like prehistoric predators looking for profits and prey.

Placing the campus under the critical lens of scrutiny will also allow for a full granular examination of the role played by the campus coordinating class of publicly salaried upper management who, working in tandem with the SSU president, developed the corporate superstructure necessary for the increased financialization of SSU.  Furthermore, any suitable understanding of the financialization of the college requires a copious comprehension of the unique role played by capital construction projects at the campus and how they have been fueled and subsidized by massive public debt managed by Wall Street banks and brokerages.

The backdrop: construction, construction and more construction

Remarkably, in face of the Great Financial Crisis of 2009 the current president of  Sonoma State University, Ruben Armiñana, continues to promote, finance and muscle through the state bureaucracy literally hundreds of millions of dollars for campus capital construction projects like there was no tomorrow (http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/sonoma-state-university-1156).

Indeed, the capital construction projects over two decades have placed Sonoma State University in the position of institutional debt peon.  Meanwhile, fee increases imposed by the president on current students and future students are rocketing through the roof with no end in sight.  As readers will discover, much like students who take out costly loans to attend higher institutions of learning, it seems highly unlikely that the SSU institutional debt can be serviced, let alone paid off.  The school is now in a briar’s patch of financial obligations that sees the university struggling to get its hands on cash, sacrificing its educational mission to serve students and faculty, while mortgaging its future to pay bond holders.  All of this spells a noxious brew of future obligations and bursting financial bubbles.

The Green Music Center (GMC) and the Student Center are examples of two projects that are scheduled to leave a debt stain of over $200 million in their wake, which will then suck another annual $7 million off the top of SSU’s funding for the next 30 years.  Add to this an additional $3 million that will be needed annually to fund the GMC programming.  At the apex of SSU’s monetary problems is the GMC and represents a costly sinkhole.  Once the Student Center is online and added to the cost, SSU’s debt payments will have nearly tripled since 2007 (ibid).  Clearly, the cost of these two projects alone is mindboggling.

Ruben Armiñana has dedicated his tenure not to the mission of higher public education, but to an obsession for monuments manifesting in over one million square feet of construction projects for a student body of 8,500.  In his Easter Island approach to never ending construction and his penchant for edifice creation, he has warped the college and turned its mission away from education and un-hesitantly towards financialization and corporatization.  The results have not been pretty for either faculty, classified staff or students.

Austerity and the State of California

Composed of 23 state universities, the California State University (CSU) system is presently $500 million in arrears even after raising tuition with serial frequency throughout the last ten years (At Sonoma State University, tuition has jumped from $1,428 in 2001 to $5,472 during this academic year.  With fees, full-time SSU students pay $6,862 a year).

Governor Brown has forced deep austerity cuts in the California State University (CSU) system wide funding. In fiscal year 2011-2012, $750 million in state funding cuts alone have butchered the CSU system and at least an additional $200 million is slated to be sliced from the California budget next year.

Certainly, the current economic condition of the country, along with the present sorry state of California’s fiscal landscape, bare responsibility for the crisis of public education, from kindergarten to university.  Students in the entire CSU system, not just at SSU, find that gut-wrenching budget cuts translate into non-availability of classes, high student to teacher ratios, limited opportunities for enrollment, delayed graduation and barred opportunities for education.

According to the Daily Titan, the Student Voice of California State University Fullerton:

“Public universities in California may have been dethroned as being cheaper than private schools for middle-income students. According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, schools like Harvard and Princeton provide a cheaper alternative to schools like San Jose State and University of California, Berkeley.

Private schools are generally even cheaper than Cal State Fullerton. To go to Harvard, it costs $4,000 for a family with an annual income of $30,000. At CSUF, it costs $16,331 for a full-time student” (Private universities cheaper than CSU schools, The Daily Titan, March 19, 2012, http://www.dailytitan.com/2012/03/private-universities-cheaper-than-csu-s, The Student Voice of California State University Fullerton).

The quoted cost of $4,000 per semester is due to Harvard being able to offer fistfuls of financial aid, which the CSU (including SSU) can’t match, but the comparison is compelling insofar as the CSU system has a specifically targeted student population based on a 1960 Master Plan and was supposed to be tuition free (http://www.ucop.edu/acadinit/mastplan/mpsummary.htm).

It has become painfully obvious to even a casual observer that what many would call middle-class students are being denied access to California state universities due to the ruthless economic policies of neo-liberalism, especially now with austerity foisted on the state campuses by the material economic and political conditions of capitalism.  This is true throughout the nation, not just in California.

Given this reality, the signs are that middle class public state colleges and universities may not be economically viable to serve students in the future California.  Students may be headed for a two-tiered system of education whereby community colleges and for-profit colleges make up the bulk of working class and middle class educational opportunities while the private and more affluent CSU system serves the American ruling class.  This is not so far-fetched.  After all, a two-tiered educational system would then more realistically reflect the growing class disparities that are now an essential feature of the United States.

It is important to understand that the 23 California State Universities are not state-supported — they are state-aided. This means that that each CSU is to directly supply a portion of their operating costs through fundraising and entrepreneurial activities to their subsistence as an institution.  Given this system-wide inducement to corporatize campus structure, basically turning state universities into businesses, Sonoma State University has been operating as a commercial branch of a centralized corporatized state university system (i.e. CSU), steering the university towards increased financialization and corporatization. What this does is basically turn education into a revenue generating business and, as we will see, this has had many cultural and financial impacts on both workers at the college campus and students who attend it.

Problems at SSU under the current regime

It would be a mistake to blame SSU’s problem on budgetary woes facing the entire CSU system alone, as the current president of the college would like the public to believe.  Certainly the CSU system has been fiscally compromised over more than three decades and this has affected the campus.  Moreover, there is no doubt the Great Financial Crisis has driven down needed public revenues to cover the cost of programs.  However, fiscal problems at SSU are also the result of a deficiency of theoretical imagination, shortsighted thinking and a lack of critical thinking and decision making on behalf of the corporate governing structure of SSU itself.  In short, they are a result of a dearth of democracy as life at the college is administered by a despotic and autocratic upper management.

Noel Byrne, former sociology professor at Sonoma State University, pointed out back in August of 2007 that the financialization of the college and the rise of the new corporate culture at the university specifically affected SSU:

It should be added that since each of these developments is unique to Sonoma State University, we cannot attribute their origins to limitations of budget sent to the California State University system as a whole.  All of these serve to “brand” SSU as different from other CSU institutions in a way hardly to be desired by our students, by their parents, by this community or by the California State University Trustees (SSU, Problems Have Local Origins, Noel Byrne, Sonoma State University, August 23, 2007).

 

Byrne is pointing the finger directly at crucial economic decisions made by SSU president Ruben Armiñana that have undermined both the mission of the college and its financial solvency.  These economic decisions are part and parcel of the financialization of SSU.

 

Robert Karlsbud, Dean Emeritus and co-author of the Chronicles agrees, noting:

 

“SSU’s wounds are in part self-inflected due to the increasingly large debt carried by the campus—a debt that will have fallen below the CSU limit once the Student Center is included” (Chronicle XXII: State of the University, 2012, March 19, 2012).

Shadowy decision-making, restructuring auxiliaries away from education and more towards business and finance, non-disclosure, lack of transparency all have orchestrated themselves to refashion the once bucolic campus into a financial juggernaut of spiraling debt — thereby setting the stage for more “financial crisis” in the future.  Even more distressing are the long term effects that financialization and corporatization have had and continue to have on education at SSU.   Below are just a few of them.

Faculty, administration and governance at SSU

Faculty salaries remain steadily stagnant or fall in face of spiraling inflation while student-to-faculty ratios have climbed through the roof.  Tenure tracks for faculty dry up faster than the nearby hillside in summer as adjuncts, or ‘freeway flyers’, are brought in to fill once tenured teaching vacancies.  Sonoma State University faculty is among the lowest paid in the state university system.  The average SSU full-professor makes $3,400 less per year than the average full-professor in the entire 23 college CSU system.  SSU Associate Professors average $6,600 less per year than counterparts on other CSU campuses (http://ssufacultyforqualityeducation.org/sonoma-state-university-faculty-are-among-the-lowest-paid-in-the-state-university-system/).

Dissension and lack of trust between faculty and top-level administration run like an electric current throughout the campus and has been for years.  In May 2007 68% of eligible faculty turned out for a no-confidence vote on President Armiñana leadership.  SSU faculty voted 73% “no-confidence” in the administration of SSU President Ruben Armiñana.  The vote reflected faculty concern over the redirection of university resources from instruction to the Green Music Center (GMC), a massive capital construction project; the creation of a substantial debt burden to finance the GMC and the decades of debt service; and the disproportional increase in the number of highly paid administrators and managers (http://ssufacultyforqualityeducation.org/ssu-faculty-vote-no-confidence-in-president-ruben-arminana/).

During this trouble period of no-confidence, some faculty began to document economic and political abuses at the university.  Meeting amongst themselves outside of campus, this small gaggle of professors developed “The Chronicles”.* I have used The Chronicles as a source for much in this article.  According to the Chronicle authors:

The Chronicles developed out of a fortuitously misdirected email questioning events surrounding the closure of the California Institute for Human Services (CIHS) in the context of a possible vote of no confidence in Sonoma State University (SSU) President Ruben Armiñana. A team developed in a quest to understand what happened with CIHS and why. We found the Armiñana Administration to have been dishonest in its portrayal of both its role in the events and in the cost of CIHS’s supposed misdeeds to SSU. In the midst of a pending no-confidence vote, job losses for over 100 loyal SSU employees and discussion of criminal charges, we felt a responsibility to take our information public. And thus began the Chronicles in May 2007″ (The Sonoma State University, Chronicles, November 2011).

In terms of governance of the SSU institution, despotic autocracy and hierarchy have replaced democratic decision-making as the governance structure of the college is being transformed into a corporate organizational arrangement that serves finance.  In their rash dash to corporatize SSU, the president and campus administration have left in their wake a vertical organizational configuration with a rigid top down allocation of power.  All of this has resulted in a lack of consultation and transparency in allocating campus resources (http://empirereport.org/reports/20091006-a-closer-look-at-the-ssu-foundation).

The lack of transparency at Sonoma State University even resulted in FBI raids on campus in 2010, embarrassingly turning the college into a virtual crime scene.  The same year also saw a State Attorney General investigation into fiscal problems and irregularities at the college ((http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20100218/ARTICLES/100219459).

In March of 2009, less than one year after the Great Financial Crisis, Noel Byrne, former SSU sociology professor, compared and contrasted various state universities with Sonoma State to get a glimpse of just how many of the CSU campuses employed administrators that earned over $100K.  He discovered that SSU’s Administrators constitute the largest percentage of the $100K club and has the highest number of $100K+ Administrators of any comparable campus (AIG and SSU: Local Lessons from the Fate of a Nation, 3/29/09, Noel Byrne, Sociology).

Students and Financialization

Student fees at Sonoma State University rise faster than foam at a campus keg party.  Students at SSU pay the third highest fees of all the 23 CSU campuses, yet professor salaries are the lowest in the CSU system (A Lesson from California’s Students: ‘WE Make The Crisis’, by Will Parrish on March 3rd, 2010, Anderson Valley Times) ((http://ssufacultyforqualityeducation.org/flashing-red-lights-at-ssu-high-student-fees-low-faculty-salaries-high-debt-and-lots-of-administrators/).

These fees have dramatically increased with, for example, a new administration-imposed $100 mental health fee.  Beginning in April 2011, an additional $150 was paid by students and will continue to be imposed each semester to cover the cost of a new student center.  Many faculty, students and activists called the vote by students to authorize the increase in fees ‘illegal’. Subsequently a group of public interests lawyers volunteered to contest the election.  The contestation was of no avail for the student center was eventually authorized, to the tune of at least $65 million dollars above and beyond the objections of students.

To pay for never-ending capital construction projects and the interest on them that pock mark the Easter Island campus with spiraling debt, SSU increasingly prioritizes and admits larger freshmen classes.  Each year the dormitories become filled with fresh faces and wallets as capital is extracted to cover various meal plans and campus sales. This makes it even more difficult for local working students who live at home and transfer students from the local Santa Rosa Junior College to get into SSU (http://ssufacultyforqualityeducation.org/sonoma-state-student-center-could-bankrupt-the-campus/). Current students at SSU, and potential students, also struggle with limited class offerings, barred access to the college due to overcrowding, mounting private debt, unemployment, costly housing and a foreclosed future.

Financialization and cuts to programs

The Women’s Center at Sonoma State, once a jewel of the campus, no longer exists.  In 2006 it was absorbed into what was renamed the Center for Culture, Gender, and Sexuality (now called the Multicultural Center), and, in the view of many, compromised its mission.  This move also meant that the number of professional staff addressing issues related to women was reduced, thereby affecting campus services for women.

In April of 2007 Sonoma State University phased out the California Institute of Human Services (CIHS).   As a result, SSU faced federal and state investigations for their handling of state and federal money.  Two top officials were placed on leave and an audit of the CIHS books was conducted.

The institute trained social service providers and provided training for Head Start teachers and recruited students for AmeriCorps.  The CIHS was simply another casualty in Arminana’s war against academics in an effort to transfer funds for pet projects.  The institute operated on $22 million of in state and federal grants and ran programs that trained providers of services that dealt with pre-school and after-school programs, child abuse, family violence and literacy.

SSU’s vice president for finance and administration, Laurence Furukawa-Schlereth, when asked about the closure said:

“The work is quite noble, but does it make a strong contribution to curriculum?  You have to make sure” (http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20070405/NEWS/70405011?p=1&tc=pg).

Concern for academic integrity was not the real agenda of the Vice President of Finance and Administration, nor the president of the college.  According to the Chronicles of May 14, 2007, President Arminana and his upper echelon were more interested in using the auxiliary within the college, Administration and Finance (A&F) for the purpose of:

“(1) undercutting CIHS’s administrative funding, (2) taking the results of an A&F internal audit public rather than working with the Institute to correct the identified problems, (3) redefining delegated authority to deflect blame from within A&F onto CIHS and Academic Affairs, (4) providing misleading information to CSU and federal investigators, (5) using EO753 to fund campus infrastructure before the prudent management of grants and contracts within the schools and centers where they are housed, and (6) criminalizing the CIHS Directors during the investigation” (May 14, 2007, The Chronicles).

 

The authors of the Chronicle suggest, in their comprehensive study of the mismanagement and investigations surrounding the CIHS and its closure, that getting access to CIHS’s assets was a driving factor in felling the organization; this and seizing the management of grant money.  The authors also infer that A&F managers set out to destroy one of the most reputable grant-funded human service operations in the universities history.

 

As we will see, Armiñana and his henchman seemed to want to get their hands on the institute’s assets so they could redirect the funds to the Green Music Center or if not the GMC, then other programs impacted by the serial building of ever more capital construction projects.  Transforming the campus into an elite enclave set in the heart of wine country was and is more important to the current gaggle of administrators than supporting pre-school and after-school programs, child abuse, family violence or literacy.

Whether a tomorrow exists for the university or if there is no tomorrow, one thing is for sure: SSU is facing a severe financial bubble and a crisis fueled by out of control debt and erroneous projections of revenue.  The social, economic and political blowback of decades of financialization, corporatization and an obsession with high cost construction projects threaten the university’s integrity and viability as a public institution designed to serve working class students. The actions and mismanagement of the president of SSU, in concert with top level management, have abdicated and vitiated the educational mission of SSU in favor of corporate interests, pursuits and goals.  As such, the dire situation at SSU is now a travesty.

The SSU seal and logo (a consultant firm created the logo for $100,000 as part of a mandatory ‘corporate branding’ that the separate CSU’s were required to create for marketing purposes) is represented by a soaring dove, meant to symbolize peace or freedom of spirit; the flaming torch found on the seal is designed to represent the flame of learning; and the tree is to suggest the beauty and strength of the redwood, which gives the wine county region its name.  With construction projects a perpetual and seemingly permanent feature of SSU, the campus seal might as well euthanize the dove, extinguish the flame and cut down the tree and replace them with a skyline image of a construction crane.

Sonoma State University – The early days

‘Sonoma State College’ was planned in the early 1960’s but received its real start in 1966.  It was not until 1978 that Sonoma State College became Sonoma State University.  The school always represented ‘an alternative’.  For awhile, Sonoma State University had one of the best dance groups in the state.  Similarly, during the 1970’s the school had the largest psychology department this side of the Mississippi.  There were 5,000 students from 1974-1978 and the campus was re-known for its various humanity programs and in the late 70’s, solar projects.  This all was to change with the advent of Reaganomics and the growth of Sonoma County as a bedroom community for the bay area.

The surrounding community has continuously provided tax funds to fuel university growth.  The school built a large swimming pool which was completed in 1982 and a 500-seat theatre which was completed in 1989. The college underwent a series of enrollment increases and where the school was once a commuter campus, a series of administrative changes and upper level decision-making by President Ruben Armiñana refashioned the new state university as a residential campus. The building of Verdot Village, a dormitory, was completed under Armiñana administration in 1995.  More ‘villages’ would come on their heels as construction became the raison d’être of the college.

In spite of the early creation of capital construction projects at the university, it was not until the change of the millennium that rapid capital construction projects began to earmark the college.  Forty-six acres of new property was added to the university’s portfolio in 2000 and the construction of the third phase of on-campus housing, named Sauvignon Village offering housing to non-freshmen students, was built.  That year, the Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center was completed as well.  A large portion of the funding to build the information center was donated by Charles Schulz, cartoonist and author of the popular Peanuts comic series, and his wife Jean.  The high technology facility was built to be a prototype library and information complex, accommodating more than 400,000 volumes. The center also houses an advanced Automated Retrieval System (ARS) which contains an additional 750,000 volumes in a computer managed shelving system in the library wing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonoma_State_University).

The year 2003 at SSU would not only see residential villages popping up like mushrooms in Alice in Wonderland, but Darwin Hall (the science building) would undergo a complete renovation.  Tuscany Village, a residential project, sprung up during these years and as a result, brought close to 700 more beds to the campus.  SSU was now attempting to remake itself as an Ivy League university catering to the sons and daughters of the affluent.  What we will see is that appearance once again mugs reality, for SSU is an Ivy League school without an Ivy League curriculum.

A series of Sonoma State University Presidents

In its more than fifty year history, Sonoma State University has had only six presidents.  These presidents have all had their fair share of controversy and adversity.

Controversies surrounding Sonoma State University presidents begin with Marjorie Downing Wagner, who was run out of the university in 1976 as a result of her poor handling of a campus occupation by students over arming the campus police.

Her successor, Peter Diamandopoulos, stayed a short time and then ‘graduated’ from Sonoma State University. He assumed high ranking positions at other notable institutes of higher learning, where charges of misconduct, excessive compensation and gross mismanagement followed him about.  In each case, he managed to slither out from scandal virtually unscathed. (http://www.nytimes.com/1998/12/06/nyregion/president-who-was-forced-from-job-at-adelphi-is-hired-at-boston-university.html?ref=peterdiamandopoulos).

David W, Benson took the helm at SSU in 1984 and spearheaded the rise of the corporate campus.  The Foundation and Endowments, as championed by President Benson and in the early Armiñana years, held great promise as a source of student scholarships and program revenue (http://ssufacultyforqualityeducation.org/fiscal-mismanagement-continues-at-ssu%e2%80%94chronicles-xxii-1-2-4/). Benson eventually retired in 1992 and was replaced by the current president, Ruben Armiñana.

The current Emperor has no clothes

Robert Karlsrud, Dean Emeritus, and Tony White, professor emeritus, both from SSU, recently wrote in an editorial piece for the Press Democrat, Sonoma County’s leading newspaper:

“When Ruben Armiñana arrived at SSU in 1992 he made physical development of the campus a top priority.  He began to redefine the college structure to serve the interests of fundraising and endowments” (A Closer Look at the Sonoma State University Foundation, Karlsrud, R. at Oct 06, 2009, http://empirereport.org/reports/20091006-a-closer-look-at-the-ssu-foundation).

In 2009, SSU enrolled 8,500 students, had residential space for 3,100 students and offered 41 major and 46 minor programs at the bachelor’s level.  Fourteen more programs were offered at the master’s level. As of 2009 the campus was comprised of 65 departments and programs with six academic schools. The university offers a joint doctorate in educational administration with the University of California at Davis as well as a joint master’s in mathematics with San Francisco State University.  Nine different credential programs are offered at SSU in teaching and education-related fields (http://www.sonoma.edu/50th/timeline/).

When we look much closer at Sonoma State University’s governing structure (in part three) it will become apparent how a coordinating class of administrators, headed by Armiñana, turned a public institution over to Wall Street managed public debt.  Readers will discover how a shortsighted managerial class led by an autocratic university president helped destroy one of the jewels of the CSU system and left it hemorrhaging, unable to adequately serve the students it purports to serve.

Although Sonoma State University certainly is not the only university that has squandered funds, usurped its educational mission in favor of capital construction projects fueled by mounting debt, abdicated its faculty to the ravages of the private market and approved the construction of Coliseum-like music centers for the rich and famous,  it certainly is a saga we all can learn from if we are going to prevent the neo-enclosure movement from privatizing public education and gobbling up the entire public commons.

Conclusion

Sadly, what has transpired at Sonoma State University and the California State University system as a whole is not novel.  It is in fact indicative of the financialization, privatization, and corporatization of public education. It is also indicative of the virulent attacks on the public commons by austerity measures and decades of de-funding and deregulation. What has transpired at SSU can be seen as part of a host of neo-liberal attacks on the public commons. Neo-liberalism is also a neo-enclosure movement aimed at fencing off the commons in favor of privatization.

I hope that a critical scrutiny of SSU will be helpful to those attempting to make sense of the dramatic neo-enclosure movement aimed at education and the virtual deliquescence of public higher education in California and more generally in the U.S.  It is my intent that the situation at the university be understood metaphorically as a canary in the coal mine for public higher education in California.  I am also hoping that those teachers, students, parents and activists who are currently struggling against the financialization and corporatization of K-12 education will see that the struggle against the privatization of K-12 education is the same struggle that is facing the privatization of colleges and universities.  In this way we can begin to forge larger coalitions that can organize and fight a reactionary neo-enclosure movement from devouring all public commons in favor of privatization.  I hope this analysis is helpful for understanding the larger concepts and issues that confront public higher education in this historical epoch of neo-liberalism or late-stage capitalism.

In part two of this series we will look specifically at ‘the financialization and corporatization of education’ and specifically what this has meant for Sonoma State University.

*The following is by Chronicle authors, “Anonymous (plural) and Bob Karlsrud“.  They call themselves “the accidental activists”:

 

“We never meant to become campus rabble-rousers individually or as a group.  The Chronicles developed out of a fortuitously misdirected email questioning events surrounding the closure of the California Institute for Human Services (CIHS) in the context of a possible vote of no confidence in Sonoma State University (SSU) President Ruben Armiñana. A team developed in a quest to understand what happened with CIHS and why. We found the Armiñana Administration to have been dishonest in its portrayal of both its role in the events and in the cost of CIHS’s supposed misdeeds to SSU. In the midst of a pending no-confidence vote, job losses for over 100 loyal SSU employees and discussion of criminal charges, we felt a responsibility to take our information public. And thus began the Chronicles in May 2007.”  You get more information about the Chronicles or to procure copies contact: Robert Karlsrud at: karlsrud@comcast.net

 

 

  • Newtonian April 25, 2012

    Really a terrific reporting job. We are grappling with our own demagoguery at CSU Bakersfield in the form of President Horace Mitchell, who seems to believe the university is his own private piggy bank for sports development and hiring his burgeoning cadre of buddies at ridiculous administrator salaries. Meantime, many of our students are barely able to support themselves and will be lucky to pay off the debt they are occurring even if they are lucky enough to find a job once they graduate. The corruption at the CSU’s is system wide. It is the only topic of conversation among the professors who gather at state functions where war stories take on a surprising familiarity. It all goes back to Good Ole Boy Charlie Reed, with that big Ed.D. in God knows what–P.E. or something?– and all the smarts of a snake oil salesman. He is an amazing study in survival of the least fit to govern.

  • Newtonian April 25, 2012

    Really a terrific reporting job. We are grappling with our own demagoguery at CSU Bakersfield in the form of President Horace Mitchell, who seems to believe the university is his own private piggy bank for sports development and hiring his burgeoning cadre of buddies at ridiculous administrator salaries. Meantime, many of our students are barely able to support themselves and will be lucky to pay off the debt they are occurring even if they are lucky enough to find a job once they graduate. The corruption at the CSU’s is system wide. It is the only topic of conversation among the professors who gather at state functions where war stories take on a surprising familiarity. It all goes back to Good Ole Boy Charlie Reed, with that big Ed.D. in God knows what–P.E. or something?– and all the smarts of a snake oil salesman. He is an amazing study in survival of the least fit to govern.

  • Fubar April 26, 2012

    please date the material for those citing it for reference.

    • Weilunion@aol.com May 18, 2012

      sorry Fubar the date is April 22, 2012

  • Fubar April 26, 2012

    please date the material for those citing it for reference.

    • Weilunion@aol.com May 18, 2012

      sorry Fubar the date is April 22, 2012

  • Shroomduke April 27, 2012

    It’s the slow creep of corporatism, starting with Privatizing Everything by poisoning the well of democracy with deregulation, defunding oversight, transparency and accountability, war on whistle blowers, massive corporate welfare,

  • Shroomduke April 27, 2012

    It’s the slow creep of corporatism, starting with Privatizing Everything by poisoning the well of democracy with deregulation, defunding oversight, transparency and accountability, war on whistle blowers, massive corporate welfare,

  • jpra May 9, 2012

    An awful lot of gloom, doom, and hyperbole here. I agree with some of the author’s premise, but it’s also important to mention the supply and demand factors at play in the higher ed boom. 

    • Weilunion May 21, 2012

      Supply is fueled by demand, demand is fueled by wages, when there are no wages demand is fueled by debt.  when ther is no demand and no debt then demand is not only not fueled, it dies.  That is the story of capitalism historically.

  • jpra May 9, 2012

    An awful lot of gloom, doom, and hyperbole here. I agree with some of the author’s premise, but it’s also important to mention the supply and demand factors at play in the higher ed boom. 

    • Weilunion May 21, 2012

      Supply is fueled by demand, demand is fueled by wages, when there are no wages demand is fueled by debt.  when ther is no demand and no debt then demand is not only not fueled, it dies.  That is the story of capitalism historically.

      • Shiny March 30, 2014

        There is a critical shortage of inmivfatore articles like this.

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