Class, and Exploitable Labor Power

Looked at through a purely capitalist lens, the American university classroom surges with potential for professors.

Professors, to take a common instance, can cash in on their captive market segment by making their own books a course requirement.

Years ago, UD covered on this blog a professor who sold ads for a local pizza establishment on his syllabus. He got a cut, as it were, from the pizza joint. (Can’t find the post!)

She covered a professor who, on the first day of class, told his students to write down their social security numbers and pass them forward. He’s in prison now, for theft. (Can’t find that post either! I swear I’m not making this shit up.)

UD has covered several professors who target their sitting ducks not for reasons of personal gain, but personal power. These professors, or their spouses, are running for political office, and they make passing the course contingent on leafleting the neighborhood or answering phones at campaign headquarters.

The noblest of this category of American professors are those who make grades dependent upon each student documenting that she has given blood, or voted, or performed some other civic duty dear to the heart of the professor.

Yes, indeed. A class is a terrible thing to waste.
—————

The latest capitalist wrinkle is on view at Metropolitan State University, where since 2003 the business school has been raking it in by having students sell tickets to local sports events or else. In one course, you get bonus points for selling extra tickets, plus there’s a superduper bonus for “exceptional sales volume.”

***************

All of this is not to be confused with simply enslaving students.

^^^^^^^^^^^

UD thanks David.

Since UD’s always checking Google News…

… she’s able to watch certain stories grow, take a particular shape…

Most stories go nowhere, but some stories – like the ongoing one about the University of Chicago undergraduate found dead in his dorm room – rather quickly go national, and then international, and it’s worth considering why.

After all, hideous as it is, several American university students die each week. They get too drunk to find their way home and meet misadventure; they get drunk and get in fights and get beaten to death; they get hazed to death; they kill themselves; they overdose or they drink themselves to death. Some years, some schools (in the last few years, Cal Tech, Cornell, Chico State, NYU; most recently, the University of Pennsylvania) suffer as many as three or four student deaths in one semester or one year, and the press takes notice, and people at these schools agonize over what in their campus culture might be contributing to this. Sometimes, some schools, like UD‘s own U of C, experience an individual death whose details capture public attention.

It should also be said that high-profile schools, like the University of Chicago, are more likely to receive a lot of attention merely because they are high-profile.

So this particular death, this death at Chicago, featured two of these press-attracting elements: It happened at a high-profile school, and there’s a lurid quality to one of its details.

The student’s absence was not noticed for a number of days. His body, as it lay face-down on the floor of his dorm room (he lived in a single), was, by the time it was discovered, decomposing.

This is undoubtedly a chilling detail. It’s certainly chilling to ol’ UD, since she has no trouble envisioning with precision the scene at the dorm. She lived directly across from it – International House, it’s called – during her last two years in Hyde Park, and often visited.

Newspapers like USA Today (DEAD STUDENT LAY UNNOTICED IN DORM FOR DAYS) will exploit this lurid detail; they will use it, perhaps, to say or suggest something about the anonymity and indifference of big cities, or of big city schools. But UD‘s of a different mind. It doesn’t seem that strange to her that any grown-up (outside of the sort of people who have bodyguards) might die and fail to be discovered for a few days. We grant each other a lot of space, a lot of independence, in this country, and college in particular is a time during which we leave people alone to think, read, explore.

Initial results in this death suggest no foul play; toxicology reports are pending. Suicide or an overdose is most likely.

A lazy, hazy day…

… turns into homicide.

Well, this is a fine mess.

As are many sexual harassment lawsuits, complaints, stories… This is one reason UD tends not to report them… They’re often a real mess.

This one at Northwestern now has a suit (against the university) and another suit (against local news outlets), and what actually happened between this student and the professor she claims harassed her? She does not seem to have filed a report with the police.

I cover this latest NU mess because I covered (a little) the Colin McGinn mess, and because there’s another mess in the philosophy department at the University of Colorado right now, and a larger messy discussion being carried on nationally about philosophy as a particularly sexism-ridden academic field.

Because it’s a major American university, and Ludlow’s an important philosopher, and the student’s lawsuit is a real whopper, this story will probably be pretty big. University Diaries will have to take note.

Who needs The Onion…

… when you’ve got Wongene Daniel Kim?

What seems to have been a drug-induced psychotic episode…

… prompted a New York University freshman to jump off the roof of his high-rise dorm.

Sad details about him, and his family back in Trinidad, are here.

Looking Good on The Lawn

[A]fter the [Governor Bob] McDonnell family had spent a vacation at Williams’ lake house, the McDonnells’ sons had driven Williams’ Range Rover home. Maureen McDonnell subsequently asked Williams if the boys could take the vehicle back to the University of Virginia. Williams said no. Not long after that, Maureen McDonnell called Williams with another idea: could he give her money to buy another of her children a used Ford Explorer. Again, Williams said no.

Update, Purdue University Murder

The killing of a teaching assistant by another teaching assistant (with whom he worked) sounds like an act of extreme rage. The killer brought not just a handgun but a knife, and he used both on the victim.

Once he got his rage out of his system, the killer seems to have relaxed quietly just outside the building.

Police say when an officer arrived, he spotted Cousins sitting on the ground outside the building with his hands behind his head.

Head resting in hands would have been What the hell did I just do? I just killed someone and ruined my life.

Hands behind head suggest Ahhhh. That’s done.

A Death at GW

A student has been found dead in his dorm room on the Mount Vernon campus of George Washington University.

Police “have not classified [it] as a homicide.”

They will possibly be looking into whether the student’s death was alcohol-related. Or whether it was suicide.

Or whether the student had underlying health problems (a weak heart, for instance).

*********************

Sean Keefer, a native of Oregon, and a student in GW’s honors program who was pursuing a degree in Math and Computer Science, died.

Motives in the Latest Campus Shooting…

… this one at at Purdue, where a teaching assistant sought out and shot a fellow teaching assistant to death, are unknown. Both worked for an engineering school professor. The killer apparently walked calmly to the classroom where he knew the victim would be, shot him multiple times, and then walked around a bit, waiting to be arrested.

Let us speculate.

The dead man was dating a woman the killer wanted to date.

The dead man was impressing the professor more than the killer was, and this enraged the killer.

The victim had ridiculed or put down the shooter in some way.

The victim and the shooter had had an earlier altercation, and this was payback.

The killer is a psychopath. (Very unlikely. They either kill themselves after they finish killing, or, like Amy Bishop, they drop the gun in a trash bin and proceed to go out to dinner with their husband. Bishop considered herself far too clever ever to be caught.)

*********************

UPDATE: Hints begin to emerge:

[B]oth a Purdue professor who worked with him and a Purdue student say he could be rude and disliked being told he was wrong…

Purdue Professor Thomas Talavage describes Cousins as intense and aggressive about his projects. He says Cousins “didn’t like to be told he was wrong.”

UD is reminded of another university workplace murder: Annie Le’s killing at Yale. Some of the people who knew her murderer, who worked with Le, “described him as a ‘control freak’ who was competitive in sports, compulsive about his work habits and controlling in his romantic relationships.”

Madison Holleran.

Madison Holleran, a beautiful, smart, athletically gifted nineteen year old U Penn freshman, killed herself last Friday. She jumped from the top of a parking garage in downtown Philadelphia.

Already the story has appeared in Time magazine, and lots of other media outlets.

Holleran’s is the sort of suicide that gets attention.

It gets singled out because it’s a big shock. Unless there was a suicide note (right now it looks as if there wasn’t), this one was a real stunner. An extremely young woman with absolutely everything going for her (that’s how it looked, anyway) and with nothing we know of signalling depression does this thing.

In almost every case like Holleran’s I’ve covered on this blog, there was prior evidence (sometimes a little; sometimes a lot) of mental unbalance. Sometimes there was a note; sometimes a recent cryptic note on a Facebook page now made sense.

Frequently these deaths were – like Holleran’s – first-year students, which suggests that something in the transition to a new school, a new life, triggered the trouble.

In any case, the particular peril you’re in when you’re young and depressed is impulsivity – the pull toward the sudden jump. Go here for an extract from a New York Times article about youth, depression, impulsivity, and suicide. And here for a more lengthy discussion of the subject.

**************************

UPDATE: As her father tells it, it does indeed seem to have been stress over a new school, new pressures. She had been seriously depressed. And she did leave a note.

“It’s done, ended, the fraternity members can continue to lock people in a basement.”

For a moment there, it looked as if a disgruntled ex-member was going to fuck with Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s kill ratio. But no worries.

Details on the latest fraternal means…

… of humiliating and battering to death nineteen year olds.

Ugh.

You understand the primitive sadism at the heart of many fraternities when this sort of story breaks, when the media doesn’t yet have all the information, but knows that a college student has been ritualistically killed.

[A Baruch College freshman died in the hospital after having been] at a Tunkhannock Township [Pennsylvania] residence… [About] 30 members of the New York City Pi Delta Psi fraternity had traveled there for the weekend. [The freshman,] one of four pledges to the fraternity, was allegedly injured early Sunday morning in a ritual in the yard of the residence, which is about 30 miles north of Allentown.

Ritual, ritual, ritual — what might that be?

Look no farther than Florida A&M. Last year, their marching band beat a band member to death in a hazing ritual. If UD had to guess (we’ll see if she’s right when the police report comes out), she’d say the fine folks at Pi Delta Psi simply beat the kid to death.

“We may all have lower IQs…”

Miss Ole Miss gets it said.

Some wag placed a recent official Ole Miss ad just below her YouTube. LOL.

***********

(“Sweetheart, William Faulkner drank enough whiskey to float Oxford.” — From the article’s comment thread.)

« Previous PageNext Page »

Latest UD posts at IHE

Archives

Categories