The power elite of the nation recognized that something needed to change after students in the 1960’s utilized their unique positions in society to spur social reform. Business and political leaders have been acting ever since to transform higher education into a system that trains people to spread and maintain capitalist oppression. Historically, the missionaries and military would maintain division in society, but now it is the education institutions that efficiently train individuals to perpetuate social separation. By mentally training students to be triggered to cease dialogue, dominate it, or turn a blind eye to it, this reinforces state dependency. Our universities are training people to ignore, disregard and or destroy attempts to create support systems.
According to Noam Chomsky, the power of the 60’s student movements laid in the questions that students asked. Today, it is hard for students to develop good questions, or organize with their peers, when they are bogged down with debt, increasing tuition and living expenses, limited class selection and availability, bloated class sizes, patch work advising, overworked underpaid professors, and all around decreased quality of education. These problems particularly impact working, first generation, and undocumented students.
Big business has been allowed to treat public education like a private commodity meant for profit, and when the resources (students) which the market extracts and exploits, organize, business interests naturally respond using their influences in the state. Federal defense and education officials have been placed in high ranking education administrative positions across California. These appointments bring with them a skillset to preserve the status quo of the nation. They back it up with solid experience in neo-liberal hierarchy making universities resemble factory lines built for stomping out individuality and shaping identities and skillsets around specific market niches and institutional brands. This creates individuals that accept and perpetuate systems of domination intended to exploit and preserve wealth. Educational resources are being stolen and privatized, and students are being turned into indentured servants through systems of debt.
In accordance with the privatization narrative, in recent years, the administration of Humboldt State University has attempted to institutionalize, co-opt, defund, and destroy as many student and faculty run programs as possible. This has included a strategic take-over of the Student Union (now known as the University Center), the selling of a student owned bookstore to a private out of state corporation, the building of three new gymnasiums in accordance with a statewide fad, the raising of fees despite official student opposition, a coup and destruction of the Academic Senate (now known as the University Senate), misleading recruitment practices, a massive green-washing campaign, various intimidation techniques against faculty, staff, students, and community members, the black-listing of the student newspaper, Walmart styled employment practices, the cancellation, downsizing, and streamlining of academic departments, and a Southern California missionary styled institutionalizing architectural facelift.
The high ranking officials mentioned above include: former head of CIA and Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, former Governor of Arizona and the head of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, and former Whitehouse higher education adviser and accreditor, Eduardo Ochoa.
Leon Panetta and his wife Sylvia run the Panetta Institute for public policy at CSU Monterey Bay, located at an abandoned military base. Panetta is a long time congressman, and his wife Sylvia always ran the office. Panetta became Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. During the Bush years the Panetta’s set up their institute for public policy. Under Obama, Panetta went to head the CIA and then also became Secretary of Defense.
Every year all of the CSU Associated Student Body Presidents are sent to the Panetta Institute for a week long training camp in the middle of June. The institute also does heavy outreach in political science departments across the CSU.
The President of CSU Monterey Bay, Eduardo Ochoa, recently held a position in Washington DC working for the Obama administration on higher education, where he was an accreditor for the accreditors (so to speak,) specializing in seeing that orders and ideology’s from his higher ups were carried out and manifested in local policies at universities. Most recently Ochoa served on the Humboldt State University Presidential Search Advisory Committee, and before his time with the Obama administration was provost at Sonoma State University, where he and his fellow administrators were subject to a vote of no confidence for privatizing the school.
Finally, former Governor of Arizona and the former head of Homeland Security under Obama, Janet Napolitano, who has deported roughly 2 million undocumented people, was recently appointed as head of the UC system.
Humboldt State’s potential to be a leading environmental activist and social justice school is prevented not by extreme police state-like suppression or draconian policies, but by deep divisions based on identity and not condition. These federal officials are coopting students by working with university administrations, supplying the narrative to help administrators create hierarchal top-down administratively run student programs. These programs are used for scoping out students, engineering social circles, and introducing rhetoric. As a result, grassroots solidarity between students around specific issues is met with suspicion and hostility. Students are prevented from using their collective power and instead must depend on administrative authority.
For example, across the state, Associated Student governments have suffered from incredibly low voting rates in their elections. Without the input or participation of their constituents, these student organizations are forced to rely on administrators for feedback and guidance. Attempts to address this issue have been preempted with rhetoric saying students are apathetic. The notion of “student apathy” preempts student led election reform by characterizing student reformers as misinformed and misled. Furthermore, it is easy to dismiss a problem such as apathy when it is deemed un-addressable, which is reinforced by the mainstream narrative of students not voting in national elections.
But students are not apathetic. Apathy is a lie. Students do not vote because they are not sure how to effectively engage with the democratic process, which makes them increasingly frustrated, upset, and fed up. Then, they cannot overcome this because they are divided, co-opted, and fed a narrative built for reinforcing institutionally based and authoritatively dependent identities. This destroys cross sectional dialogue and productive communication necessary for creating support systems from the bottom up, rendering students “apathetic” and dependent on administrators instead of their peers for assistance and collaboration.
Almost every aspect of education is being engineered. Students are being fed a narrative built for extracting wealth and entering indentured servitude. Business and federal government leaders have set their sights on higher education. The indoctrination is leaving a trail of destruction, preventing universities from ever again serving to catalyze positive change, and instead rendering them pivotal mechanisms for fuelling a society dependent on dominance and exploitation.
Education shouldn’t be free, it is free. We have just been convinced into paying for training and certification for a job. Education isn’t for learning how to be another cog in the machine, or another brick in the wall. It is for learning how to learn, how to find your-self, and how to participate in collective leaderless community.
By Jacob Bloom and Juan Diaz-Infante