[Marxism] Ruminations on Simon's Rock

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed May 12 12:15:23 MDT 2004


Simon's Rock College is a subsidiary of Bard College, my alma mater. 
Both institutions carefully cultivate an image of political 
progressiveness and cultural daring. But beneath this veneer, there is 
more than a bit of rot. While I have been posting about Leon Botstein 
(the President of Bard) and his various faculty members' dubious 
interventions into hotly contested topics such as anti-Semitism on the 
American campus and "human rights" wars in the Balkans and elsewhere, 
there are a couple of items that have come to my attention lately that 
prompt me to say a few words about Simon's Rock.

Simon's Rock is a four year school that incorporates the final two years 
of high school and the first two years of college. Simon's Rock shares 
Bard's idyllic surroundings (the Berkshires and the Hudson Valley 
respectively) and a hothouse bohemian environment that is difficult for 
some students to adjust to.

This was clearly the case for Wayne Lo, the son of a Chinese restaurant 
owner from Montana who cracked up in 1992. With an assault rifle 
purchased through the mail, Lo went on a rampage on Dec. 14 that year. 
When he was done, a security guard and several students lie wounded, 
while a professor and an 18-year-old student named Galen Gibson were dead.

Recently I finished reading "Gone Boy: a walkabout" by Gregory Gibson, 
(Galen's father) on the advice of Marxmail and PEN-L subscriber Ahmet 
Tonak, who has been teaching economics at Simon's Rock for a number of 
years. He knew that with my frequent public critiques of Leon Botstein, 
I would find the chapter describing Gibson's meeting with Botstein a 
real eye-opener. Since Gibson turned out to be such an astute 
commentator on Leon's Pecksniffian pretensions, I decided to read the 
entire book and would strongly recommend it now as a kind of elevated 
version of Michael Moore's "Bowling for Colombine".

Like Moore, Gibson interviews a myriad of people who had some connection 
to his son's murder, from the disgusting administration officials at 
Simon's Rock who were doing everything they could to minimize PR and 
legal damage to the school (they will remind you of the spinmeisters on 
torture in Iraq) to the dead youth's classmates and his murderer's 
parents. Throughout it all, Gregory Gibson is a captivating figure, 
haunted by his son's death and the irrationality of gun ownership in the 
USA. The main brunt of his anger is directed against Simon's Rock which 
failed to take action against Wayne Lo when the assault rifle was first 
discovered in the mailroom and before anybody was shot. Although they 
gave the excuse that he had a right to privacy, it would appear that 
ineptitude was the main problem. Throughout his conversation with 
Botstein and Simon's Rock President Bernie Rogers, Gibson is struck by 
the school's unwillingness to be accountable for its neglect.

Throughout the book, Gibson--a used book dealer--proves himself as a 
skilled writer. If fiction has become more and more the venue of banal 
postmodernist observations, the hungry reader will inevitably turn to 
works such as these that turn personal experiences into art. Visit 
http://www.goneboy.com/ for information and reviews.

Over the years I have called attention to Bard's anti-labor practices on 
the Internet. Back in the early 1990s, I ran into a labor organizer from 
Smith and Wollensky on PEN-L, whose waiters were being stonewalled by 
the Levy brothers that owned the restaurant. These are the same Levys 
who set up the think-tank at Bard that people such as Anwar Shaikh 
(Ahmet's erstwhile writing partner) and James Galbraith have connections 
to. When the labor organizer asked if anybody had an alumnus directory 
from Bard that could be used for a mass mailing, I happily supplied him 
with one. I was even happier to get an angry letter from Bard about the 
misuse of school assets.

To his credit, Ahmet is even more of a gadfly than me. Over the past 
year or so, he has been on the frontlines defending construction workers 
at Simon's Rock who are getting the short end of the stick from the 
administration. Here's an excerpt from an indymedia article about the 
struggle:

"Students at Simon's Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, 
Massachusetts, Have erected tents outside of Dean Bernard Rodgers’ 
Window in response to the college’s inaction over a labor dispute over 
workers who were not paid by a subcontractor who was working on the new 
Daniels Arts Center that is scheduled to open this May...Ahmet Tonak, a 
professor of Economics at the College, found out about unfair treatment 
of a framing crew at the construction site of the new DAC in May 2003, 
from local union carpenters. The company being accused of improper 
business practices is MetroNational Inc., a New Mexico-based 
subcontractor of Mullaney Construction Inc. Mullaney has been the 
contractor for many recent construction projects on the Simon’s Rock 
Campus, and has worked with MetroNational before. MetroNational has a 
history of poor business practices and has recently been sued in New 
Hampshire."

full: http://wmass.indymedia.org/newswire/display/2775/index.php

Visit http://www.simons-rock.edu/~eatonak/labor/ for ongoing reports on 
this critical struggle.

-- 

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