Masters, Overseers, & Standards (was Re: Calif. election...)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Jun 6 18:15:16 PDT 1998

Carrol wrote:
>A few months ago tred unsuccessfully to convince some of my former
>colleagues at Illinois State U (from which I retired) that their problems
>were rather more deeply rooted than an asshole of a president and a bunch
>of assholes on the board of regents. As I thought over the situation,
>something similar to Wojtek's analysis struck me as possible.
>Does the ruling class for the most part rule passively. That is they can
>trust their various lackeys (politicians, managers, cops, judges) to
>spontaneously act as assholes, and the ruling class merely as it were sets
>limits--e.g., not too much police brutality, not too much economic
>repression of the faculty at 2d line state universities. The Illinois
>legislature has never ceased wishing to swat those profs, but for a decade
>or two (1960-1973 or so) the legislature got somehow restrained and ISU
>grew rather freely in different ways. Then increasingly the reactionary
>forces in the legislature (that, I repeat, had always dominated it, even
>in "liberal" periods) were increasingly "unleashed."

I thought of that too. Maybe the ruling class can act like 'mild masters' while the governing elite and their functionaries serve as harsh 'overseers' and 'slave drivers.' While Soros doles out his money and speaks of 'civil society,' Giuliani cracks down on blacks, taxi drivers, street venders, etc. in the name of 'civility.'

Still and all, the administrative structure of American universities is evil in and of itself. The board of regents, the board of trustees, etc. have no reason for their existence except that they make universities look more like corporations. There are too many overpaid administrators (presidents, vice presidents, provosts, deans, etc.) within universities as well. My dream is for faculty + students to unite, to get rid of regents, trustees, overpaid administrators, and football coaches, and to run universities as cooperatives. Judging by what you wrote below (and my own + my friends' observations), my dream is unlikely to come true any time soon, but there is a place for utopian imagination on the left.

>The faculty has cooperated all along with their slow execution. ISU for
>many years had a sort of tacit "remedial" program, which consisted of
>"lax" rules governing dropping and repeating of courses. A student could
>drop a course as often as he/she chose; a student could also re-take a
>course he or she had flunked or got a D in as often as she wished, and
>only the last grade counted. It was therefore possible, for a student who
>came unprepared to college from the inner city or from one of the many
>little semi-rural high schools around the state to pick up a bunch of Ds
>or Fs the freshman year, but recover completely in a couple semesters by
>retaing those courses. I knew a number of students who "got through" this
>way -- i.e., they picked up the h.s. education they'd missed by taking
>and flunking courses (a little stuck) until finally they could get a grip
>on the material, and that would simply wipe the earlier courses from the
>The drive for "standards" started in the late 70s, and this system was the
>first to go. All the idiots on the faculty were either indifferent to or
>positively enthusiastic about this cutting of possible alliances with the
>black community.

'Standards' should have been fought because of the reasons Carrol describes well (negative effects on student retention and missed opportunities to create alliances between college teachers and black people). I also think that the kind of 'tacit' remediation Carrol writes of might work better for many students than programs explicitly focused on remediation per se. There is no better way to get ready for academic ways of reading, thinking, + writing than to learn them by doing, through trial + error, I believe, as long as students are allowed to make mistakes without penalties. For this to be possible, tuition must be free or extremely low.


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