[Marxism] Ruminations on Simon's Rock
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
"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
Visit http://www.simons-rock.edu/~eatonak/labor/ for ongoing reports on
this critical struggle.
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