Think Before You Snark

We had a bit of an incident last week with a course that’s using Blogs@Baruch. In this course, every student was to keep a blog, which was then republished in an aggregator blog so that every participant in the class could easily access and comment upon everything published by the other participants.

Last week the class abandoned its use of Blogs@Baruch to instead use a group on Facebook called “Baruch Blogs Down!”

Snark

Creative Commons License photo credit: Squid P. Quo

The name of the group is a reference to server problems we had at the beginning of the term, which were resolved almost two months ago; we’ve been up without interruption for almost 60 days. In fact, members of the class were posting to their blogs without problem for a good six weeks before they switched to Facebook.

The faculty member apologized when it was pointed out to him that the name of the Facebook group was insulting and mocked the work that had gone into building our system and supporting his course, last semester and this. He noted that the switch wasn’t planned, that his students suggested the move and the group name, and that they were more comfortable using Facebook to exchange thoughts about course material. So he went with it.

I have problems with this on a few levels, even beyond the insulting group name. First, the only argument to go to Facebook — which I accept is completely the faculty member’s prerogative — seems to be that the students “felt more comfortable” with the application than they did Blogs@Baruch. Comfort with a medium has pedagogical value, for sure; but you’d like to think that more than students’ comfort would determine the choosing of a technological solution.  I’m not sure that it did.

Second, there’s the implications of using Facebook in an instructional setting given the recent conflicts over their Terms of Service and assertions of ownership over user content. I don’t think the class discussed what was to be gained and lost from switching platforms; the students just lobbied the professor to use something “easier,” not better.  These points are both problematic in no small part because this is an Internet Marketing class!

Finally, there’s the inaccurate implication embedded in the group’s name, which appeared in a public forum. I’ve thought a bit about this, since I, too, have been guilty of snarking a piece of software. Blogs@Baruch was down periodically early in the semester, and that had a negative impact on some courses’ use of the system. We DO deserve to get called out for failing to deliver what we promised to deliver.

Yet, there’s a difference between mocking us and mocking a behemoth corporation with a closed source product.   The difference embodies one of the core issues in instructional technology, which is often seen as a subset of information technology rather than as its own unique area of university life that requires the establishment of relationships and understanding across the disciplines.

If Blackboard goes down, users of the system are helpless, and can only wait for word that the system is back up.  They can call someone, but that person can only tell them that a ticket has been submitted.  Users of Blogs@Baruch have a name, and a number, and someone who can explain to them what the problem is and how it is being addressed. If something on the system isn’t working the way they want it to work, they can speak with someone about hacking it, adapting it, fixing it, strengthening it. Blackboard is a closed box without a face, whereas Blogs@Baruch is an open sandbox that gives back in proportion to what you put in. Blackboard is primarily an administrative system that allows the delivery of information. Blogs@Baruch is primarily a tool for the creative use of technology in instruction.

The faculty member (who has graciously apologized and changed the Facebook’s group’s name) should have realized this; he had benefited from our close support in the past and had been told to contact us if and as problems arose. He never did.  Instead, he treated Blogs@Baruch as information technology, as a data delivery service, and wasn’t really interested in bringing the system and its flexibility to his pedagogy. He and his students saw no difference between Blogs@Baruch and Blackboard or the escalators in the Vertical Campus.

So, I’ve learned a couple things from this episode. First: snark is fine, but if you’re gonna snark, do it in an informed way or in a hidden place, or you going to be called out.  Second: we need to do a better job of explaining to members of our community what Blogs@Baruch is and what it isn’t. If you can’t see any difference between what this system potentially provides and what Blackboard or Facebook provide, then those systems will probably work just fine for you.

Wet Spaghetti

At the Harman Writer-in-Residence lecture at Baruch College on March 24, George Packer, who became well known through his reporting for the New Yorker on the invasion of Iraq, spoke of turning his focus to this country. We’re living through a period of remarkable change, he said — political change, economic change, cultural change — and he doesn’t want to miss the story.

Everywhere I look, and, it seems, in everything I read, folks are trying to understand, articulate, or make their mark upon these changes. The “change” we’re living through is much deeper than the promises put forth by Barack Obama in the construction of a positive message for his campaign. Packer spoke of a “tectonic shift” that’s impacting every area of American life.

Journalism is transforming before our eyes. Newspaper after newspaper is folding, altering its processes, or drastically reducing its staff and, as a result, the depth and quality of its coverage.  Newsrooms everywhere are being forced by executives and bean counters to do “more with less.”  Yet as David Simon and others have noted, the notion that you can possibly do “more with less” is, for want of a better term, bullshit.  You do “less with less.”

From Boston.com

Unused newspaper racks clutter a storage yard in San Francisco, California. From Boston.com; image taken March 13, 2009. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

As stark and clear as that point may seem, some legitimately see opportunity in the restructuring of American newsrooms. “Crowd-sourcing” and “citizen journalism” seek to take advantage of Web 2.0 technologies to tap into existing pools of knowledge to generate and disseminate information. Journalists — those still in the business — break into camps that are either horrified or energized by the prospect of outsourcing society’s news gathering responsibilities. The most serious of them struggle through the implications of such a direction, asking what will be lost, what will be gained, and what professionalization means in an era that empowers the voice of the amateur.

Clay Shirky recently published a much-discussed blog post about the state of newspapers, comparing our moment to the moment when the printing press was invented, and focusing on the chaotic nature of the transition from one world to another.

That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place. The importance of any given experiment isn’t apparent at the moment it appears; big changes stall, small changes spread. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen…

Shirky concludes that we don’t know, and won’t know for some time, what the future of journalism is going to look like.  The most important thing is that “we shift our attention from ’save newspapers’ to ’save society’.”  Then, “the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do whatever works.’”  What we need is lots of spaghetti against the wall, for “any experiment designed to provide new models for journalism is going to be an improvement over hiding from the real, especially in a year when, for many papers, the unthinkable future is already in the past.”  He acknowledges what’s lost by the death of newspapers, allows us space to mourn, but ultimately settles on the point that what matters most is journalism, not the form that it takes.  He also lays the lie to those who, in the name of entrepreneurship, self-servingly claim that they have a crystal ball rather than a handful of wet spaghetti.

Journalism is not the only realm in American life that’s standing upon shifting ground; higher education is also in the midst of a wrenching transition.  In The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities, Frank Donoghue argues that the humanities professor many readers of this blog aspire to become is going the way of the newspaper, swept into the dustbin of history by the market forces and corporatization that increasingly restrict the choices available to well-meaning university administrators. He argues that the humanities aren’t in crisis; this would imply some future return to normalcy. Rather, a liberal arts education as a requisite component in the formation of an informed citizen, and the celebration of the university as the location where that process takes place, with the professor as a central figure, is dead.  A liberal arts education will increasingly become a luxury rather than the norm, replaced by vocational training and the transfer of skills that have only direct and measurable correlations to bottom lines.

Stanley Fish posted a reaction to Donaghue’s book in January, highlighing the rising percentages of undergraduate courses taught by part-time labor and the ascendancy of the “for profit” university, where information delivery is all that matters.  An earlier blog post from Fish glibly dismissed the value of studying the humanities altogether.  Doing so is its own argument, he says, providing or needing no external justification.  If the study of the humanities instilled in one the desire to learn the great moral lessons of the ages, Fish lamely argues, “the most generous, patient, good-hearted and honest people on earth would be the members of literature and philosophy departments, who spend every waking hour with great books and great thoughts… as someone who’s been there (for 45 years) I can tell you it just isn’t so.”

Fish finishes his meditation on The Last Professor with the observation that, thank goodness, he was born at the right time.  “Just lucky, I guess.”  Fish’s landing ultimately on his own good fortune contains none of the perspective evident in Shirky’s post. The possibility never dawns upon him that he might actually be in a position, from his lofty perch nestled just off the front page of the New York Times website and his influential provenance at two universities, to highlight or even demand an alternative trajectory in higher education.  He doesn’t seem to want one or think one is necessary.  He accepts the notion that the humanities has little “value added,” and returns to his study, satisfied by his ability to find support for his arguments in the schmuck-like behavior of some of his colleagues.

Does the sea change pinpointed by Packer and Shirky have relevance to the university of the future?  If Donaghue and Fish are correct, that future has been written, and those of us who’ve chosen to make our life studying and helping others study the humanities are just plain out of luck.

There’s ample evidence however that something similar to the revolution in journalism is happening in academia, though perhaps not so publicly and at a pace that’s less compressed.  This week the University of Michigan Press announced that it was going digital, a move that has consequences for the intense and troubled world of academic publishing.  Also, Mark Bauerlein, whose work on “kids these days” I have significant problems with, wrote a provocative paper about the future of higher education in which he argues “the coverage project is complete,” and that graduate schools and P&T committees should be putting more of an emphasis on good teaching.  I disagree with the first argument (admittedly, his statement was about literature and not history, which is my field, and which hasn’t been “covered”); but I concur wholeheartedly with the second.  Donaghue argues something similar when he notes that the culture of the professoriate, to its own detriment, has integrated an emphasis on competitive achievement and productivity that internalizes the values of the very market forces external to the university that find no use for the liberal arts.  Ultimately, Fish’s “I got mine” conclusions are frustrating because this is a moment when humanists should be reasserting the value of their disciplines to the intellectual life of the nation and, like Bauerlein attempts, proposing directions for the university of the future.

Implicit in the distributed community of educational technologists that I’m a part of — some have called us “edupunks,” but I no longer think that term is big or sufficient enough — is the sense that we are all together involved in shaping the best model of the future university.  I’ve long felt that the most compelling aspect of the 1960s — for all the positive and negative legacies that decade has bequeathed us — was the broadly dispersed sense that the future was up for grabs, and that one’s actions could help shape that future.

I see some of that same energy in the work of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason and the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at the Graduate Center, which are creating new tools and paths for us to collectively look upon the past with fresh eyes.  I see it in HASTAC, which is fostering collaboration between academics, librarians, and scientists around innovative uses of technology.  I see it in Matt Gold’s brilliant multi-campus exploration of Walt Whitman’s career, which allows students and researchers across the country to better understand both this writer and the relationship between art and the context in which it is produced. I see it in the proliferation of campuses, like ours, that are exploring open source alternatives to the proprietary courseware model, propelled by the argument that local administration and support for teaching and learning with technology better serves the academic community.

Each of the above examples is student-centered, yet also allows space for the researcher to grapple with and reflect upon large questions. They benefit from supportive administrations that recognize the importance of giving scholars the opportunity to explore and develop new ways of thinking, learning, teaching, and connecting. They don’t necessarily attack the university of the past, but rather imagine a future where participants break out of restrictive silos of departmental politics and disciplines and the campus as we knew it to explore relationships with the world that are, at their core, humanistic.  These, it seems, must be core components of any vision of the future of the humanities.

Then again, maybe Fish and Donaghue are spot on, and those of us creating new courses, constructing new modes of learning in and across our disciplines, and digging through archives are punchlines in some cosmic joke.  I acknowledge that these examples offer no direct answer to Fish and Donaghue’s argument that the humanities won’t be valued and funded because they don’t contribute in obvious ways to the creation of wealth and, like it or leave it, our society prioritizes that question.  Yet the continued broad exploration of the humanities, like  journalism, is absolutely crucial if our society is going to strive towards a better version of itself.

Shirky’s articulation of our moment as a transitional and perhaps revolutionary one reminds us that the future is yet to be written. We all have a profound stake in working towards our vision.  We all need to pick up some wet spaghetti.

1000… 1001… 1002…

All the way up to 1143, and counting.  That’s how many user accounts have been created over at Blogs@Baruch, and the numbers show how naturally Baruch College faculty, staff, and students have taken to academic blogging with WordPressMU since we launched the system in September.

The Ticker, the student newspaper at Baruch, just published Aaron Monteabaro’s very nice feature story on Miya Owens, who was the 1000th user to register. Ms. Owens embodies the strongest part of our argument for Blogs@Baruch: the more chances that students have to write, the better writers and communicators they will become.  She’s a student in Prof. Bridgett Davis’s “Journalistic Writing” course, and a contributor to Writing New York, a site devoted to reporting on local news that Prof. Davis and her colleagues Roz Bernstein, Vera Haller, and Andrea Gabor have built over the last two years.  Prof.  Davis notes that the “blog not only prepares her students for adapting to the challenges of the so-called ‘new media’ era, but also ignites in them ‘a passion that harks back to the old days of journalism.’”

Right on, Professor Davis, for embracing and employing passion as a pedagogical fuel.  And Ms. Owens — who is considering postgraduate study in business or law — is a student the Baruch community can be proud of.  She understands the centrality of writing to her education at Baruch and her career beyond school, and welcomes the opportunity to write in a space that’s read not only by her classmates and professor, but which is also open to the world at large.

So here’s to Miya Owens, Professors Davis, Bernstein, Gabor, Haller, and all the other students and faculty members who are making Blogs@Baruch go, go, go.

Facebook Owns You(r Original Content Produced On or Shared Through Their Tubes)

Image for Art courtesy of Facebook.com.

Image for art courtesy of Facebook.com

Rest easy, Cacophoners; I just removed the “Share on Facebook” option from the “Share This” widget that appears beneath every post.

For those who don’t know, Facebook changed its Terms of Service last week, asserting a perpetual claim to use however it wishes certain content that you post on FB or that is shared on their network via a hosted “Share on Facebook” button.   A similar policy was in place prior to the change in terms on February 4, but Facebook’s claims to your  content used to expired when you deleted items or deleted your account.  That option ultimately gave users control over their content.

No longer. Here’s the key passage from the new ToS:

You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.

Here’s the clause that was removed:

You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

This has produced no shortage of outrage, as well as a totally inadequate response from FB honcho Mark Zuckerberg that essentially asserts the ToS does not reflect Facebook’s true feelings about user generated content (to which friend of the Institute Matt Gold responds: “What matters is what they *do* with user info, not how they “think” about it!”).

Amanda French of NYU posted a really helpful run down of various ToS’s on other user generated content web sites, which highlights just how off-base and egregious Facebook’s claims are.  Boone B. Gorges of Queens College wonders about the pedagogical ramifications of this change, and also about what Zuckerberg’s response teaches us about the concept of  “sharing” in the digital age.

Ultimately, I hope Facebook sees the error of its ways, because it provides a unique, valuable, and often elegant service.  I have a network on FB which is almost entirely separate and serves a different purpose for me than my networks on Twitter, Ning,  LinkedIn, or BuddyPress; I’d hate to see that diminished.  At the same, anyone who blogs on Facebook’s blog utility should think long and hard before continuing.  Photographers who share their photos through Facebook should reconsider, or at least start watermarking the hell out the images they share.  Musicians shouldn’t upload MP3s of their compositions.  Faculty should reconsider any educational uses of Facebook.  Our students should be informed (though that’s nothing new).  Web masters should zap those “Share on Facebook” buttons from their sites (for clarification, if you post a link directly into Facebook, the claim doesn’t apply).  And those of us who have posted pictures of our kids on Facebook so that cousins abroad and childhood friends can follow their growth should be prepared to see those images used without our notification or permission.

Guest Post: Support for Oral Communication within the ESL Curriculum at Baruch College

The following is a guest post from Professor Elisabeth Garies, of Baruch College’s Department of Communication Studies. She can be reached at Elisabeth.Gareis@baruch.cuny.edu.

Oral communication instruction is traditionally somewhat neglected in the ESL curricula and services of colleges. Many programs focus on reading/writing proficiency and give only nominal, if any attention to listening/speaking skills. The imbalance is due to a great extent to college entrance requirements and grading practices in college classes: Students are often only tested for reading and writing proficiency but not for speaking skills. With the correlation between spoken and written proficiency in nonnative speakers being only moderate, it is no surprise then that some students graduate with low proficiency in spoken English.

This status quo is in stark contrast to the skills needed for integration into the college community and success in the workplace. In fact, oral communication skills are consistently ranked most important by employers of business as well as liberal arts graduates. Yet, every semester, nonnative students report that they are being asked by teammates not to speak during group presentations so that team grades are jeopardized. They also report being dismissed from job interviews due to comprehension-inhibiting accents.

It is paramount, therefore, that we address oral-communication competence. Two services are available for students at Baruch College: (1) Students can go to the Student Academic Consulting Center (SACC, VC 2-116) and make an appointment for free one-on-one tutorials with a professional speech tutor. (2) Students can visit the new ESL Lab (VC6-121, enter through VC6-120) and practice with the excellent software, audio, and video materials there. See http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/esllab for hours, instructions, and materials.

To give an example: It’s the beginning of a semester. An (ideal) instructor collects writing samples and engages his/her students in speaking activities to determine whether a student may need assistance. The student is then encouraged (required?) to make an appointment with one of the speech tutors at SACC (the tutors, by the way, are all professionally trained speech pathologists and ESL specialists). During the first meeting, a diagnostic conversation/reading takes place, and the tutor determines which speech patterns are the cause of he students comprehensibility problems.

While the student may already have an idea about some patterns (e.g., differentiating between /r/ and /l/), some problems are more difficult to determine. For example, many languages have a syllable-timed rhythm (i.e., syllables have the same length); English, however, is a stressed-timed language (i.e., the rhythm of a sentence is determined by the regular beat of the stressed syllables only). Try to say the following sentences out loud as you clap your hands on the stressed syllables. You will notice that the sentences take the same amount of time, although the first one is much shorter than the last one. This is because of the stress-timed nature of English.

The lion came.
The lioness came.
The lionesses came.
The lionesses arrived.
The lionesses have arrived.

Comprehensibility problems often arise from stress problems; e.g., when a speaker from a syllable-timed language used his/her native rhythm to speak English. A staccato delivery ensues that makes it difficult for English listeners–who are used to listening for word and sentence stress–to follow the speaker.

In any case, once the student is diagnosed, the tutor will help the student produce the speech pattern correctly in one-on-one tutorials. When the student can produce the speech pattern, he/she needs to practice to commit the new pattern to muscle memory. It is said that our body has to practice a new movement (including speech organ movement) 1,000 times before the movement becomes muscle memory. Please see the Accent Reduction FAQs at http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/esllab for more information.

Ideally, a student should see a speech tutor once a week and practice individually in the lab several times a week. With regular practice, significant progress can be made, even in the course of one semester. Please alert your students to these services. and remind them that, to change speech patterns, regular practice is necessary

What to Watch For: Super Bowl Edition

I was surprised when I got home last night to hear on my answering machine a message from Christine, the “Loyalty Team Manager” at Autoland, where my wife and I purchased a car two years ago.  Christine wanted to let us know that she and her staff were in a “Yes We Can State of Mind,” and that if we wanted to know more about what that meant then we should call and arrange to come in to talk.

How sweet of Autoland to capitalize upon the Obama-inspired can-do spirit in the country in an attempt to separate me from my credit.

This Sunday is the Super Bowl — that annual bacchanalia of gluttonous consumption — and as many of us settle in to watch the Steelers and the Cardinals (in what should be a very good game), we’ll be scratching our heads at subtle and not-so-subtle attempts to tap into the national mood, for profit.  Commercials during the Super Bowl cost $100,000 a second, and while a few are clever and original, most treat viewers as pigs who like nothing more than bikinis, chicken wings, beer, and trucks.  Cultural and consumer trends tend to filter into these ads, threaded through anthropomorphized animals and talking babies.  Clips last year mocked wine tasting, mismatched celebrities, showed how easy it is to buy stocks, and hawked GPS systems.

I’ve got two predictions.  One: Christine and the Loyalty Team at Autoland aren’t the last folks who’ll invoke Obama in a sales pitch to me this week.  And, Two: Steelers 24, Cardinals 20.

* 10-minute post-post update. Just sent to me by my wfe, who was much more diligent in her research… check out this Pepsi ad that will run Sunday, especially the logo at the end:

Click here to view the embedded video.

On the Horizon…

horizon2I’m happy to note that Blogs@Baruch received a mention in the annual Horizon Report, a document produced by Educause, an international non-profit organization “whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology.” Every year the report is read by information and instructional technology professionals at universities and colleges across the world to get a sense of the current state of technology adoption, and future directions. It identifies key trends and critical challenges facing schools as we attempt to keep pace with the technological needs of modern life and as we explore innovative ways to integrate technology into our functions and curricula.

The bulk of the study is focused on describing, analyzing, and sharing prime examples of six “technologies to watch,” which are organized by their “time-to-adoption.” Click the image above to download a copy of the report; it’s interesting reading for techies and non-techies alike. Here’s a summary of the “technologies to watch”:

Time-to-Adoption: One Year or Less

  • Mobiles: making services and information readily available to students and staff on portable devices such as iPhones and Blackberrys. For an example of what this looks like, see Stanford’s iApps Homepage.
  • Cloud Computing: a new way to think about computers, software, and files, which takes advantage of “data farms,” or collections of computers that distribute processing and storage. You no longer need to run productivity software on your hard drive; Google Apps, for instance, supports word processing, presentations, spreadsheet design, and calendars that are accessible, shareable, and functional through a web browser, wherever you are. The vanguard in this development is data intensive cloud computing used by the hard sciences, but this also has implications for students and staff, who, perhaps, need not rely so heavily on Microsoft Office in coming years. (Though not mentioned in the Horizon Report, last September, CUNY’s Online Baccalaureate began a “Virtual Application Streaming Pilot Project,” a local cloud computing experiment).

Time-to-Adoption: Two to Three Years

  • Geo-Everything: mobile phones, cameras, and other handheld devices can now automatically attach “geolocative” information to data they produce, such as photographs and videos. Researchers and teachers are exploring ways to integrate this functionality into their work via annotated maps, visual narratives, and game-based learning. See Community Walk and Paint Map for examples.
  • The Personal Web: individuals and groups are exploring the “creation of customized, personal web-based environments to support their social, professional, and learning activities using whatever tools they prefer.” At the Institute, we call this “personal publishing,” and it is the core idea behind Blogs@Baruch, which was mentioned as one of five exemplary “Scholarly Community Blogs” cited in this section. Other examples of “The Personal Web” include Omeka, an open source software developed by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, which allows anyone with access to a server and a MYSQL installation to build and share online collections of artifacts; and SMARTHistory, an “edited online art history resource to augment or replace traditional art history texts.”

Time-to-Adoption: Four to Five Years

  • Semantic-Aware Applications: the “semantic web,” according to Wikipedia, “is an evolving extension of the World Wide Web in which the semantics of information and services on the web is defined, making it possible for the web to understand and satisfy the requests of people and machines to use the web content.” Some refer to this as Web 3.0, or “using the web as what to write with.” Educause sees the development of “tools that can simply gather the context in which information is couched, and that use that context to extract imbedded meaning.” Woah. Few examples of the semantic web in higher education exist. Patrick Murray-John, an instructional technologist at the University of Mary Washington, is exploring what opportunities new tools that look treat online materials as data may have for the studying of teaching, learning, and thinking.
  • Smart Objects: “a smart object is simply any physical object that includes a unique identifier that can track information about the object.” Think about a package that’s tagged with a bar code that is scanned and allows you to track it; or the library book you have that’s way overdue. Products based on this idea are entering the consumer market, and could be used in archaeology, medicine, and in combination with Geo-Everything approaches. An example being developed by researchers at the University of Florida would continuously monitor patients for a variety of conditions as they went about their normal lives.

We’re pleased to be included in a report of this magnitude, and to see such a wide variety of innovative deployments of technology. These are interesting times!

In Which We Provide the Butt for Your Jokes

Click to See Full Size

Click to See Full Size

According to The Gothamist, the flyer on the right was scattered around the campus of New York University last week.

The flyer announced NYU’s “In and Of the City Financial Aid Plan,” in which students who were unable to fork out 50k/year were told their families could save more than $43k annually if they instead attended CUNY.

Turns out the thing was a fake, produced by a group that calls itself “Students Creating Radical Change,” who “made up the flyer to encourage discussion about NYU’s treatment of its students, and to encourage students to question their university’s priorities.”  Essentially, the group protests that NYU does not provide sufficient financial support for its students, and focuses instead on expansionist behavior in the real estate market.

The letter to The Gothamist in which the students claim responsibility ends: “Oh, one other thing: we have nothing against CUNY. We just thought a ‘go to CUNY’ plan would make a neat flier. In fact, CUNY is facing its own financial problems these days – check out http://www.cunysocialforum.com/ for info on the student resistance to budget cuts and tuition hikes in the state higher-ed system.”

I might rant about the fetishization of protest embodied by this episode, which is more performative Yippie distractionism than the purposeful speaking of truth to power.  I might compare the postscript about CUNY to the utterances of folks who use phrases like “I have lots of black friends” or “I don’t mean to cast aspersions” when saying objectionable things.  I might snark about grammatical errors contained within the group’s statement, or attack the snobby implication that to go to CUNY is to slum it.

The fact of the matter is, especially in this economy, the group has a point (even if it isn’t really their point).  The cost of NYU is ridiculous, and is an education there really 8-10 times better than what one could get at CUNY?  From anecdotal evidence, applications for early admission to the Macaulay Honors College are up more than 30% from last year.  I think it’s pretty safe to say we’ll see an increase in CUNY and SUNY enrollments over the next couple of years.

So, give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.  I’m not sure there’s that big a difference between an underpaid adjunct teaching a course with 40 students and and an underpaid adjunct teaching a course with 55 students.  Bring it on.

h/t BooneBGorges