General News 6/23/2013 at 19:00:01
Apartheid at NYU? Prof. Michael Rectenwald Is Afraid So – Part 2
By Joan Brunwasser
Welcome back to the conclusion of my interview with Michael Rectenwald, who is on the faculty of New York University in the Global Studies Program as well, as being the founder and chair of CLG [Citizens for Legitimate Government]. Welcome back, Michael. We’ve been talking about your June 18th article, “Apartheid at NYU.”
JB: In the first part of our interview, we discussed how the university mirrors the socio-economic divide found outside its walls, with only a very few up at the top. I take it you’re part of that much larger segment that is closer to the bottom of the pile. Perhaps I’m naive, but what’s the point of astronomical tuition if those who are doing the teaching are barely surviving?
MR: I am part of the 99% if you will. I am a full-time contract faculty in the Liberal and Global Liberal Studies Program. I am a Ph.D. in my field of Literary and Cultural Studies. I publish in books and periodicals and present my work in conferences. I am a fully professional member of my discipline and interdisciplinary fields. I love teaching, and feel privileged to teach some of NYU’s very brightest students. And, as I sit at home on a three-month break, I do wonder about complaining.
But I am not complaining as a disgruntled employee. I am complaining as if a bystander watching in amazement as all of this goes down. I see a lot of colleagues struggling daily to make ends meet. I even know of a colleague who had to live in his office because he couldn’t find an affordable apartment. I have colleagues who endure significant financial duress and insecurity and have been unable to make it through the third week of the month, let alone the end of it. And then these reports come out about lavish lifestyles and vacation homes and everything starts to click.
One sees how the structural imbalance affects people on the ground, while one reads about the lifestyles of the rich and infamous as they luxuriate in what I see as ill-gotten gains. It’s just unconscionable to stay silent. I began to see how the pieces fit together –the Sexton Plan, the loans for first and second homes, the loan forgivenesses, the lavish salaries and bonuses, the global network university — all of these elements of corporate legerdemain, a sleight of hand to keep things moving so that money could be peeled off at the top and spread around to a favorite few. So I joined NYU’s Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (NYUFASP), and I spoke before a select committee of the Board of Trustees, all of this at some risk, because I am a contract faculty on three-year contracts, and not a tenured faculty member. But I felt that my silence was being taken for cheap, and so I became vocal.