In all my years at UNM, acting President Abdallah is the only head of the school that I have seen who openly encourages community debate and discussion on controversial issues. This is the kind of openness and thinking that UNM and our state needs if we are to solve some of our social and economic crisis that seem to come rolling in like waves of low pressure weather off the Pacific coast.
On the issue of the UNM budget problem, we have to face the unspeakable fact that the modern university is a business corporation with education as a side product and not a main mission.
To finance this radical change that started about 1992 at UNM with the Reagan era idea of public-private partnerships, many departments have been basically privatized. They were tasked with raising most, if not all, their own funds. Education was no longer a public service, but a market seeking product. Public schools at all levels have had to do this as a way to support the neoliberal trickle down theory. State legislatures loved this as it allowed them to cut taxes for the rich.
This idea was supposed to free up budget money for education, but privatization turned out to only be a smokescreen for a huge move into corporate and military research. Public institutions like UNM all have a non-profit status, too, which allowed more private sector profits and encouraged the sports arm of the universities to become corrupt entertainment industry functions.
Large corporations like GM and pharmaceutical firms started scaling back their own research departments and contracted out their needs to universities, selling them as opportunities for “students to learn hands on skills,” etc. It was tax exempt too. Supposedly a win-win idea, right? Wrong.
Under neoliberal public-private partnerships the benevolent rich were suppose to turn over their excess wealth to help fund public education. What they did when President BillClinton repealed the Glass-Stengel Act was start a mega merger movement with many relocating to places like China and other low wage countries. They have basically under this smokescreen abandoned the American working class. Donald Trump used this to make his own job at the White House. Liberals in both the Democratic and Republican Parties many still have not figured this out, but Donald did.
What is so funny is that even Adam Smith spoke of the basic immoral ethic of allowing the rich total liberty and freedom of the market.
The new research university on paper sounded like a solution but it has cost taxpayers a lot of money and the education mission is now just an ornament on the Christmas tree of things called a university. Public-private partnership has been a setback and has changed the agenda of education at UNM, CNM and other public schools.
To accomplish this research idea the public, students, staff and faculty via UNM budget cuts have had to shoulder the cost of expensive labs, facilities, sub-campuses and faculty to draw in more research. When former president Caldera was challenged on the immorality of UNM doing nuclear weapons work he said, sure we do it to skim money to run the University. His honesty about war-profiteering has been missing since he was fired soon after this.
UNM and many other universities and even community colleges have been trying to duplicate the University of California WWII model of running a research lab for nuclear weapons. It was very profitable but it also requires a constant state of war. Not every campus can do this so now there are contract mergers of “educational” institutions doing weapons research to spread around the monies.
Sig Hecker, the director of the Los Alamos war lab, had a hand in all this at UNM as he was on the Board of Regents during this change.
But what in reality has happened is the opposite of wealth and prosperity. Corporate and military research has turned out to be nice subsidies for profit making firms and weapons producers. What we have gotten is a state with a very rich and very poor class divide problem -- much like a colony in the old days.
The UNM bloated Christmas tree budget needs to be trimmed, for one thing as a way to change all this.
But in main we have a situation where our educational agenda has been so badly damaged that it is common to accept the idea that higher education includes padding the bottom line of Wall Street firms and people like Jamie Diamond and accepting the idea that war and killing and spying and institutional violence are acceptable as normal educational goals. The moral cost now shows up in the budget crisis we have (all over the state really).
It is time now to return our educational institutions to the mission of true educational goals and drive out the temple of the forces of market madness and war profiteering. The neoliberal experiment has failed; it is time to move on.
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