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Friday, December 19, 2014

Elite interests ruin UNM and higher education for hard-working students

Editor,

Recent events indicate UNM is a large institution out of control.

The huge tuition increases and higher graduation requirements are far out of line with the needs of the population of the state and indicate a rapid rate of disintegration. “Can we save UNM?” is the task facing us now.

Time and again we have seen policies at UNM that serve the elite and rich, while working students who take longer to graduate will have to pay more and will get less. So many things are upside down, like the pay scale with highly paid administrators and low-paid staff, adjunct and front-line faculty.

For example, UNM’s regents keep dumping money into the athletic programs for coaches, legal problems and contract buyouts.

Collegiate athletics is just another violence-oriented big business run by regents still living in some kind of post-high-school fantasy world of jock make-believe. Meanwhile, it costs us millions that could be better spent on basic higher education.

I read in the Albuquerque Journal about the millions wasted on a Rio Rancho campus with no mission; a campus too far, it seems, into their fantasy world. And there is a whole medical and insurance industry-driven hospital complex hung onto what is supposed to be a higher education institution. We need good health care, but not when it’s tied to a basic educational institution.

Things have gotten far out of hand here.

However, UNM is not an isolated case. The whole higher education program in the state is full of duplicate campuses, colleges and programs: lots of wasted taxpayer money. One thing for sure, though, is that a lot of real estate people make money and a lot of administrators get big paychecks by juggling all these balls in the air. They buy the politicians who keep this going and re-appoint regents to keep it quiet. The whole thing is a mess and needs rational restructuring, but that will not happen either, due to the dysfunctional Legislature.

One thing concerned people need to remember is every time the regents talk of UNM as a research school, they need to grab their wallets and find places to send their kids for a real education.

Over the years, large corporations and military research contractors found they could save lots of their money if they got the state governments to build the expensive labs and buildings and pay the high-wage researchers they needed, if it was done at tax-exempt public universities. They have saved a bundle, and in the meanwhile, our taxes and tuitions have gone up endlessly. All this was supposed to bring cheaper education and a marketplace utopia, but it has only gotten worse. It is a failed scheme.

The magic smoke that sold this scam was jobs and economic development. Public officials who wanted to keep being elected without any hard work went for it. As a result, New Mexico taxpayers have built expensive research labs on campuses, and even separate campuses, such as the UNM Science and Technology Park.

All it has produced is private-sector profits and public indebtedness. And now they are planning another expensive version at UNM called Innovation Square. To make this successful, they want tie it to the war research at Sandia National Laboratories.

This is far out of line with what we need, which is not more of the same.

All of this is just more chasing after illusions of magic bullets in the form of technological breakthroughs that are supposed to again solve our problems and provide massive employment at high-wage jobs. Most of these attempts fail, and most obvious is that they have no social policy guiding them. Making profits off research whose end product is better ways to kill people is not sustainable and is morally corrupting. Besides, it just breeds more social and individual violence.

Our higher education public schools like UNM and CNM should focus on the education needs of a diverse community of poor people who seek first social justice and sustainable lives, not war and profits. High-tech research and marketplace economic development should stay off campus in the private sector and at the war bases.

We have too many outside agendas at play in higher education already. An education agenda and budget that serve the needs of a state like New Mexico is not rocket science.

Robert Anderson
UNM alumnus