Like many people on campus at the University of North Dakota, I’m trying not to fixate of budget issues. After all, most people on campus spend most of their time just doing their jobs. At the same, we do read the media and feel for the students and staff effected by the most recent cuts to athletics.
At the same time, the drone on social media is becoming really oppressive from both people on both sides of the discussion. While some of this is the product of strategic antagonism on the part of local media personalities, some of it, I’m convinced, is genuine anxiety for the future of the university and higher education in our community.
As someone who has spent their last 20 years in higher education and in the humanities specifically, I am increasingly convinced that some of the current attitude to higher education is both our fault and our problem to solve. On the one hand, we have had the opportunity to promote the value of our field for a generation and it does not appear that we’ve been overly successful. Despite claims that the monolithic political culture of academia leads to brainwashed students, there does not seem to be any local benefits to this supposed practice. If anything over the last 20 years state support to higher education has decline significantly on the state level and more or less stagnated on the national level suggesting that our academic brainwashing was not even successful enough to promote our own interests much less some more wide-reaching and nefarious agenda.
At the same time, our lack of historic success should not discourage us from continuing to make the arguments to our colleagues, our administrators, our legislators, and our students that what we do is important. I worry that declining morale on campus has made faculty, in particular, less inclined to embrace our larger mission of making arguments. I know I feel a sense of fatalism and that the events are essentially beyond out control, but this is just the present situation and the long game requires a certain amount of discipline.
So, today’s post is more an extended dilation on the defeatist tone across part of my social media than any meaningful contribution to the budget discussion across campus.