Ol' Saint Nicholas
The powers at be have instructed us to lay low, to take it down a notch, to refrain from going to the press (Sara Rimer, we’ll stay in touch). So far, this ‘exercise‘ has proven that current and former students do care, that the value of professors and the Arts (or the Idea of the Education of Liberal Arts at Vassar) does matter to those who choose to teach within the Vassarian walls and to those who choose to be educated here. Choices have been made by us all.
We’ve caused quite a stir, enough to prove to faculty, administration, and the public that the answer to the economic problem is not by cutting compensation-costs and eliminating cornerstones of important programs. The answer is obviously more complex–that’s my gut speaking out of line. Nevertheless, we’re currently subjected to the practice that economics drives academia; but this economic pillar is collapsing and we either fall with it or must replace it with something new or old, perhaps the founding ideals of Vassar? After all, we trust Google because up to this point everything they’ve created points back to the promise that it will ‘do no evil.’ Economics explains free-market competition; Darwinian cell-theory explains evolutionary survival–what at Vassar will survive, what is being systematically selected to cease? Either we compete or we work together.
In the end, Vassar is in the hands of a select few whose trust is publicly being judged. I have absolute confidence that democracy is at play, that built into the practice of democracy is the exercise of revolution as a right. What the admin has failed to prepare for is unity–that the Faculty of the English Department have united, that students have united and so have alumae/i. If only All Departments, as a collective voice, would united in cross-disciplinary defense of Liberal Arts, then I think, we come to demonstrate (and near an understanding) what Vassar means. Currently, the admin has been forced to reconsider the details of their plan. It’s their move, and together we wait for it.
For now, a knife is pressed to the skin of somebody and it’s in the admin’s power and interest to make a decision. I have complete faith that the alums, parents, students, and professors will respond accordingly.
“I think I agree with Joyce’s lapsed Catholic hero in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: “What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?” The religious celebration of Christmas is at least a clear and coherent absurdity. The commercial celebration is not even that.”
For Some People, God is Not Enough by Umberto Eco