Dearest People of the Global Human Race (Illinois Tech specifically),
God bless the United States of America
God bless the executive prowess of world leaders
God bless the academic administrations of the “best” schools in the nation
God bless the economically inconsequential student loan crisis and persistently destructive defunding of higher education in the United States, and the disappearing middle class
I want to first of all thank the vast rewards of uninformed patriotism, sustained neo imperialism, and military intervention for all the myriad tchotchkes and petroleum that have made my meaningless existence possible. Also, look closely at the field diagram of the eagle above and recognize a rare and uncharted phenomenon in ornithological science: the eagle tear. Cheers, fellow subjects!
I want to second of all express overwhelming gratitude to Dr. Marvin Camras for his vision and foresight. Unlike neo imperialism, he was able to help me pay for college. I am only a month away from earning undergraduate degrees because of his namesake scholarship (and probably the investment returns of global capitalism). In all seriousness, I am beyond grateful for the access to many of the stellar faculty and staff here at IIT. I am beyond privileged to be in this position. I remember having a conversation with the recently deceased Dr. Robert Schleser regarding Dr. Camras. Dr. Schleser described a very humble, very focused, and somewhat dismissive character. Maybe ignoring humans is what helped Camras accomplish so much with his electronics. I find it interesting to hear what a psychologist has to say about an engineer, and I think we’re probably all a little wacky.
After helping the reader understand that I am grateful and not spiteful, I would like to lay out opinions and considerations that may or may not be slightly controversial. The administration at IIT is as out of touch as the rest of the college administrations across the United States. How did we get here? How did the United States come to anoint executives, presidents, CEOs, and their good ol pals with boatloads of cash? Well, it’s of course because they deserve it for working so hard! Executives are smarter and more capable than you and me. So, Dr. Alan Cramb is probably compensated with close to a million dollars per year, and those closest to him are probably bringing in half of that. To be fair to Dr. Cramb and friends, the head sports coaches at some public universities are making around four million dollars per year. Yikes! What does the United States really value? Sports, folks! Duh!
So, let’s put some things in perspective. Get ready for some basic math, humanoids! Ok, so…at our small private school, executives at the top levels are bringing home between one million to half a million dollars per year. Did you know that the CEO of Toyota (yes, the Toyota) only managed to make a measly $2 million off of his organization? Yes, a huge-normous multi national corporation’s top executive, posting $5.4 billion in profits last quarter, rewards its top human with only twice of what our top human at IIT makes. Hmmmmm…math makes my brain hurt. Satya Nadella at Microsoft made $84 million! That’s like, a gahzillion more dollars than the Toyota guy. I mean, the Japanese must be major chumps. Don’t they realize that they should use their giant corporate funnels to vaccuum cash into the pockets of the hyper uber elites? I guess their executives are humble and frugal, and their employees make a living wage. See, in the United States we like to make sure people get paid well!
Now, economic, political, and cultural factors are all at play here. I am not vilifying anyone in particular. There are many different pieces to the confounding puzzle. I’m just not quite sure if people know how bad things have gotten. Remember, it’s the unions and the schoolteachers that are destroying the economy! In the communist state of Germany, they even have labor union members on executive boards of corporations! I thought I even saw a hammer and sickle in Angela Merkel’s hands recently. Rumor has it that she recently bought a “Che” poster in Moscow at a Pussy Riot concert hosted by Lenin’s Mausoleum. In the United States, very very very few people make very very very large sums of money. Meanwhile, very very very many people make almost enough money not to be poor. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Author, you’re silly! Don’t you know these rich people give all their money to poor people?” Oh yeah, I keep forgetting how the economy works.
I was recently standing with a sign around my neck, supporting the United Minds Inspiring Innovation (UMII) initiative. We were standing together at the most recent President and Provost Forum in the south end of Hermann Hall. UMII members quietly and respectfully stood in protest of some pretty nasty remarks undocumented students had received from various IIT faculty. These remarks are a disturbing mirror of our broken national dialogue on education, immigration, race, and religious issues. Dr. Cramb had thoughtful and well-scripted remarks in response to UMII’s concerns. He responded as people would probably expect, but did not actually address any real issues. Provost Frances Bronet responded eloquently as well, to the relief of the audience. They were probably sincere in their remarks, but I’m not so sure the ingroup of aging, white, overly-compensated, academic cognoscenti really understands reality beyond the words they use to describe it.
I’m inspired by UMII because they’re one of the few student groups at IIT that is forcing an elitist power structure to respond to dehumanizing issues faced by students. The members of UMII are some of the few people at IIT that understand power structures, politics, and action. Most of the student organizations at IIT flow with the institution, acquiescing and serving as cultural cheerleaders for our school. That’s all fine and dandy, but every organization needs legitimate accountability. UMII is one of the few forces at our school that can call the administration to think more critically about their agenda and shake up the sometimes inbred philosophy of the elites. We all need someone to tell us how we’re wrong, or we’ll never even consider our errors.
I have no intentions of my writing being interpreted as a hit piece on the current IIT administration. I want all of us to start a difficult dialogue about what we stand for as a nation and what we stand for as an academic institution. Students at this school are rarely taught to foster a subversive idea. I wouldn’t want to upset any of the easily flustered Meis disciples or the Koolhaas or Jahn aristocrats. Most of our academic disciplines are teaching us that we can design our way out of anything. We can design our lives, our buildings, our products, our businesses, our entire success as human beings. The academic philanthrocapitalist designers and engineers have sowed the seeds of their ideology into the gullible minds of professional zombies. The social, political, and economic shitshow that is unfolding before us…we have all helped to create. We all put on the collective blinders. The elite and the administration are usually just unknowing victims of their own ideology.
Let us be clear, the real problem here is an issue of communication. The politics, the economy, the administration, the humans of Earth are all out there doing weird stuff, creating strange solutions and drafting horrible problems. Financiers and bankers are designing fanciful instruments to create more and more fake wealth, meanwhile the bulk of humanity’s intelligence is literally starving, empty stomachs next to overflowing vaults of imaginary assets. We’re sailing aboard a vessel on an incomprehensible sea of uncertainty; it’s difficult not to sink or run aground. Somehow the administration has to keep the school running amidst the vast insanity of Chicago, Illinois, the United States, and the world at large. I have sympathy for the administration.
I don’t have sympathy for how out of touch we allow them to be. I honestly don’t know what the administration at IIT knows. All I usually hear from administration is that everything is really great and no one should worry. I wish we had a few more vigorous, critical, unchecked voices around campus. I always get the strange feeling that everyone is tiptoeing around the real issues and they’re unwilling to deliver criticism or bad news. It’s especially hard for college students to find their voice in an environment where people are praised for being passively obedient. We’ve been taught not to be leaders. We’ve been taught to be talked down to and led by those “more capable” than us.
Power can and has been built. Historically, student coalitions have forced academia to hold itself accountable to all members of the population and not just the privileged few. Land grant universities and affordable education in the United States were not designed out of some status quo “don’t rock the boat” mindset. Affordable and accessible higher education was a radical investment in the vision of a better humanity. Unfortunately, the future plans for higher education seem inescapably crazed and delusional. Total student debt in the United States was around $1.2 trillion in 2014. An example budget for a student attending IIT for 2016-2017 is now around $62,000 (tuition, room and board, predicted personal expenses). We have an absurd and unsustainable system of higher education in the United States. No one has come up with a truly substantial method of addressing this insanity. This is a national problem, and the administration and practices at IIT are just some of the symptoms of this massive dilemma. This will not and cannot continue.
Perhaps tuition must go up every year in order “to balance a natural increase in expenditures.” This quote from President Cramb might be true, but it is certainly not truthful. I would much rather have Cramb tell the students and his administration, faculty, and staff that the donations and endowments just aren’t working like they used to. Shit’s hitting the fan and we’re in crisis mode. For decades, the administration has not been able to find new ways of doing things; because of this and many other factors, we have no good way of funding our school besides asking students to pay more money. We have to turn to the only powerless people within the academic institution for cash, the students. Illinois Institute of Technology has adopted tuition hikes as the status quo because it can, and it has put itself in a position to where it must.
But hey, maybe it’s not a bad thing? Maybe it’s long been time for administrations to look inward and outward. IIT certainly is not the only school doing this to its students. Why should I single them out? Maybe it’s time for all of us to shut off our PCs, TVs, and iPhones and do some soul searching. How did we get to the point that we mask the cost of tuition with scholarship money? How did we get to the point where predatory banks use academic institutions as surrogates to drown students in debt? How long did we expect nice people with a lot of money to keep giving it to us? How did we get to the point where Ludwig Mies van der Rohe became synonymous with God? Did we expect the Ivory Tower to always be accessible to students, regardless of national or global economic and political forces? Why are we taught to value ourselves only as much as others value our work? Can we see each other? Do we even share the same reality anymore? How out of touch is the administration?
They are out of touch enough to pass off yearly tuition increases as a simple cost of operating the school. If yearly tuition increases are to be the new norm, then at least explain fully what this means. Explain to the students that IIT can no longer afford anything or is truly in a bad enough situation that it must deliver crumbling facilities at a higher sticker price. Hell, just tell the whole student body that the United States is screwed, philanthropists don’t want to give money, and skyrocketing tuition is a problem that absolutely no one is ready to solve. Federal research funding is drying up because of temper tantrums in congress thrown by adolescent-minded senators. We have a revolting orange, boorish reality show TV star running for president, and no one knows what the hell is going on with tuition prices and the larger global economy. Our parents went to school on the cheap and then we somehow got screwed. Oh well.
“Sorry folks, no one wants to take the blame for this problem and no powerful people want to actually solve this problem. College is really expensive, getting more expensive, and all you poor folks and your silly families will just have to pay more money for it because that’s the way things are now.” Students in the United States may finally be waking up to the way they’re being assaulted economically. If “the market” works so damn well, it’s just so weird that tuition prices aren’t being “driven down.” I’m just way too dumb to understand what’s going on here. My brain hurts. I’m just not so sure the administration understands that it is an accomplice in a larger scheme of players. I would prefer Dr. Cramb lead with transparency and tell us the hard truths, rather than treat yearly tuition increases as some sort of natural phenomenon like swamp gas.
The global system, as it is currently designed, is really not working out all that well right now for most people. I’m not sure if Dr. Cramb and friends actually fully understand this. Are they nervous and aware but choosing to play the poker face and hope that somehow everything works out? Part of me thinks they may just be so used to being unaccountable to common folks that they patronize us by default. Kings, queens, governments, elites, and college administrations talk down to their constituents and reinforce the lie of the meritocracy. If we are an institution that values innovation, perhaps the administration would like to innovate on their communications and worldview. I want to give the administration the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think they intend to hurt people, but they’ve become so obtuse in their elitism that they nonchalantly hold devastating policy platforms as simply a “new norm.”
“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”
An ode to the brilliance of Mark Twain in this time of absurdity. If you close your eyes and barrel forward long enough, you too can probably make millions as a head football coach at the University of Iowa. What a success story these people are! Do you think elites and hard working rich folks understand the broader macroeconomic catastrophes quickly encroaching our global humanity?! Ha! No way, man. They’re too busy being more successful than you! Rapidly increasing global wealth inequality is just a natural economic force, not the product of a system that is designed to use banks, real estate, and finance to rob poor and working class folks of all their hard-earned wealth! If you work real hard, you could earn millions of dollars too!
Now, I don’t write in order to be purely mean-spirited or nasty. I may be overly cynical, but I always try to be realistic. There are huge problems that need to be solved. I have the privilege of being inspired by the young minds of IIT. This institution has offered some really great advancements in a wide variety of fields. The pursuit of knowledge and progress through science is a noble one. We just need to learn to respect each other with our words and actions. To sell a dumbed-down version of reality to students is irresponsible of the administration. Look, we’re an excellent academic institution, but maybe we need to all come together and address the critical problems we’re facing. IIT administration should make full disclosures and also offer real context for students in this dynamic world we live in. Simply accepting skyrocketing tuition prices as status quo shows how inept the administration is at communicating to us–students, real people paying real money for a real education.
We all deserve more openness and more honesty from one another. The only types of relationships that thrive are those that are open and honest. Right now the administration isn’t being straight with the students. Maybe tuition increases are necessary, but then tell all parts of the hard truth students face today in the United States. Tell the students that you are working really hard to keep tuition down, but the job is very difficult. Don’t just send out a perfunctory email every semester admitting that raising tuition is now standard practice. It’s just plain rude. It’s rude to the IIT community, it’s rude to students, it’s rude to parents, and it’s rude to our collective intelligence.
Again, as a current student of this institution, I owe a great deal of thanks to IIT for my partial intellectual liberation from the confines of The New York Times and CNN. The faculty of IIT have taught me invaluable lessons about the pursuit of knowledge and the essential nature of healthy skepticism. My greatest pride right now is that I’m too critically minded to believe half of what is sold to me. A college degree is not a solution to humanity’s problems, but we all need to think about how we can make it more affordable to our population.
There was one man above others who inspired me to succeed in high school and apply to college. I think Buckminster Fuller is still the smartest man I can turn to even though he has passed away. When we work towards technological advancement, we have to do so for each other. I am always saddened by the fact that we have not fulfilled Bucky’s vision, but I am also inspired that there is still time left to work towards our collective liberation.
“It is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on Earth at a ‘higher standard of living than any have ever known.’ It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary and henceforth unrationalizable as mandated by survival.”
with all sincerity, cynicism, a glimmer of hope, a slab of satire, and a dash of seriousness,