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Today’s Quiz: What Is the Difference Between a Non-Profit and a For-Profit?

June 9, 2014, 12:28 pm

monopoly-manAnswer: a) none; b) the non-profits are better at evading scrutiny; c) the for-profits are busy remaking the world in their image; d) all of the above.

This week in Jacobin‘s online edition, see David Francis Mihalyfy’s Higher Ed’s For-Profit Future. It’s about corporate academia, as exemplified by the institution that is currently best known as the cradle of neoliberal thinking that has destroyed, and is still working to destroy, education for everyone. The University of Chicago, Mihalyfy argues, ”serves as a window into the fully corporatized future of education, where an unquestioned goal is profit for top staff and the checks-and-balances of the trustee system do not function.”

Structurally, Mihalyfy argues, there is absolutely no difference between the non-profit university and the for profit corporations that neoliberal economics wants us to use as a model every form of social spending from  pre-K to prison. In universities, money is stripped from below (whether that is a department budget, office staff, full-time faculty lines, health insurance or what have you) and pushed to those good people at the top, who we deserve it because otherwise how did they get to the top?

Back office workers get pink slips and top officers get performance bonuses for making the operation leaner and meaner. (If you want to know the logic for this stupidity and how it works in the so-called real world of investment banking, read Karen Ho’s fascinating book Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street, Duke 2009.) All the while, the university’s PR workers manipulate information about President Robert Zimmer’s finances to make sure that his giant compensation package ($1.9 million at last count and double what he made five years ago) and performance bonuses are artfully concealed from public view. How can they conceal much of this information? Because they are not shareholder owned, and they don’t have to reveal much of anything.

Let’s go over the neoliberal education model carefully. You pay millions to the prez and other top administrators, spend another half million or so on press flacks whose main job is to conceal how your top earners are making and what their perks are — and it is faculty pay and benefits that constitute the “fat” needing to be trimmed from the budget? And what kind of a “performance” warrants a “performance bonus” in an economic environment that is presumably not for profit, has no shareholders and generates a significant portion of its income by asking other peopel to mortgage their future?

Mary, please. Could someone finally stop trashing college teachers and pay some attention to those men and women behind the curtain? What kind of person sucks up all that money in an environment that is specifically constructed to profit a few at the expense of the many?

By the way, according to this website, the median salary for University of Chicago’s full time adjuncts is $43,992, which is about two thousand dollars more than the salary I started at almost 25 years ago. I can’t find what the per course pay is, but current contingent faculty and instructors at the University of Chicago are welcome to supply the numbers in the comments below. In the interest of being fair to university presidents, please also report any performance bonus you have received.

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