In the final installment of “Private Matters,” Joel Faltermayer and Phillip McCausland discuss the worth of a Temple degree moving forward.
There is no doubt Temple is changing. Whether you talk to a tenured professor in the liberal arts, a naive freshman who’s just encountering his or her first taste of academic bureaucracy or an adjunct professor who teaches part-time at three different institutions to make ends meet, the consensus is all the same: Many are not happy with the university.
For students, a possible 42 percent rise in tuition negates the value Temple once had, reducing the university experience to a potentially worthless diploma. Meanwhile, administration dangles job security and benefits over the heads of inadequately compensated faculty, which scares some great professors into silence over the threat of being sacked.
Even though English professor Dan O’Hara arrived at Temple when the administration was, he said, “pursuing its mission of educating those who otherwise would not be able to afford a good education,” he now says Temple has become “hardly recognizable.”
But administrators’ rhetoric has yet to change. Temple still flaunts its diverse “Acres of Diamonds” in front of prospective alumni, while isolating these “acres” of students, faculty and Philadelphians as a whole. Yet in the midst of a state and university budget crisis, the administration has us pointing the finger at everyone but the people with tangible power.
The few appropriately directed battles, fought by both tenured and non-tenured faculty against the administration, often take place behind closed doors. As was shown throughout this series, the internal conflicts among faculty end up working in favor of a corporate-run administration.
“No matter what we say, it’s hard to get across to students and administration that things are bad here,” David Waldstreicher, a history professor, said.
However, these well-voiced administrative critiques are condemned to cautiously forwarded email threads, when they should be ostentatiously flaunted with the gusto of an anti-abortion rally.
Though the few willing faculty want to communicate they are something other than just “service providers,” the undergraduate student body seems to be fueled solely by shallow “budget cut” rhetoric and conflicting incentives for intoxication on Spring Fling.
In times like these, student ignorance and apathy is a convenient indicator of administration’s unbridled control over the university. Even the most active-minded undergraduate students have been shut out of this debate and refocused toward an antagonized Gov. Tom Corbett.
President Ann Weaver Hart has implored us to keep an eye on the politics in Harrisburg, Pa., rather than on our own fiscal backyard. Have we been blinded by our own lack of activism? Or has the price of education led us to silent apathy?
Though the lack of student awareness is a sign of the administration’s power, the steady rise in tuition and concentration on the “aesthetics” of university life is the most visible concession toward a privatized Temple. Even after announced budget-cuts, Temple managed to hire a new university architect. While whole departments are being slashed, Waldstreicher pointed out the paradox that, “there’s still money for stuff that looks glitzy and good.”
Marina Angel, a law professor who has written about the possibility of privatization in the Beasley School of Law’s newsletter the Faculty Herald, points out this trend toward attraction coincides with yet another demographic shift directly linked to student apathy.
“Many of us came here because of the ‘Conwellian’ notion of ‘Acre of Diamonds,’” Angel said. “But this won’t happen because rising tuition means a demographic shift … [And] right now, we’ve got great in-state students because Temple is cheap.”
Has Temple’s attractive “value” simply disappeared? Or is the rising price of tuition and campus beautification, coupled with “cheaper labor” policies, a plan to attract more lucrative customers to a profit-oriented Temple?
Even though well-off students could be made to swallow this new model, Philadelphia certainly won’t tolerate the presence of another Drexel in our backyard. While O’Hara doesn’t see privatization as a final result, he recognizes that the process of attempting will be bad for Temple.
“It is just like Jayson Werth, formerly of the Phillies, or LeBron James of the Miami Heat,” O’Hara said. “This region hates people and institutions who are only in it for the money.”
At one time, Temple was known as the “Harvard on the Delaware,” yet these administrative trends toward privatization have pushed the university to new lows in the 21st century. Yet, it is only through awareness and discussion that students can resist becoming “customers,” and faculty can resist becoming “cheap labor.”
Joel Faltermayer and Phillip McCausland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.