Feeding at the Trough at the University of Oregon

The John E. Jaqua Academic Center, whose upper floors are off limits to most students. A result of the brilliant planning of UO administrators.

The Register-Guard has just revealed that three months ago the University of Oregon awarded raises totaling $1.9 million a to 390 administrators. This is after university staff were forced to take a pay cut. The is at a time when the state of Oregon is in the midst of a budget crisis, and the official unemployment rate in Oregon is 9.5%. (The real unemployment rate is no doubt higher.)

What have these administrators done to deserve this raise? Let’s look at some of the things they’ve done in recent years. They spent almost a quarter of a billion dollars to build a new basketball arena that the school doesn’t need. They spent $41 million to build the gaudy and pretentious Jaqua Center, which serves no real purpose. They built the Ford Alumni Center, which, according to its website, is intended to serve as “the gateway to the university” (whatever that means). They also built an ugly and garish electrical sign in of front the new basketball arena facing busy Franklin Boulevard. (This thing is so bright that it hurts your eyes when you look at it at night. Seriously, you could use this thing instead of a lighthouse to guide ships at sea.) They wanted to create a huge neon sign saying “University of Oregon” in the middle of Portland, which is over a hundred miles from the main campus. (The people of Portland rightly stopped this.) They devised a scheme to gradually privatize the school, which will make a college education more inaccessible to people in Oregon. They have demanded that the campus police be allowed to carry guns and tasers that they don’t need. Meanwhile, the athletic department has been plagued by scandals.

And these people think they deserve a raise for all this.

One is reminded here of the banksters who gave themselves raises and bonuses after they wreaked the economy. It seems that in twenty-first century America, the way to succeed is to fail. What is important is no longer the results one gets, but one’s ability to hype oneself. (No doubt this explains the aforementioned idiotic plan for a neon sign.)

The 135-year history of the University of Oregon has followed an interesting trajectory. The place was originally conceived as a sort of mini-Harvard for people too lazy to take the week-long train ride to the East Coast. Although the school had academic pretensions (some faculty members belonged to the Klu Klux Klan), it was an open secret that the place was really a playground for the pampered sons of Oregon’s rich. These future captains of industry would amuse themselves by devising elaborate hazing rituals that invariably involved spankings. (I will leave it to the reader to try to figure out why budding capitalists would enjoy spankings.) Things changed drastically after the Second World War, largely as a result of the G.I. Bill. The university was forced to throw open its doors to members of the lower orders. The school’s fine old traditions were smashed as a result of the place being flooded by vulgar, coarse youths who actually wanted to learn about things like physics and art history. It became necessary to hire professors and instructors who knew something about the topics they were teaching. As a result, the concept of a “college education” acquired a weight and gravity that it had never previously possessed. Now, however, as tuition continues to rise and privatization looms, the university seems to be coming full circle. It appears to be becoming once again a playground for the rich.

Perhaps the idea that education is something valuable and important was merely the fleeting result of a transitory phase in the evolution of capitalism. Just look at the current campaign to destroy public education through standardized testing and charter schools. Perhaps we are returning to a situation like that in the Middle Ages, when learning was something done by a few oddballs in monasteries.

My advice to young people who want to get a college education is that they had better have a lot of money.

And it will help if they learn to enjoy being spanked.

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