A couple of years ago, when the faculty union at the university where I teach decided to go on a strike (it was averted at the proverbial eleventh hour) there were quite a few students expressing their "solidarity" with the faculty, some of whom ridiculously walking around with "will teach for food" hyperbole. I asked one of those students, who keeps in touch with me even after graduating, whether he knew where the additional money for faculty salaries will come from. I pointed out to him that if we faculty got raises, then it was a guarantee that student tuition and fees would increase. He was stunned; he hadn't thought about it at all.
Since then, tuition and fees have gone up a lot. After all, somebody has to pay not only for our salaries but also for expensive Taj Mahals!
But, I am increasingly uncomfortable in the classrooms, where I am painfully aware of the debt that students are getting into. And, even worse is when those are from less-affluent backgrounds. These kinds of dilemmas have haunted me throughout my life and, dammit, they don't seem to go away.
In the case of higher education, as this writer points out:
Professors get paid in the form of borrowed money. In a speech to the demonstrators at Occupy Wall Street last month, Andrew Ross, a professor of American studies at New York University, deplored the fact that his salary is largely "debt-financed." He called the growing mountain of student debt "an unsustainable moral burden."My father often remarked that many of the misfortunes in the extended family are a result of the bad karma of my great-grandfather having been a local banker. Dad's logic is that every time the borrowers were forced to keep up with the payments when they could not, they were handing over the money while cursing the banker--my great-grandfather. My scientific mind sees no cause and effect relationship here. But, I do recognize the moral dilemma, which is no different from me collecting my paycheck that is largely from student debt.
Maybe I should call my paycheck a "blood-check" along the lines of "blood chocolate."