Michael Hofmann

Higher Learning Higher Learning

for Aaron and Sarah   “We monetize the university. Raid the pension-fund, lease out the classrooms, put coin-slots on the phones and copy-machines, and we throw money at the football team, the basketball team, the track team, all the other teams. Sport deepens the Crocodile brand. Sport kicks communities and builds ass. You can shove the rest.   We casualize the support staff. Who’s scared of a few roaches and spiders. We empty the bins once a week, then once a month. Are we serious about paperless learning or not? We stop the water fountains. Don’t replace bulbs, call it green, and save thousands. To think big, you’ve got to dare to think small.   We pause the elevators, let the profs find their own way downstairs by the light of their towering intellects—or, more likely, their smartphones. Bunch of limey faggots. Underpaid, undersexed and underwear. Or as I believe they like to say over there, ‘pants.’   We get some proper K Street chops into our fundraising effort. Personalized databases. Twitterfeeds. Birthday messages. Con-dolences and -gratulations. A little complimentary merchandise goes a long way. Pre-formatted wills. Candlelight giggle-o dinner-dates with Old Croquettes.    We hike the fees and we re-prioritize. It’s what you do in a race to the bottom. We lay on handmaidens and academic tutors and personal chefs for our MVPs— everything, and the great lunks still pass out at traffic-lights.   We do a heavy concentration on STEM subjects, plus microbiology, medicine, law, and one other. Entrepreneur. The rest can go wither. What are we here for—educating citizens?!   We free up tenure. We de-accession the library. You don’t need books to cut-and-paste, I always say.   We boost distance learning. Streaming lectures. Log on and goof off. Overspill classes. Computer grading. Multiple choice. Redefine the contact hour. Redefine the degree. Virtuality is the new reality.   We put in a Gap and a Walmart, and call them bookshops. We sell Pepsi one university-wide monopoly franchise in perpetuity, and Taco Bell another. and in general we take a leaf out of the contemporary airport: a shopping center with half a runway attached.   We award our sports coaches ius primae noctis (for wins only), plus 40,000 square foot pasteboard-and-marble mansions on prime lakeside real estate, with green lights at the end of their private piers. Throw in a motorboat and some stables, or else we’re uncompetitive.   We put up a new building a week—prospective parents like to see that stuff—and we sell on the naming rights to the old ones. They plough up cemeteries, don’t they? Nothing’s forever. Go, Crocks.”

Jul 16, 2013 / Books & the Arts / Michael Hofmann