December 8, 2011
At the New School University, a panel of high level higher education administrators and leaders discuss their vision of the future of higher education: including the controversial Matthew Goldstein–chancellor of the City University of New York–and Jamshed Bharucha, president of Cooper Union. CUNY is facing stark resistance to its recent tuition hike, and Cooper Union to its proposed instatement of tuition, after a long tradition of being a free university. Oh yes, there were direct actions. Mr. Goldstein could not speak without a member of the audience coughing or sneezing loudly. When the panelists decide to take questions–moderated by New School University’s President David Van Zandt–Goldstein faces antagonistic query. He sweats and suffers. I do not feel pity, but I am honestly fascinated by what he has to say. Funding is being cut from all directions: state, federal, and individual donors. Administrative costs are high in response to student demand for more and more comprehensive services. I am getting an inside view to the pressures that lead these men to make the decisions they do; Decisions which seem outright dismissive of public need.
Finally, it is my turn to ask a question. I waited in line for half an hour to reach the microphone. I am a continuing education student. Undergraduate. It has taken me seven years to reach the microphone, actually. I tell them, they’ve mentioned competition a lot. I tell them, they’ve mentioned preparation a lot. I tell them, they’ve also spoken of integration and producing happier, more well-rounded graduates. I ask them, doesn’t that seem to be what our generational paradigm shift is? Isn’t it a war between the desire to be great and the desire to be whole? I ask them, who are we competing against? The global market? Our fellow graduates? Or perhaps a generally adversarial environment, often fallaciously referred to as “the real world”?
Mr. Van Zandt says, “I’m so sorry, but we’re out of time.”
Words by Kathleen Purcell
Painting by Kathleen Purcell