Standardization of economics classes

glevy at acnet.pratt.edu glevy at acnet.pratt.edu
Wed Aug 30 08:30:45 MDT 1995


john walker wrote:

> One strategy I've used in response to the "rationalization" of the
> academy -- come to think of it, I'd be surprised if you haven't done this
> too -- is to appeal to the students. They are the ones, after all, who
> are hurt most by increasing class size, "standardized" testing methods,
> and so on.
>
> They need to know *why* they can't get the classes they want,
> why teachers can't give them as much personal attention as they deserve,
> and so on. Knowing this they can be encouraged to write letters to state
> legislatures or to boards of trustees, participate in protests, etc.
>
Yes, what you write above, is very true. However, let me add ... the best
way to get support is to show support. Students at many universities have
been fighting budget cuts, tuition increases, and for many other
important issues. Faculty, if they are to expect solidarity, should show
solidarity for these just struggles against college administrators (and
the state).

I'll tell you a funny story. At another school where I teach, a part of
CUNY, students were protesting the proposed budget cuts and tuition
increase. A fellow radical faculty member who taught economics told me
that the College President was calling in the cops and that the cops
might attempt to re-take control of one of the buildings the students had
taken over. So, we devised a plan which was to have our economics classes
meet in the in the open air across the street from the seized building
where we would have a discussion on "the economics of the budget cuts."
Well, we did just that and had a very good discussion indeed concerning
that subject. At some point, about mid-way through the "class", one of
the students proposed that we move to the other side of the street
directly in front of the building. I said that it should be a class
decision, we put it to a vote, the vote was unanimous, and we started to
cross the street.

Midway, the Precinct Commander (who looked and acted like the Sterling
Hayden character in "The Godfather"), ordered us back to the other side.
After the students went back, I went up to him and asked:

Jerry: "Why can't we cross the street?"

Commander: "It's against the law."

Jerry: "What law?"

Commander: "It's against the law. Get back on the curb."

(at the time I was standing 18" into the street and the Commander was
standing another two feet into the street).

Jerry: "What law says I can't cross the street?"

Commander: "The Supreme Court has established that while you have the
right to protest, we have the right to tell you where."

Jerry: "I haven't heard about that decision, but, in any event, you still
haven't given me a reason *why* we can't cross the street."

Commander: "You are obstructing traffic. Get back on the curb."

Jerry: "Firstly, you are standing further into the street than I am.
Second, it is a red light and there *is* no traffic."

Commander: "Get back on the curb or you are going to be arrested."

[this is when I should have shut up]

Jerry: "Are you trying to tell me that you would arrest me because I'm
asking you a question 18" in the street?"

Commander: "Take him."

Next thing I knew two burly cops grabbed me, dragged me across the
street, slammed me on the hood of a cop car, handcuffed me, put me in the
car, and drove off.

ALL OF THIS WAS IN FULL VIEW OF ALL OF MY STUDENTS (and many other
students as well). At first, they were in shock with their mouths hanging
open.

The squad car, with me in it, went down the street and turned around and
passed the students. They had their fists raised and were screaming:

FREE JERRY! ... FREE JERRY! ... FREE JERRY!, etc.

I was charged with "disorderly conduct" and released. During all of the
student protests at this college, I was the *only* person arrested.

Students signed petitions supporting me, there was an article on the
affair in the student newspaper, the faculty voted to support me, the
faculty union supported me. There was even a meeting between a union
representative and the New York Police Commissioner to try to get the
charges dropped!

Although the College President would have liked to see me fired, because
my department chair and the full-time faculty in my department were
progressive and supportive, the whole affair actually *increased* my
standing and job security in the department.

Now *that* is what I call a real learning experience for students. Long
after those former students of mine forget everything else about their
college experience, they will remember the day their instructor was
handcuffed and arrested before their very eyes.

Unfortunately, faculty haven't always been so supportive of student demands.
It is a real problem now that faculty themselves are more frequently
under the gun.

BTW, in case you didn't read my last post on this thread, I have reached
a compromise of sorts at the school (another school) in question.

Jerry


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