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In yet another testimonial that inadvertently reveals that the term “college education” is rapidly becoming an oxymoron, a group of faculty members from Temple University has posted a statement on Facebook expressing their support of the Occupy Philadelphia chapter of the OWS movement. “Statement of Solidarity from Temple University Faculty” is a reiteration of the boilerplate progressivism that passes for wisdom and/or open-mindedness on far too many college campuses around the nation. Here’s what they have to say, with some reality added to the mix.
We are proud to serve at a public university that has helped generations of Philadelphians, many of them the first in their families to attend college, to improve their own economic situations, to produce new knowledge, and to become more engaged in civic life. But we see that legacy under grave threat when we consider the increasingly difficult lives of our students, many of our faculty, and our neighbors in North Philadelphia. It is a threat born of a collusion between concentrated wealth and political power; Occupy Wall Street gives eloquent testimony to this dangerous alliance and offers some hope for a solution.
Among the many demands made by the OWS movement, most of which bear no resemblance whatsoever to “eloquent testimony,” the one over-arching sentiment that has been expressed is the idea of kicking capitalism to the curb in favor of a “fairer” more “socially just” society. Yet the professors and others might wish to consider what is more likely to produce a “collusion between concentrated wealth and political power”: an expanded socialist state in which a handful of bureaucrats pick winners and losers–aided and abetted by well-connected crony capitalists protecting their market share in the process–or a free-market capitalist system in which millions of people making millions of decisions tethered to talent, ambition, self-interest and hard work produce goods and services?
The statement continues:
As faculty and staff at a public university, we understand that cuts in state funding for higher education and in federal student grants have driven the costs of a college education beyond the means of many. Students are increasingly forced to finance their education through extraordinary levels of personal debt. Thus, we support the Occupy Wall Street movement, in part, because only by restoring progressive taxation at the federal and state level can we restore adequate funding of higher education and render it accessible and affordable to all. We also endorse calls for a federal program that would relieve students of the back-breaking debt levels they have been forced to assume. Higher education, for those able and willing to pursue it, should be a right and not a privilege.
Education cuts to state budgets undoubtedly make college more difficult to afford. But if one wonders what else contributes to driving the costs of a college education beyond the means of many, the Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2010-2011, reveals that railing against the collusion of concentrated wealth and power pays quite well at Temple University. The faculty there earns the following in total compensation, which includes salaries and benefits: $163,500 for a professor; $118,900 for an associate professor, $87,000 for an assistant professor, and $68,700 for an instructor. The average income in the state of Pennsylvania? $41,152 per year. And the average Pennsylvanian lacks one other job perk that applies to many college professors: the lifetime job security of tenure.
As for restoring progressive taxation, when did it ever go away? The state of Pennsylvania may have a flat personal income tax rate, but even there, the top one percent pay 14 percent of the state’s income taxes. On the national level, the top one percent pay 36.7 percent, while the bottom 47 percent pay no income taxes at all. As for college being a right as opposed to a privilege, perhaps the professors might wish to explain how a “right” whose costs average more than $30,000 per year should be underwritten. Costs which have risen 130 percent over the last 20 years, far outpacing inflation. And far outpacing salary increases for a lot of Americans–college professors not included.
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