Thursday, September 3, 2015


Harry Targ

The Office of the Provost [of Purdue University] recently established the Diversity Transformation Award, which challenges faculty to create research projects that improve recruitment, retention and overall success among underrepresented minority students and faculty, such as African-Americans, Hispanics, or people with disabilities. (Taya Flores, “Purdue Invests $1M into Diversity,” Journal and Courier, August 29, 2015).

The newspaper article cited above did not indicate whether or not the current  administration was aware of the efforts at Purdue that had been carried out in the past to address issues of recruitment and retention of faculty and students of color. In addition, the article did not refer to the extensive published research literature that has investigated strengths and weaknesses of policies many universities and colleges have adopted in the past. The subsequent posting on a Purdue website provided a more detailed and nuanced description of the research and programs that may be funded including brief mention of extending or adapting current programs of research and action. 

However, there is no mention of the many efforts that have been taken at Purdue University in the past to increase recruitment and retention of students, faculty of color, and staff nor does the article allude to prior extensive experiments and research at universities comparable to Purdue University. The Diversity Transformation Award Program (DTAP) might revisit and assess prior policy and research programs as part of the University’s commitment to diversifying the academic community. Selected examples are described below.

In the late 1980s, then Vice-President of Purdue University and Dean of the Graduate School Robert Ringel assembled a group of some forty faculty members from various colleges and programs in the university to address recruitment and retention of African American graduate and undergraduate students. These faculty members reflected the same lack of diversity that existed among the student body, undergraduate and graduate, in the university at-large. However, for all their limitations they were chosen by Vice-President Ringel because of their interest in promoting diversity. Those who participated enthusiastically endorsed the effort.

The faculty committee decided to create sub-committees to address recruitment and retention. Each sub-committee surveyed existing research, interviewed students, and developed a series of recommendations for the Vice-President to consider. Prior to this mobilization of faculty, Ringel had already established a program that invited college seniors from historically Black colleges to visit campus to consider pursuing graduate work at Purdue University. The projects initiated by Vice-President Ringel motivated faculty to give their time and expertise to making Purdue University, a public institution, as diverse a campus community as existed in the state of Indiana.

Several years later, Judith Gappa, University Vice-President for Human Relations, distributed a report authored with Myra D. Mason, Director of the Diversity Resource Office, entitled “From Barriers to Bridges: The Purdue University Plan for Enhancing Diversity.” The report was based on student surveys and focus-groups as well as data gathered about existing programs of action concerning recruitment and retention around the campus. The report listed a variety of successes in the pursuit of diversifying the student body and educational programs. 

It also referred to shortcomings such as inadequate funding for programs addressing diversity. Perhaps the most serious remaining issue cited was that of the 647 students surveyed: “…most do not believe the West Lafayette campus has yet achieved a positive climate for diversity. Black students experience a predominantly white campus differently from other groups; many minority students often feel isolated in the community. There is a need to recruit and hire larger numbers of minority faculty and staff” (Purdue News, “Purdue Diversity Report Completed,” September 8, 1997).

In 1997, Janice Eddy, an expert on creating environments in organizations that are sensitive to diverse work force populations, was hired to inform faculty, staff, and students about issues of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. She organized multicultural forums that were held across the campus, but primarily in the Colleges of Engineering, Science, and Agriculture, involving faculty, students, and staff. The goals of the two-day forums were to develop “cultural competence” and to create an environment of “inclusion and diversity.” The project was based on the assumption that preparing faculty and staff to engage in a more culturally diverse world was a necessary first step in providing for a tolerant and welcoming campus atmosphere for students. 

Eddy in collaboration with Barbara Benedict Bunker studied the impacts of the Purdue program, reporting on their results in “Innovations in Inclusion: The Purdue Faculty and Staff Diversity Story, 1997-2008” (Purdue Press, 2009). The publication chronicles the efforts to implement multicultural forums around campus and provides some assessments of successes and failures.

In 2009, the Black Cultural Center presented the first showing of an hour-long documentary “Black Purdue.” The first half-hour documented institutionalized racism at Purdue University from its foundation in 1869 until the late 1960s. It highlighted the 1969 Black student protests that demanded respect, a Black Cultural Center, and an education for the entire campus that reflected the history, values, and culture of the diverse population of the country. The second half of the video described various mentoring programs and student success stories of graduates in engineering, science, business, and liberal arts (You Tube, Black Purdue Documentary Film).

Purdue’s struggles with its racist past, student protest, and efforts to develop programs to increase recruitment and retention of faculty and students were paralleled by similar experiences at colleges and universities everywhere. Research based articles in education, the social sciences, and the teaching of science and engineering, suggest the enormous efforts that educational institutions have engaged in to overcome the history of racism in America. 

Caroline Sotello Viernes Turner, Juan Carlos Gonzalez, and J. Luke Wood published an article “Faculty of Color in Academe: What 20 Years of Literature Tells Us,” Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 2008, Vol. 1, No. 3. In it, the authors summarized results of 252 research-based publications by 300 authors that studied the causes and possible remedies for the under-representation (just 17 percent of full-time faculty) of minority faculty. The authors pointed out that “from 1988 to 2007 there was a continued rise in publications addressing the issue of the low representation of faculty of color.” The survey “documents supports, challenges, and recommendations to address barriers and build on successes.” It  was designed to review many years of scholarship to inform “researchers and practitioners” who were interested in better understanding recruiting and retaining faculty of color and developing policies to achieve these goals.  

The documentary film referred to above, various protests, and anecdotal evidence from racial incidents over the years suggest that racism has been and is a problem on the campus of Purdue University. Data indicates that faculty, staff, and students of color remain below the proportions of people of color in the state of Indiana. In the society at large, income and wealth inequality disproportionately disadvantages African-Americans and Latinos. 

Given the record of programs and studies of recruitment and retention of African Americans at Purdue University and the knowledge that is available from studies of programs at comparable universities, new ones will be enriched by building on knowledge of past research and action; not entirely starting over.

Also, new programs at Purdue might draw upon the experiences and wisdom of minority students already at Purdue. The video, “Black Purdue,” made it clear that much of the positive change that has occurred on the campus since the 1960s has resulted from the passionate, articulate, and courageous protests of students of that generation.

In sum, participants in the Diversity Transformation Award Program (DTAP) at Purdue University should reflect on the history of racism on the campus and the many efforts, some mentioned above, that were pursued to address it. The DTAP briefly mentioned consulting existing literature and studying programs of action carried out elsewhere. These efforts should be prioritized. In addition, Diversity and Inclusion administrators might compare historic efforts at Purdue University and elsewhere to recruit and retain women faculty and students to develop programs of action in reference to under-represented minorities.

In the end deliberations might lead to the conclusion that putting resources in the hands of those who need it, prospective students and faculty, might be a more effective first step in creating a more representative campus community. New programs and research projects may then usefully follow commitments of support to Indiana students and new faculty.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Cost-Cutting Approach to Higher Education (reposted)

(The Lafayette Journal and Courier (August 9, 2015) reported that Purdue University would seek a partner firm to establish “income share agreements,” allowing students to borrow from an investment pool for tuition in exchange for committing to pay a portion of annual earnings after graduation. Alternatively, presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are proposing government programs to make college tuition at public universities free.
These latter proposals are similar to programs that helped stimulate American economic growth during the last half of the twentieth century. Rising college costs, expanding university administrations, reducing the range of educational priorities from well-rounded educations to narrow job-linked curricula, and using simplistic metrics to measure institutional success, are all part of a new “crisis” in higher education, My essay below recently addressed the “income share” proposal, the reasons for skyrocketing college indebtedness, and the ways in which the debt problem is being used to privatize higher education.  HT).

Harry Targ : The cost-cutting approach to higher education
By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | March 25, 2015

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — Purdue University President Mitch Daniels testified March 17, 2015, before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Workforce on what he calls higher education reform. He also spoke during that week to the American Council on Education and the Brookings Institute.

A centerpiece of his recommendations was “income share agreements” whereby students partner with investors, particularly alumni, who would provide funds for their education in exchange “for a small share of the student’s future income.”

Daniels was touting this idea in addition to new cost-saving policies at Purdue University, such as offering three-year degree programs, using different metrics rather than course hours to measure student preparation, and tuition freezes. He has also urged a reduction in costly federal regulations.

Although some of Daniels’ proposals and programs at his home university have merit, the conversation he and other administrators around the country are having about rising tuition and the accumulation of years of debt ignore the major reason why costs and tuition are rising. In addition to the cost of higher education attributable to increased faculty salaries, layers of new administrators, and the creation of new luxury amenities to attract students (housing, food, and recreational facilities), tuition has risen because state government financing of higher education has not kept pace with expenditures.

‘Funding cuts have led to both steep tuition increases and spending cuts that may diminish the quality of education.’

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities issued a report on May 1, 2014 (“States Are Still Funding Higher Education Below Pre-Recession Levels”), which provides data to show that higher education funding remains below 2007-2008 pre-recession levels in 48 of 50 states. This means, according to CBPP, that “the large funding cuts have led to both steep tuition increases and spending cuts that may diminish the quality of education available to students at a time when a highly educated workforce is more crucial than ever to the nation’s economic future.”

CBPP reports that since 2007-2008 state spending on higher education is down 23 percent, or $2,026 per student. Tuition increases have been substantial in public colleges and universities from fiscal year 2008 to 2014, ranging from $253 in Montana to $4,493 in Arizona. In Indiana tuition increased by $1,191 during this period.

CBPP notes that in 1988 colleges and universities received 3.2 times more of their revenue from state and local governments than from students. That ratio declined to about 1.1 times more from government supports than tuition in 2013. Put another way the report states:

Nearly every state has shifted costs to students over the last 25 years — with the most drastic shift occurring since the onset of the recession… Today, tuition revenue now outweighs government funding for higher education in 23 states…

Not surprisingly, Daniels’ idea that students find a rich supporter in exchange for future student earnings came from proposals made by free market advocate Milton Friedman in the 1980s. Friedman, the University of Chicago economist, was the most significant descendent of so-called “free market” economists who believe as did President Reagan that “government was not the solution; government was the problem.”

The privatization of all education is on the agenda of wealthy conservatives such as the Koch brothers.

From the vantage point of 2015, the privatization of all education, including higher education, is on the agenda of wealthy conservatives such as the Koch brothers and the powerful state legislative lobbying organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC funds state politicians who support the elimination of public institutions, such as education.

Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, argued that during periods of economic or political crisis, changes have been introduced to weaken government and the maintenance of public services. The CBPP data suggests that the deep recession of 2008-2011 was an occasion for ALEC and the politicians and educators they support to reduce resources available for higher education.

Despite the long history of government support for higher education, public schools from kindergarten through high school, libraries, roads, and police and fire-fighting services, the recession offered the occasion for influential and wealthy elites to pressure for policies that reduced state financial support for public services and a shift toward their privatization. In addition universities became even more dependent on big corporations, banks, and the military. Finally, tuition increased and students had to pay a higher share of the cost of their education.

Throughout much of U.S. history public education has been seen as a public good.

Throughout much of U.S. history public education, including higher education, has been seen as a public good. The land grant system of public higher education was instituted in 1862. From then until the recent recession, public colleges and universities educated large percentages of the young and generated much of the scientific and technical knowledge that stimulated the U.S. economy, based on substantial public support and low student tuition.

After World War II, returning veterans became eligible for free higher education under the GI Bill. The program led to the training and credentialing of a whole generation of young people who went on to become educators and researchers, and also consumers of products manufactured after the war. The so-called economic “golden age,” from 1945 until the 1970s, was driven by research and development initiated by GI Bill recipients. These college graduates became members of the largest middle class in American history.

As Bob Samuels, author of Why Public Higher Education Should Be Free, put it:

“I actually believe that we should and could make all public higher education completely free. We’re currently spending around $185 billion on higher education annually—which includes spending on for-profit schools, which have very low graduation rates and high debt rates, as well as on merit aid for wealthy students. Given current enrollment, I estimate that it would cost about $155 billion to fund public colleges and four-year institutions completely. My argument is instead of funding the individuals, we should just fund the institutions directly” (quoted in Rebecca Burns, “Why Can’t College Be Free?” In These Times, June 13, 2014).

However, advocates of “higher education reform,” at least those collaborating with economic and political elites who advocate policies depriving government of financial resources, sometimes called “starving the beast,” envision a day when all public institutions are privatized.

There is much evidence that the privatization of education will increase gaps between rich and poor and may leave the latter with inferior educations. The Daniels plan will rely on wealthy benefactors to support students while tuition costs continue to rise and those who still seek a college education will continue to accumulate a lifetime of debt.

Without a return to affordable publicly supported higher education, large proportions of young, intellectually curious, and talented students may be deterred from pursuing higher education which will have negative consequences for the entire society.

Read more articles by Harry Targ on The Rag Blog and

Friday, August 7, 2015


Harry Targ

Not every conflict was averted, but the world avoided nuclear catastrophe, and we created the time and the space to win the Cold War without firing a shot at the Soviets.
Now, when I ran for president eight years ago as a candidate who had opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq, I said that America didn’t just have to end that war. We had to end the mindset that got us there in the first place. It was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy, a mindset that put a premium on unilateral U.S. action over the painstaking work of building international consensus, a mindset that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported. (Barack Obama, “Full text: Obama gives a speech about the Iran nuclear deal,” The Washington Post, August 5, 2015).

The peace movement has often been faced with a dilemma. Should it channel its energies in opposition to imperialism, including economic expansion and covert operations, or should it mobilize against war, or both. The problem was reflected in President Obama’s August 5, 2015 speech defending the anti-nuclear proliferation agreement with Iran.  On the one hand he defended diplomacy as the first tool of a nation’s foreign policy and on the other hand his defense included the argument that through diplomacy the United States “won” the Cold War, and thereby defeated a bloc of states that opposed capitalist expansion. The implication of his argument was that pursuing imperialism remained basic to United States foreign policy but achieving it through peace was better than through war.

The speech was presented at American University 52 years after President Kennedy called for peaceful competition with the former Soviet Union. In June, 1963, nine months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, which nearly led to nuclear war, and weeks after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s call for “peaceful coexistence,” President Kennedy responded by urging the use of diplomacy rather than war in the ongoing conflict with the Soviet Union. 

A small but growing number of scholars and activists at that time had begun to articulate the view that the threat of nuclear war, growing U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, and repeated covert interventions in Guatemala, Iran, Cuba, and the Congo, had to do with U.S. imperialism. The dilemma for the peace movement in 1963 then as it is in 2015 is how to respond to United States imperialism at the same time as supporting the use of diplomacy to forestall wars.

In the context of political discourse in 2015, dominated by “neoconservative” and “humanitarian interventionist” factions of the foreign policy elite, the danger of war always exists. Therefore, any foreign policy initiative that reduces the possibility of war and arguments about its necessity must be supported. The agreement with Iran supported by virtually every country except Israel constitutes an effort to satisfy the interests of Iran and the international community and without the shedding of blood and creating the danger of escalation to global war. 

Neoconservatives, celebrants of war, have had a long and growing presence in the machinery of United States foreign policy. James Forrestal, the first Secretary of Defense in the Truman Administration, was a leading advocate for developing a militaristic response to the Soviet Union in the years after World War II. As historian Andrew Bacevich pointed out, Forrestal was one of the Truman administrators who sought to create a “permanent war economy.” He was, in Bacevich’s terms, a founding member of the post-World War II “semi-warriors.”

Subsequent to the initiation of the imperial response to the “Soviet threat”--the Marshall Plan, NATO, wars in Korea and Vietnam, the arms race--other semi-warriors continued the crusade. These included the Dulles brothers (John and Alan), Air Force General Curtis LeMay, and prominent Kennedy advisors including McGeorge Bundy and Walter Rostow, architect of the “noncommunist path to development,” in Vietnam.

Key semi-warriors of our own day, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Elliott Abrams, Robert Kagan, and others who formed the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) in the 1990s, gained their first experience in the administrations of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The PNAC view of how the United States should participate in world affairs is to use military superiority to achieve foreign policy goals. The key failure of Clinton foreign policy, they claimed, was his refusal to use force to transform the world. For starters, he should have overthrown Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

The neoconservative policy recommendations prevailed during the eight years of the George Walker Bush administration. International organizations were belittled, allies were ignored, arms control agreements with Russia were rescinded and discourse on the future prioritized planning for the next war. And concretely the United States launched long, bloody, immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Humanitarian interventionists, more liberals than conservatives, argued that the United States should use force, but more selectively, to achieve various goals. These goals included interventions that allegedly defended the quest for human rights. Advocates of humanitarian interventionism argued that the United States must use all means available, military and diplomatic, to maximize interests and values. And force need not be the first or only instrument of policy. 

But in the end the humanitarian interventionists encouraged bombing Serbia, intervening in a civil war in Libya, funding rebels perpetuating war in Syria, expanding military training and a U.S. presence in Africa, and funding opposition elements against the government in Venezuela. In addition, with advice from humanitarian interventionists, the United States increased the use of drones to target enemies of U.S. interests in East Asia, the Persian Gulf, and the Middle East.

Neoconservatives and humanitarian interventionists (and in earlier times anti-communists) have led the charge for war-making in the United States since World War II. Between the end of the war and the 1990s, 10 million people died in wars in which the United States had a presence. Hundreds of thousands of young men and women serving in the armed forces of the United States have died or been permanently scarred by U.S. wars. And the physical landscape of Southeast Asia, the Persian Gulf, Central America, and the Middle East has been devastated by war. And in the United States, foreign policy elites, politicians, and think tank experts still advocate violence to address international problems. 

Therefore, in the context of a huge arms industry and global economic and political interests, any presidential initiative that uses diplomacy rather than force, declares its opposition to unilateral action, and challenges the war mindset deserves the support of the peace movement. Given the long and painful United States war system, the battle to secure the agreement between the P5 plus 1 nuclear agreement with Iran is worthy of support.