|Progressive Calendar 09.22.13 /3||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001umn.edu)|
|Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2014 09:16:03 -0700 (PDT)|
PROGRESSIVE CALENDAR 09.22.14 1. Oil/gas frack film 9.22 7pm. 2. Anti-Frac Sand Vigil 9.23 5pm 3. Socialism 9.23 7pm 4. Chris Hedges - The Coming Climate Revolt 5. Roshan Bliss - Koch Brothers, ALEC Threaten Campus Democracy at FSU, US Universities 6. ed - chant/bumpersticker --------1 of x-------- Oil/gas frack film 9.22 7pm. “Split Estate—A film about Oil & Gas Fracking,” produced & directed by Debra Anderson. What you don’t know can’t hurt you! Sponsored by 3CTC, Contact Christine Frank. Monday, Sept 22, 7:00 PM. Mayday Bookstore, Cedar & Washington Av West Bank Mpls. --------2 of x-------- Anti-Frac Sand Vigil 9.23 5pm Tuesday, September 23, 5:00 p.m. Radisson Hotel, 35 South 7th Street, Minneapolis. A British mineral extraction intelligence company called Industrial Minerals is hosting its second annual "Frac Sands Conference" on September 23-24 in downtown Minneapolis. Join others for an Anti-Frac Sand Vigil outside the conference to bear witness to the broken landscapes, lives, and communities left in the wake of this extractive and violent fossil fuel boom. Stand with us as we mourn the scarring of beloved and fertile farmland, and as we grapple with the inherent social injustice of climate change catastrophes. Join with us as we attempt to challenge, educate, and engage in dialogue with both those attending the conference and the larger Minneapolis community. Sponsored by: the Mennonite Worker and the Minneapolis Catholic Worker (the Rye House). FFI: Call 608-386-050 --------3 of x-------- 9.23 Socialism 7pm Join Socialist Alternative at the University of Minnesota with international speaker Dave Reid to discuss a world in crisis and the fast growing socialist movement in the country. WHEN: Tuesday, 9-23-14 at 7:00pm WHERE: University MN, Coffman room 325 SPEAKERS: -Dave Reid, leading organizer with the Socialist Party of England and Wales -Kelly Bellin, U of M Alumni and National Treasurer for Socialist Alternative >From the brutal war in Gaza to the unrestrained police violence in Ferguson to growing inequality, crisis after crisis is happening in the world and it seems like there's no end in sight. But it doesn't have to be this way. The Gaza and Ferguson protests and the victory of a $15/hr minimum wage movement in Seattle led by Socialist Alternative City Council member Kshama Sawant are examples of the growing number of young people, people of color and working-class people fighting for a better world. People increasingly see that global capitalism cannot meet the needs of 99% of people and the environment. But is it sufficient regulate corporations and reform capitalism? Is democratic socialism a realistic alternative? Come join this important discussion with Socialist Alternative- the first organization to elect a Socialist to a major city in many decades, and consider joining the struggle for a new socialist world. --------4 of x-------- The Coming Climate Revolt byChris Hedges Chris Hedges made these remarks Saturday at a panel discussion in New York City titled “The Climate Crisis: Which Way Out?” The other panelists were Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Kshama Sawant and Sen. Bernie Sanders. The event, moderated by Brian Lehrer, occurred on the eve of the People’s Climate March in New York City. For a video of some of what the panelists said, click here. We have undergone a transformation during the last few decades—what John Ralston Saul calls a corporate coup d’état in slow motion. We are no longer a capitalist democracy endowed with a functioning liberal class that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. Liberals in the old Democratic Party such as the senators Gaylord Nelson, Birch Bayh and George McGovern—who worked with Ralph Nader to make the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Mine Safety and Health Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the OSHA law, who made common cause with labor unions to protect workers, who stood up to the arms industry and a bloated military—no longer exist within the Democratic Party, as Nader has been lamenting for several years. They were pushed out as corporate donors began to transform the political landscape with the election of Ronald Reagan. And this is why the Democrats have not, as Bill Curry points out, enacted any major social or economic reforms since the historic environmental laws of the early ’70s. We are governed, rather, by a species of corporate totalitarianism, or what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin describes as “inverted totalitarianism.” By this Wolin means a system where corporate power, while it purports to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, the three branches of government and a free press, along with the iconography and language of American patriotism, has in fact seized all the important levers of power to render the citizen impotent. The old liberal class, the safety valve that addressed grievances and injustices in times of economic or political distress, has been neutered. There are self-identified liberals, including Barack Obama, who continue to speak in the old language of liberalism but serve corporate power. This has been true since the Clinton administration. Bill Clinton found that by doing corporate bidding he could get corporate money—thus NAFTA, the destruction of our welfare system, the explosion of mass incarceration under the  omnibus bill, the deregulation of the FCC, turning the airwaves over to a half dozen corporations, and the revoking of FDR’s 1933 Glass-Steagall reform that had protected our banking system from speculators. Clinton, in exchange for corporate money, transformed the Democratic Party into the Republican Party. This was diabolically brilliant. It forced the Republican Party to shift so far to the right it became insane. By the time Clinton was done the rhetoric of self-professed liberals was a public relations game. This is why there is continuity from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. Obama’s election did nothing to halt the expanding assault on civil liberties—in fact Obama’s assault has been worse—the Bush bailouts of big banks, the endless imperial wars, the failure to regulate Wall Street, the hiring of corporate lobbyists to write legislation and serve in top government positions, the explosion of drilling and fracking, the security and surveillance state as well as the persecution of government whistle-blowers. This audience is well aware of the Democratic Party’s squalid record on the environment, laid out in detail in a new Greenpeace report written by Charlie Cray and Peter Montague, titled “The Kingpins of Carbon and Their War on Democracy.” The report chronicles what it calls “a multi-decade war on democracy by the kingpins of carbon—the coal, the oil, and gas industries allied with a handful of self-interested libertarian billionaires.” The Obama administration, in return for financial support from these kingpins of carbon, has cynically undermined international climate treaties, a fact we discovered only because of the revelations provided by Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks. It uses its intelligence agencies, these revelations revealed, to spy on those carrying out climate negotiations to thwart caps on carbon emissions and push through useless, nonbinding agreements. The Obama administration has overseen a massive expansion of fracking. It is pushing through a series of trade agreements such as the TPP and the TAFTA that will increase fracking along with expanding our exports of coal, oil and gas. It authorized the excavation of tar sands in Utah and Alabama. It approved the southern half of the Keystone pipeline. It has permitted seismic testing for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the East Coast and in parts of Alaska, a process that kills off hundreds of sea mammals. It authorized drilling within four miles of the Florida coastline, violating one of Obama’s 2008 campaign promises. This expansion of offshore drilling reversed 20 years of federal policy. If we appeal to self-identified liberals in the establishment who have no capacity or desire to carry out the radical reforms, we will pour energy into a black hole. And this is what the corporate state seeks. It seeks to perpetuate the facade of democracy. It seeks to make us believe what is no longer real, that if we work within the system we can reform it. And it has put in place a terrifying superstructure to silence all who step outside the narrow parameters it defines as acceptable. The Democratic Party speaks to us “rationally.” The party says it seeks to protect civil liberties, regulate Wall Street, is concerned about the plight of the working class and wants to institute reforms to address climate change. But in all these areas, and many more, it has, like its Republican counterpart, repeatedly sold out the citizenry for corporate power and corporate profits—in much the same manner that Big Green environmental groups such as the Climate Group and the Environmental Defense Fund have sold out the environmental movement. To assume that Obama, or the Democratic Party, because they acknowledge the reality of climate change, while the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party does not, is better equipped to deal with the crisis is incorrect. Republicans appeal to one constituency. The Democrats appeal to another. But both parties will do nothing to halt the ravaging of the planet. If Wolin is right, and I believe he is, then when we begin to build mass movements that carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience, as I think everyone on this panel believes we must do, the corporate state, including the Democratic Party, will react the way all calcified states react. It will use the security and surveillance apparatus, militarized police forces—and, under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, the military itself—to shut down all dissent with force. The legal and organizational mechanisms are now in place to, with the flip of a switch, put the nation effectively under martial law. When acts of mass civil disobedience begin on Monday morning with Flood Wall Street and later with Occupy the U.N., the face of the corporate state will, as it did during the Occupy movement, reveal itself. If the response of the corporate state is repression rather than reform then our strategy and our tactics must be different. We will have to cease our appealing to the system. We will have to view the state, including the Democratic Party, as antagonistic to genuine reform. We will have to speak in the language of ... revolution. We will have to carry out acts of civil disobedience that seek to cripple the mechanisms of corporate power. The corporate elites, blinded by their lust for profit and foolish enough to believe they can protect themselves from climate change, will not veer from our path towards ecocide unless they are forced from power. And this means the beginning of a titanic clash between our corporate masters and ourselves. © 2014 TruthDig Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. --------5 of x-------- Koch Brothers, ALEC Threaten Campus Democracy at FSU, US Universities Faculty & alumni threaten to resign and boycott donating to the university if John Thrasher is selected by Roshan Bliss / September 19th, 2014 Florida State University is poised to appoint former ALEC Legislator of the Year John Thrasher as new president after “sham” presidential search and Koch funding scandal. For months now, a battle has been raging at Florida State University to stop what student and faculty say is “[a] hostile political takeover of the presidential search process at FSU.” Students, faculty, alumni, and the Tallahassee community have mounted a campaign of protests, disruptions, petitions, letters, and a proposal for a reset of the process in response to the increasingly clear reality that FSU’s Presidential Search Advisory Committee (PSAC) has been rigged to select former Florida Republican Senator John Thrasher, described as “one of the most powerful Republican politicians in Florida history,” as FSU’s next president. The FSU community has been staunchly opposing Thrasher’s candidacy for president because he is, by almost all standards normally applied to university presidents, a terrible candidate for the job. Whereas university presidents are almost always required to have a Ph.D., Thrasher lacks real academic credentials. As a legislator, Thrasher has opposed institutions that are essential to higher education like faculty unions and tenure, was caught violating ethics laws twice in the Florida House of Representatives, has voted several times to cut Florida’s higher-education budget, and he himself sponsored a failed bill that would have made exactly this kind of legislature-to-university transition illegal for him to make. Thrasher also is currently serving as chair for the reelection campaign of Florida Gov. Rick Scott – who appointed FSU Board of Trustees Chair Allan Bense (and others), who in turn has handpicked much of the search committee’s members. And to top it all off, Thrasher was recognized in 1998 as Legislator of the Year by the infamously anti-democratic, pay-to-play legislation mill for corporations known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and has continued to have ties with the democracy-corrupting organization. Thrasher’s candidacy has been consistently, loudly, and unanimously opposed by the students and faculty on the PSAC and across campus since the search began back in May. Yet he is being interviewed as one of four finalists in the search, and many in Florida believe that he is very likely to be the next president of FSU anyway. Presidential search process “a sham”, student & faculty dissent silenced When former Florida State University president Eric Barron announced that he was stepping down to take a job at Pennsylvania State University earlier this year, FSU began the process of finding his replacement by having FSU’s Board of Trustees Chair Allan Bense establish the PSAC and appointing its members. The number of PSAC appointees has bloated from 19 in the search that selected Barron to 27 in the current search. Yet despite the growth, students and faculty – the primary stakeholders in the university – hold only one third of the seats on the committee. The rest are held by what students and faculty have called “political appointees” who have looser ties to the university and include several former politicians and Rick Scott appointees. “The corporate/political influence on Bense’s PSAC is blatant and unapologetic,” say members of the FSU Progress Coalition, a bloc of students, faculty, and campus organizations opposed to Thrasher’s candidacy and the current search process. Their research has documented that not only do conflicts of interest abound among the PSAC appointees who have been favoring Thrasher, but several of them are connected to not only ALEC, but also have ties to Charles and David Koch, the billionaire bankrollers of many conservative causes, think tanks, and organizations that advocate for their far-right positions. “Many members [of the PSAC] have direct connections to the controversial corporate-legislative partnership ALEC and Koch-funded institutes,” Progress Coalition students wrote in an August op ed in the Tallahassee Democrat.” In fact, ALEC and Koch affiliates have more representation on Bense’s PSAC than either faculty or students. Case in point, they say, is Bense himself. “Chair Bense himself is the Chair of the Board of Directors of a Koch funded think tank – the James Madison Institute (JMI). JMI is also a member of ALEC’s Education Task Force,” the body within ALEC that conspires to pass policies across the country that treat education as a business more than a public good. With Bense’s appointments, the “outside” members of the PSAC constitute a 17-member “super majority” on the committee is capable of voting down even unanimous opposition from the students and faculty. And it has done just that every time the students and faculty on the PSAC have tried oppose Thrasher’s advancement as a candidate. The first occasion was on May 21st. At the suggestion of the William Funk & Associates search firm the PSAC hired to assist with the search – the same firm that “helped” Purdue University select former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels as its president, despite similar conflicts of interest and impropriety – there was a motion to consider Thrasher as the only candidate for the presidency. “Funk advised the committee to vet only Senator John Thrasher as a candidate for the position,” FSU faculty member Dr. Jennifer Proffitt explained in an op ed. “This, he argued, would allow for a more level playing field–if the committee votes for him to be president, the search would be over; if the committee votes no, then other candidates may apply.” The move was obviously political, Proffitt continued. “[I]t clearly demonstrated Florida political cronyism as the motion to interview Thrasher was made by a former President of the Senate, seconded by a former state senator and current FSU lobbyist, and supported in debate by Bense, former Speaker of the House… This is Florida politics, pure and simple.” The motion to fast-track Thrasher as the only candidate for the presidency passed 15-9 in the PSAC, despite the unanimous “no” vote of all the students and faculty. Emails between William Funk, the head of the search firm, and top FSU administrators later revealed that Thrasher had communicated his interest in the position through back channels, prompting Funk to suggest him as the lone candidate. Even Funk admitted that to continue to pretend to actually be considering other candidates in the search after the fast-track vote “would now be a sham… and would be roundly seen as such.” Search reopened, students and faculty demand restructure The initial effort to fast-track Thrasher as the sole candidate failed, however, after the FSU Faculty Senate formally voted “no confidence” in the Funk search firm, saying that Funk “appears to be following an agenda which is not committed to an open and honest search for the best candidates.” Days later, Funk & Associates bowed out of the search process, the search was reopened, and a new application date was set for September 2nd. As news spread about the failed fast-track proposal, students and faculty were outraged. The flagrantly inappropriate strong arm tactic touched off broad efforts across the campus supporting a push to “Reset the Search” because it had become clear that the process was “illegitimate” and stacked in favor of “outside” interests, whereas real democracy called for the students and faculty to be the ones with the most say in who their next president would be. “It’s great if outsiders want to help select the next president,” said Jerry Funt, co-president of the FSU Progress Coalition. “But inside stakeholders should have a lot more say.” Within weeks after the failed fast-track, students, faculty, and community members had created a Moveon.org petition, which gained nearly 1,500 signatures, a #ResetTheSearch hashtag, and a Student Plan calling on FSU and Chair Bense to restructure the PSAC to include fairer representation: one third students, one third faculty, and one third other “appropriately interested community members.” FSU’s Student Senate and Congress of Graduate Students (COGS) both passed resolutions supporting the call for the restructure as well. Ultimately, the movement on FSU’s campus has been about democracy. “We believe that without representation in votes the student and faculty voice has been squelched,” FSU Progress Coalition student activists Ralph Wilson and Lakey (her full legal name) explained. “Therefore, we demand a PSAC restructure that includes one third student and one third faculty.” It seems utterly reasonable that the people directly impacted by the presidential decision would be the ones who have the lion’s share of influence on the question. But Chair Bense and the PSAC think differently. Despite the fast-track debacle, the search process continued, with other, more qualified candidates eventually applying for the FSU presidency. Thrasher, who formally applied this time, was included. Koch-FSU funding contracts create deeper corruption worries, doubts about academic freedom Even before the presidential search scandal, FSU administrators had already been embedding political relationships into the university’s supposedly academic functions. A key piece of FSU history has fueled student and faculty suspicions that impropriety at the university was more widespread : its funding relationship with the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF). The relationship began in 2008, when FSU’s economics department agreed to receive $1.5 million from the CKF – with strings attached. The donation would only be made if the department could ensure Koch representatives that it would be used for conservative academic courses and that the CKF’s representatives would have final say over which professors would be hired by the department. The deal would allow them to bend the department’s intellectual focus toward that of the pro-market, anti-government values the Kochs themselves hold – a move that is an affront to the university’s academic credibility. “It amounts to the Koch brothers’ foundation basically trying to buy a position on the faculty.” Association of American University Professors (AAUP) president Rudy Fichtenbaum said of the deal. “And that certainly is a threat to academic freedom.” The details of the agreement were circulated in an internal memo penned by economics department head Dr. Bruce Benson, who, as another one of Koch’s conditions of the agreement, would be required to remain the head of the economics department for three more years, despite the fact that Benson had already stated that he would retire soon. Many of Benson’s statements in the memo are telling of just how well he understood the inappropriate amount of influence the Kochs were exercising. “As we all know, there are no free lunches. Everything comes with costs,” Benson wrote in the memo. “Koch cannot tell a university who to hire, but they are going to try to make sure, through contractual terms and monitoring, that people hired are consistent with ‘donor intent.'” Despite being called a “two-fold conflict of interest” by the FSU Faculty Senate and serious concerns that it would compromise academic freedom, the questionable contract giving the CKF influence over economics faculty hiring and curriculum was signed. The contract was quietly renewed as one of the last acts of outgoing FSU president Eric Barron last year, though that administration claims it included “amendments” that were supposed to remove the inappropriate influence that the original agreement gave to the Koch brothers. “But the changes to the hiring in the new agreement give the Koch brothers just as much, if not more, power over hiring as they had in the first agreement,” the FSU Progress Coalition’s Funt told NPR. “Nothing has been improved. The agreement is still bad. It’s still harming academic integrity at FSU and giving private donors inappropriate access.” The new agreement reduced the number of Koch’s representatives in the process and no longer gave them the final decision about whether to hire a professor or not. But it stipulated that Koch representatives would get to decide on whether or not professors could be paid from the pot of Koch money, which essentially guarantees that the cash-strapped FSU — hobbled by years of large budget cuts from the state legislature, many of which were supported by then Senator Thrasher — would not hire a professor it could not afford to pay, and thus would only hire professors it knew would be acceptable to the Koch Foundation. Even Benson, the economics chair, seemed to admit that the contract was less about academics than it was about political games. “I wish that universities were free of political manipulation,” Benson wrote in the memo. “Unfortunately, the reality is that we live and work in an environment that is subject to all sorts of political manipulations.” ALEC-supported bill bans Koch funding transparency Not only has the administration’s commitment to academic freedom come into question, but the university’s transparency has become an issue as well. When asked to disclose details of their agreements with the Koch’s, the administration has been slow to do so. It took over a year for the agreement with the economics department to be made public. Equally troubling is the suspicious coincidence that in the same year that the FSU-Koch agreement was renewed, the Florida legislature passed SB 318, a law that bans the public from of all meetings between universities and their private funders where “research funding” arrangements like the one with the CKF were discussed. Counter intuitively, the bill even bans public participation when private groups are “providing a statement of public necessity” for their projects. Labeled the “Koch Cover-Up Law” by FSU student activists, the bill was supported by a number of Florida ALEC legislators. “Predictably,” the student coalition wrote in an op ed in the Tallahassee Democrat, “[the bill] was sponsored by legislators who champion the Koch-funded organizations American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Americans for Prosperity.” Students and Faculty testified against the bill in a Senate Committee chaired by then-Senator Thrasher himself, to no avail. Thrasher voted for the bill. In addition to the presidential search’s clear bias, FSU students and faculty are deeply concerned that, now that the Koch Cover-Up Law has passed, Thrasher would have both the incentive and the ability to expand Koch’s growing and corrupting influence over university policy, curriculum, and hiring far beyond the economics department if he becomes the next president. “President” Thrasher would be poised to make decisions to give Koch- and ALEC-connected friends access to the entire university. Thrasher advances as restructure motion defeated The pressure to restructure the Presidential Search Advisory Committee continued throughout the summer, with a national petition calling on FSU and Chair Bense to support the restructuring plan gaining 2,600 signatures, shining a spotlight on the university’s cronyism and compromised integrity. The student plan for restructure — which was supported by the faculty senate, student government, multiple student groups on campus — continued to attempt to restore some semblance of legitimacy to a process that has seemed rigged from the start to select Thrasher. A key August 26th meeting of the FSU Board of Trustees was the last moment that Chair Bense could respond to the Student Plan and restructure the committee. But in the week before the meeting, Bense dodged the decision by quietly cancelling the Board meeting, meaning that the restructure question would be left unanswered before the next September 5th PSAC meeting, where the field of eleven applicants would be narrowed to four finalists. The student and faculty resistance to electing Thrasher continued in that meeting, when the PSAC student and faculty representatives proposed and unanimously supported a motion to simply remove Thrasher from the list of candidates being considered to make room for other, more academically qualified candidates, including the well-liked current interim FSU president, Garnett Stokes. But once again, the students’ and faculty’s motion was shut down by the PSAC’s corporate super majority. The September 5th meeting erupted. Students and faculty disrupted the proceedings in protest of the defeat of a motion to exclude Thrasher from the final set of candidates. Several were removed by police, with several more threatened with arrest or expulsion for continuing to vocalize their support for removing Thrasher. The students and faculty removed were attempting to read aloud their proposal to restructure the PSAC and decrying the university’s failures in transparency and integrity, saying that the search process demonstrated a “total disregard for process, democracy, transparency and the integrity of FSU’s [Presidential Search Advisory Committee].” The meeting was shut down for over an hour, but when it resumed, the PSAC proceeded to advance Thrasher to the next round of interviews, and despite calls from all corners of the campus to pick anyone but him, Thrasher has advanced to the final round of four candidates. The committee also removed the current interim FSU president Garnett Stokes from consideration, a move that outraged students and faculty even more because they saw Stokes as an excellent candidate. The three other candidates Thrasher is competing with are former university leaders and faculty from across the country who, unlike Thrasher, have the requisite academic credentials and experience in higher education leadership. Yet Thrasher remains the likely nominee. Faculty and alumni threaten consequences, make Thrasher unwelcome In response to the continued politicization and corruption of the search process and the undemocratic exclusion of student and faculty voices, the FSU community has started raising the stakes. A series of faculty and alumni have spoken out, saying that if Thrasher wins, they will take action against the university. One professor wrote in an email that the consideration of Thrasher had them “ready to leave FSU for good, after two decades here. And,” the faculty member added, “I plan on taking my grant money, post docs, lab and graduate students with me.” Another faculty member remarked that “I have always remained faithful to FSU. I will, however, quit immediately if Mr. Thrasher is chosen. Immediately.” A series of alumni have spoken out as well, threatening to withhold donations to the university if Thrasher is selected. One alumni said, “I believe it was a grave mistake to eliminate Provost Stokes [current interim FSU president] from consideration, however the Presidency must now go to a qualified academic individual (read, one with a PhD, not a corporate minded politician).” In spite of consistent opposition, Thrasher came to campus on Monday for interviews with students, faculty, and staff where he was met with protests and faced with tough questions. In his interview with university faculty, he was asked if he believed in evolution or climate change. Thrasher dodged both questions, saying he has “a great faith that guides his work.” The non-answer gave credence to the idea that Thrasher would use his position to advance climate change denial, a key agenda of the Koch brothers’ influence at universities. Thrasher became visibly upset and even threatened to walk out of the interview when audience members laughed at his response to the question. Importantly, students exposed Thrasher’s ties to the Koch brothers during his interview with them, asking him whether he had ever accepted Koch brothers’ funding and how he could protect the university from corruption. Thrasher lied in his response, saying he has never accepted money from Koch Industries – a claim students quickly proved was not true. Students also asked if he would pledge to not sign future agreements with Koch brothers – he again dodged the question. In contrast, the other three more academically qualified candidates provided clear answers to questions and appeared to be much more comfortable during their interviews. With on-campus interviews complete, the PSAC will meet on Monday, the 22nd to eliminate one candidate of the four, and recommend the final three to the FSU Board of Trustees for their final selection. Given the many connections Thrasher has on the Board and the way the PSAC has taken pains to keep his candidacy alive, Thrasher is still widely expected to be the Board’s pick for FSU president. On US campuses, democracy is in decline, corporatism is on the rise The process unfolding at FSU looks troublingly similar to much of American politics today: decision makers support outcomes or agendas favoring the rich and well-connected despite broad public opposition, well-publicized conflicts of interests, and with disregard to legitimate requests for redress of grievances voiced by those affected in processes that seem rigged from the start. And it’s not just in Florida. “We believe that FSU is one example in a national crisis,” the FSU Progress Coalition students wrote earlier this month. They are right. The FSU situation is reflective of a broader national trend in recent years that has seen powerful politicians appointed by questionable processes to head prestigious universities – despite lacking the qualifications normally required of university presidents and clear conflicts of interests. FSU’s connections with the Koch brothers’ influence is also part and parcel of rise in “charitable” contributions that they have been using to gain control over ideas and curricula in US colleges and universities. The FSU Progress Coalition students’ research documents that “the Charles Koch Foundation is already funding over 300 universities in the United States today and the numbers continue to increase.” Anyone seeing this trend has to ask, they say, “How many of those universities have already been corrupted by Koch contracts? How many presidents have already been bought and sold?” It’s part of the disturbing reality that American higher education has been progressively shedding even the semblance of democracy it used to have in favor of an increasingly corporate style of governance where money and influence trump academic integrity and openness. The rise of this corporate higher education model – complete with questionable funding and political appointees – does not bode well for democracy at US universities or, in turn, for the US as a whole. Over the last few decades we have seen the discourse about the purpose of higher education shift from a narrative about education as a public good that brings broad benefits to society – which it does – toward one that says going to college is an individual good that is necessary solely so that young people can land a high-paying job after graduation. We do, of course, want to see that university graduates, as well as their uncredentialed peers, are eventually able to find security in a good job. But more than that, we also want – indeed, we need – to see those same young people prepared by the end of their education for more than a job. We need them to be ready to be an effective citizen in a democracy. Citizenship is its own type of work, but like most work, it is not an innate skill set. We need to learn how to do it. Since its inception, public education has been tasked with teaching each new generation how to be effective citizens, because educated citizens are critical to a well-functioning democracy. And higher education, with its values of the intellectual freedom and spirit of fair and reasoned debate, has been the capstone lesson in that civic education. Baby Boomers learned the lessons of democracy well during the ’60s and ’70s when American college campuses were hot beds of political activity, centers of social movements, and places where ideals of democracy were consistently lifted up as guiding principles for how the university should function. But in today’s more anti-democratic, neoliberalized university, with campuses much less open than in the past and students much more demobilized, there is increasingly no place for those kinds of positive civic lessons. In fact, the lessons taught by corrupted processes like the one at FSU are quite the opposite. The growing trend of universities being corporate-funded and hostile to democratic influence is teaching the Millennial generation a very different lesson: democracy is just window dressing because in reality, cash rules. With the influence of the Koch brothers and ALEC written all over the search process, the economics department agreement, and possibly much more of the campus if Thrasher is elected president, no campus appears to be teaching that lesson better today than Florida State University. Bigger than FSU The FSU students’ and teachers’ fight against the corrupted search process is about more than just the next president of one university. It’s about whether American universities will continue to be places where another generation of young people will learn to be engaged, responsible, critical citizens, or if they will be seen more and more as only potential employees. The lesson that FSU will ultimately teach through its presidential search process – that democracy and integrity matter, on the one hand, or that cash and connections are what matters on the other – is not yet clear. If Thrasher is given the FSU presidency, despite the students and faculty being united against him, it will prop the door open at other universities for similar “hostile takeovers” of their governance. The beginning of Thrasher’s tenure as president would mark the end of campus democracy at FSU. And we should all beware what that means for our broader democracy down the line. But there is still time to change the story at FSU. The Board of Trustees still has time to come to its senses, to finally hear what the students and faculty it ostensibly serves have been saying all along, and to select another candidate. It would be a huge win for democracy at FSU, but it could also possibly be the beginning of a reversal in the trend of American universities toward corporate-funded and political, rather than academic, institutions. The history of US higher education is on the line at FSU, and the students and faculty have fought hard to keep that history one of integrity, academic freedom, and democracy. They have done just about all they could do, and now the decision of how to bend the arc of that history lies in the hands of FSU’s Board of Trustees. The FSU Board is set to issue its decision on FSU’s next president on the 23rd of this month. And the nation will be watching. Roshan Bliss is a student organizer, inclusivity and anti-oppression trainer, and democratic process specialist with a passion for empowering young people to defend their futures and democratize their schools. Bliss, a former occupy activist, serves as Assistant Secretary of Education for Higher Education for the Green Shadow Cabinet. Read other articles by Roshan. nd is filed under Ac This article was posted on Friday, September 19th, 2014 --------6 of x-------- chant *FRACK THE KOCHS !. 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