AFTERWORD Unkindest Cuts BY GREG MOSES College Station The governor’s office is orchestrating a mighty risky showdown with higher education this year. And the distant observer may find a few reasons to sympathize with the governor’s motives. After all, who was that man she ran against in the last election and what college alumni did he very obviously represent? A distant observer might also reason that because Texas A&M represents so many offensive features of cultural values sexism, racism and homophobia, not to mention the suburbanization of selfishness or the valorization of violence that a general cut in the budget at College Station is sure to reduce the amount of damage Texas A&M can do. Under such a distant gaze, one might think the governor’s office would be wise to press for a drastic cut. The trouble is that a general cut, if administered according to the present priorities of the Texas A&M System, as represented so well by the recent gubernatorial campaign, will leave us a retrenched university instead of a reforrried one. Last hired, first fired. And the most promising developments at Texas A&M tend to be the most recent. This season’s budget battle already has produced casualties on campus. Minority recruitment is dead. Minority retention falters. Important innovations to provide cultural diversity in curriculum are being turned back. While the governor’s office is working important territory with a well-deserved seriousness, the Texas A&M System is given every excuse it needs to trim the latest, local buddings of progressive education. The budget crisis affects me in an important way. Four years ago I was offered a temporary position at Texas A&M, which costs the state of Texas about $20,000 per year. In return for that money, I have, With the support of my department, undertaken four initiatives: the first course in African American philosophy, the first course in Chicano philosophy, the founding of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Coordinating Committee, and an office of academic counseling for the students of the philosophy department. Now I am told that because of severe financial exigency, my position is to be cut. Of course, Texas A&M owes no one a living. The point here is that important initiatives are Greg Moses, a contributing writer for the Observer, is currently teaching philosophy at Texas A&M University. being seriously damaged under the Ann Richards administration, and this is baffling to the many Richards supporters who find themselves the first to go. Before me is a January resolution, adopted at the behest of the new chair of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, who was appointed at the request of the governor’s office, urging “all institutions of higher education to recognize realistically that they may face the most serious crisis in higher education budgeting in the past thirty years.” According to the. Coordinating Board’s resolution, we have before us the crisis of our generation, because, “The Legislative session to begin in January 1993 will face an estimated additional need for government spending for the next biennium in excess of $5 billion; and … this level of needed new funding does not include any additional financing for higher education.” In other words, this budget crisis will begin as a crisis in higher education. And the distant observer may see justice in the deter mination that higher education will be the first to feel the pain of the crisis before us. It makes sense that institutions which boast most boldly of their ability to turn out anti-social voters should be the first to pay for the consciousness that they have produced. Don’t we figure that Texas A&M has been a leading cause of our state’s inability to approach a poUy of progressive taxation of income? That Texas A&M abets the continuing division of our state into haves and havenots, white power vs. minority neglect? Isn’t it fair that, so long as the state’s consciousness is deadlocked against reasonable political solutions to the budgetary crisis, we should penalize first those who have been most responsible for the cultivation in mass of self-serving, narrow interests? The distant observer, victimized as he may be, can see a certain justice in the larger strategy. Trouble is, as I say, the larger strategy threatens to retrench into the mass production of ignorance at Texas A&M rather than to overcome it. The result will be Texas history as Aggie joke. Of course, the Texas A&M System could respond to the Coordinating Board by mounting a massive campaign of public education on the merits of progressive taxation. The system could insist that diversity be redoubled rather than erased. The A&M System could lend a hand to the governor’s office to work toward a reasonable public debate on a variety of divisive issues. The system could deploy the least of its minions to release intelligence into the air, combat selfishness and liberate tolerance. Eventually, the crisis may indeed convey to the Texas A&M System the picture that the governor’s office is attempting to portray. The crisis may cause realistic thinking at Texas A&M. The Richards administration may be midwife to wisdom after all. And so the laid-off educator may take some comfort that his unemployment is a necessary part of a broader education. Hullabaloo if it works out that way. I have 20 years of experience with the Texas A&M System, however, and it takes two fathoms of faith for me to trust that intelligence will prevail this year. So here I go again, walking off campus, aftershocks of backlash in the air, swearing, damn me if I don’t learn to love life in spite of it all. Finally:let’s be even-handed. Educators at the University of Texas at Austin recently voted in landslide proportions against initiatives of cultural diversity. If the governor’s office takes an obscure risk with Texas A&M, it takes a more obvious risk at UT-Austin. By forcing higher education to circle its wagons in this time of retrenchment, the Coordinating Board is indeed announcing the crisis of a generation. Therefore, let the educator please be educated soon enough to deter the backlash now underway, because leaving budgetary decisions to current habits will surely leave the best for last. And the worst of our most entrenched habits will once more monopolize the succor of the public spirit. Continued from pg. 19 job. She creates a new goddess, the Holy Mother of Jobs, who sits a third of the way down the classified ads of the daily paper. The Holy Mother tells us of the time the poet sold firecrackers from a camper by the side of the road. “Mr. Pow-Pow Discount Fireworks:. More Bang for Your Bucks.” The poet is also a seamstress, sold books. She could be found behind a small counter in a corner bookstore that anyone who has lived in Austin over the last 10 years would recognize. The dusty and cramped store was home to raggedy-ass college students, dreamers, pOt smokers and young punks with blackened eyes and hair who hoped to becbme art. Now the building is something else, refurbished, clean. And this is the poet’s fifth book and second collection of fiction. I also recommend the first, Afoot in a Field of Men, under the name Pat Ellis Taylor. “So I do my job. I burn candles. I burn little packets of incense. I make up chants and charms. I fold whatever affection I might have on hand into special packages. This is woman’s work for those who are left-handed.” THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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