A liberal ‘Coming Out Day’ at the U

What we really need is a vision which undermines corporate conservatism at the University.

Last Wednesday’s Minnesota Daily brought news that conservatives on campus were finally “coming out” during Conservative Awareness Week. “We’re here, we’re conservative, get used to it!” was the rallying cry of Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow as they took their message to the heart of the liberal beast with a march through the Social Sciences Tower. Marxist professors hid under their desks at the sight of this new species as they rebelliously declared their right to be conservatives at the University. Luckily for the professors, a military recruiter showed up and quickly disbanded the rally – otherwise things could have gotten ugly.

Of course, while I’m joking about the march, some conservatives on campus really did have a “coming out” rally last week – a day when they proudly declared their conservativeness to all of humanity. Their unbelievably courageous behavior got me thinking. If conservatives can have a “coming out” day at the University, why can’t my fellow liberals and I do the same? Why can’t we have a “Liberal Coming Out Day?” Shhh. Do you hear that furious pounding? That’s the sound of conservative e-mailers writing to tell me what an idiot I am. As one future email put it: “Don’t you know? The University is full of liberal bias – so there is no reason for a Liberal Coming Out Day. Conservatives are an embattled minority, so we have to declare our political identity to all. Duh!”

I now have to try and summon the rebellious spirit of my conservative friends to declare that the University – despite all you’ve heard from conservatives – is not a bastion of liberal bias. In fact, the University runs largely on an ideology of corporate conservatism. So I would argue that what we need here at the University is a “Liberal Coming Out Day” to fight for a progressive vision of University education and to fight against the corporate conservative mentality that is now corrupting the University. And, unlike conservatives at their rally last week, I’d like to set forth specific grievances and an agenda for moving forward:

– First, the University needs to live up to its promise as a land grant public university to provide affordable education to all Minnesotans. Tuition and fees have increased 111 percent in the past 10 years, with a 4.5 percent tuition hike coming in 2008 and 2009. These kinds of increases can be attributed to a mentality which views students as customers, rather than as citizens entitled to a good public education. It also can be attributed to conservative governance, which argues that everyone is on his or her own and not at all responsible for the welfare of others. At least half of these increases should be rolled back and no new stadiums (especially ones with corporate sponsorship) should be built on campus until this rollback happens. Students should also not be forced to pay special fees for any new stadiums.

– General College should be brought back to the University as its own separate college. General College – which used to be a gateway into the University for many poor and working-class Minnesotans – is in the process of being done away with as part of Bruininks’ “Strategic Positioning Plan” for the University. The plan is not concerned with access and affordability for all Minnesotans. Rather, it is first and foremost concerned with bringing more corporate and government research dollars to the University. Eliminating the college raises the average grade point average at the University, which raises its ranking nationally, which draws in more corporate money. As part of Liberal Coming Out Day students should get behind re-instating the college as a separate college and doing away with the conservatism of the “Strategic Positioning Plan,” in favor of a plan which focuses on access and affordability for all Minnesotans.

I could go on in more detail if I had more space: better pay and benefits for University workers; less use of adjuncts and graduate employees for cheap labor; new building facilities for departments other than the corporate-friendly Carlson School of Management. The University is in the process of becoming more like a corporation and less like the public land-grant university it once was. This needs to change. So join me, liberal students, and “come out” to make your voices heard.

Jason Stahl welcomes comments at [email protected]