While politicos and University of Montana pundits are holding “naming conversations” about the Law School’s new patronymic because of a large, recent donation, the College of Arts and Sciences is slowly but surely bleeding to death.

As Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian innocently put it, “the world is changing a bit on how we finance higher education.” It is not changing “a bit” but very fast—so fast that universities’ survival now depends on private donations, grants and tuition.

While their financing is being privatized, academic higher-ups’ logic mimics the corporate boardroom’s logic. Educators no longer control universities, except for mundane, daily tasks (“building-naming,” technology acquisition—if there is money, rewards, curricula, assessment, “faculty-retreats,” graduation). They rubber-stamp the higher-ups who are busy cutting programs and letting teaching positions melt into thin air, slowly turning off the oxygen supply to UM’s “left brain”— the humanities and critical thinking. As one dean cynically put it, one day UM will be “The Missoula University,” servicing western Montana’s business and job needs.

When deregulating its public rail service, the British parceled it out to bidders. Why not sell UM faculty positions, doors, chairs, equipment and/or bathrooms to (inter)national businesses? “The Volkswagen bathroom” in Foreign Languages, where it took two months to replace one urinal? “The Nissan coffee pot” in Philosophy? The “Air France bar” for the Davidson Honors College’s TGIF parties? The "Airstream faculty massage bed” in Gender Studies? “The Domino Pizza copier” in History? “The Boone and Crockett professorship” in animal husbandry? “The China Air English professorship?” “The Monsento plant-pathology lab”? “The Koch Brothers Political Sciences Chair?” Just a thought!

Michel Valentin,

Missoula 

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