FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Professor and the Poverty Tour

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, is now touring California, Alabama, Georgia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. On Friday 15 December 2017, the findings will be live-streamed from a Washington, D.C. press conference.

While I welcome an examination of whether financially struggling people can engage meaningfully with education and political participation, will anything more than rapporteuring come of this?

Professor Alston has declared that “despite great wealth in the U.S., there also exists great poverty and inequality.”

Alston, who admirably went forth to hold the U.S. government’s feet to the fire on inequality, is a New York University law professor. Other professors will help to inform the report.

At NYU, administrators and star professors get handsome pay packages, while most teachers fall into the adjunct category. At NYU and elsewhere, an adjunct title indicates a drastically lower wage tier, with no tenure protections — thus, reduced career security and diminished freedom of expression. Part-time adjuncts are now the majority and fastest-growing segment of instructional staff nationwide.

I’m not going to suggest that all adjunct faculty face the dire circumstances plaguing the 40.6 million people living below the government-defined poverty line, some of whom Professor Alston will interview — although some adjuncts are. But I will suggest that financial fairness begins in one’s own household.

Extraordinary Ability to Naturalize Inequality

Ed Pilkington’s recent Guardian article about the U.S. poverty tour quotes David Grusky of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Stanford: “The U.S. has an extraordinary ability to naturalize and accept the extreme poverty that exists even in the context of such extreme wealth.”

Indeed it does.

Stanford pays its president more than a million dollars and has paid a football coach more than $4 million. While Stanford’s reliance on adjuncts is reportedly low, a recent memo from its med school shows the adjunct role etched into its institutional hiring practices; and a 2015 story in The Atlantic note Stanford’s historical involvement in gendered adjunct hiring practices.

As I write, the U.S. government is poised to push millions of people out of their medical insurance, while lowering the top tax rate for millionaires. This is part of a more general U.S. disdain for ensuring its populace has access to the basics of human dignity: medicine, food, shelter, education, and a sustainable income.

When holding forth on inequality, academics lack standing. The academic world, through its own pattern of practice, sends the message that grotesque inequality is acceptable. A giant wink, no, to the government that rewards and enshrines inequality on a national scale?

Tenured professors profess to yourselves. Change what you have the power to change, right where you are. If tenured professors are now down to just 17% of today’s college faculty, your power to change things will soon be gone.

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail