Sunday, February 26, 2012

Statewide Razzie Awards

The Razzie awards are given each year to movies and performances that truly, impressively, memorably stunk.  Adam Sandler is up for several this year, which seems about right.  (Halle Berry won serious good-sport points in my book for actually showing up to accept her Razzie in person for Catwoman a few years ago.)  I’d like to nominate Joel Schumacher for a Lifetime Achievement Razzie award, for somehow sustaining a high-powered career as a director over several decades without ever making a single watchable film.  

We in higher ed should establish our own statewide Razzie awards, to call attention to those states that have really gone above and beyond in treating public higher education stupidly and destructively.

A quick list of this year’s nominees might include:

1. Arizona.  The stupid, it burns.  A few weeks ago I noted its breathtaking new year’s twofer: mandating G-rated language by faculty at all times, both on- and off-campus; and establishing political conservatives as a protected class.  Now, as an alert reader brought to my attention, they’re considering requiring all students on financial aid to contribute a minimum of $2,000 a year to their own education.  (Athletes and merit scholarship recipients are exempted.)   If you don’t have a spare $8,000 for a four-year degree, tough rocks.  I’m not exaggerating.  As this article from the Arizona Republic notes:

Supporters of the bill believe students should have more "skin in the game." Opponents believe students already pay a lot for their education, and tuition is only part of the expense of going to school.About 100 students signed in to oppose the bill, and a handful spoke out against it. James Allen, UA student-body president, told legislators that by passing the bill, legislators would make it harder to achieve a higher-education degree.Rep. Michelle Ugenti, R-Scottsdale, replied, "Welcome to life."

Welcome to the Razzies, Arizona.  

2. Florida.  I’ve heard of states cutting higher education funding.  And I’ve heard of states establishing new campuses (though admittedly not recently).  Florida offers the first case I’ve seen of doing those two things at the same time.  

Apparently, a term-limited Republican State Senator, J.D. Alexander,  has decided that his legacy will be a new campus.  But he doesn’t want to spend money to do it.  The obvious solution: cut the overall system funding while mandating spending on a new campus!

I’m not usually a fan of term limits, but if they get this guy out of power, I’ll have to reconsider my position.

The only metaphor that makes sense is jamming both the accelerator and the brake at the same time.  It’s physically possible, but why the hell would you do it?

3. California.  California is the Cal Ripken of stupidity: it just keeps performing, year after year, and at a remarkably high level.  

The state is facing a multibillion dollar structural deficit for the umpteenth consecutive year.  Its community colleges have wait lists of tens of thousands of people.  And its solution is...set tuition absurdly low, and don’t let the colleges keep it!  Make up the difference with furloughs for employees and waitlists for students.

Wow.  Just, wow.

If California is the future, we should all be very, very scared.

Wise and worldly readers, who would you nominate for this year’s public higher ed Razzie?