By Joe Elder, Emeritus Professor of Sociology/ Languages and Cultures of Asia/ Integrated Liberal Studies and Member of Wisconsin University Union (WUU)
Senator Bernie Sanders’ (Independent, Vermont) entry into the 2016 Democratic presidential race has introduced a fresh voice on higher education.
On May 6, 2015 Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to break up any too-big-to-fail financial institutions. He argues that using taxpayer funds to bail out failed financial institutions after Barak Obama became president in 2008 increased the gap between America’s richest and poorest. He believes that right now the six biggest banks in the US still have too much control over the US economy. They need to be broken down into smaller banks that are NOT too-big-to-fail … to be bailed out once again by taxpayer funds.
On May 19, 2015 Bernie Sanders introduced the “College for All” Act. He believes that free higher education for those who qualify and so desire should be a citizen’s right in the United States (as it is in countries like Denmark).
Bernie Sanders is appalled by the current estimated $1.3 TRILLION student-loan debts and accompanying years of so-called postgraduate “indentured servitude.” Furthermore, he has identified a source for funding the “College for All” Act. The needed funds could be generated by a 50-cent tax on every $100 of stock trades and stock sales in the United States. This tax has been nicknamed the “Robin-Hood tax,” since it takes from the rich and gives to the middle classes and the poor. If approved, the “Robin-Hood tax” would be a relatively simple tax to collect. Moreover, it would generate massive amounts of money taken from the middle of Wall Street’s everyday activities.
Bernie Sanders agrees that college is not for everybody. But he believes that every US citizen who wants a college education and is qualified for admission has a “right” to attend college. The passage of the “College for All” Act could be a significant step toward re-distributing America’s wealth, re-energizing America’s poor and middle classes, freeing college graduates from years of college-debt and “indentured servitude,” and shrinking the gap between the poorest and richest citizens in the United States.
See the summary of Sen. Sanders’ College for All Act Here.
By Bruce Thomadsen and the Wisconsin University Union Board.
Of all the ways the Wisconsin State Legislature is working to demolish the University, such as starting to send it into a financial free-fall and deletion of meaningful tenure, the elimination of due process and just cause for firing faculty flies in the face of our national culture’s love of justice and individual rights. For that matter, most cultures in the free world would consider this a major step toward tyrannical totalitarianism.
The University of Wisconsin Regents had the opportunity to stand for justice, protect the employees and students who are victimized by this action and slow the gutting of what is still, but not destined to remain, a major, world-class University. As a body, the Regents chose not to oppose this travesty. By delegation to a committee looking into the issue, they yielded to the abuser (the Legislature). It is unlikely that the committee can report back to the Regents in time to send a message to the Legislature before the budgetary process is complete. The Regents have to know that. They also have to have been thinking about this, assuming that they take their charge seriously. They have thought about it enough in the past to make bold statements that they will maintain the rights currently (perhaps for only a few more days) in State statute. Apparently empty bold statements.
The Wisconsin State Legislature has apparently silenced the UW-Madison Chancellor, probably with the threat that things could get much worse for her hostage children if she does not play nice. If the Regents are under the same pressure, the University has lost its champion and last protector. Civilization has taken a hit. The Empire has total control.
Quality? What potential faculty hire would want to come to a university that could fire without cause and without due process? Few faculty members of quality would stay at such a university except for personal reasons. Stay for the high quality ice cream? These changes will bring the biggest sucking sound since Ross Perot warned of the effects of NAFTA. Why would the top students want to come to study with the remnant of the faculty?
Kudos to Regents Evers, Vásquez, and Bradley who stood against the changes. They stared the dragon in the eye and did not flinch.
On the 4th anniversary of the February 14th rally and march that sparked the Wisconsin Uprising, hundreds braved the cold to protest the proposed $300 million in budget cuts and the threats to democratic governance and public benefit posed by the “public” authority. WUU members Joe Elder and Bruce Tomadsen spoke to the freezing but spirited crowd.
The Cap Times Reported:
“UW students, faculty, staff and community members gathered, chanting, “No ifs, no buts, no budget cuts” and carrying signs with slogans like “I (heart) UW” and “Be like Minnesota, not Kansas” on them.
Some faculty are already leaving as a result of the cuts, said Joe Elder, professor of sociology at UW-Madison.
“And more faculty will leave,” he said.
“If the budget cuts affected football, we’d have nine players on the field instead of 11,” said Bruce Tomadsen, another UW-Madison faculty member and representative of the Wisconsin University Union. “No problem, says Walker, players can just cover other positions.””
Photo by Rebecca Kemble