Before I begin this piece, I want to make clear that I do not want to strike any more than my faculty and peers, but if that is what it takes for the state to listen, then I will support my professors. I am writing this article with the theories and knowledge given to me by my mentors. When reading the news both from APSCUF and PASSHE, all I can see is the money that the state wants to save; it is greedy and unfair.
We are suffering heavily as students and the faculty is as well. As of 5:01 a.m. on Wednesday, faculty have gone without pay and without health care. If the faculty were truly selfish (as they are made out to be) and out to make more money, this strike would not be happening.
In my last year as an undergrad, we read excerpts from Karl Marx’s works, which I urge you to read and to make of it what you will, and it was in that class and reading where I took some information that I will never impart with. Capitalism is not inherently abusive, but it is the way that the power (bourgeoisie) takes advantage of the system that is horrific.
This capitalistic mindset is “get as rich as you can with as much work from workers and pay them as little as you can” and it is objectifying. How so? As Marx explains, through various class roles we have always had a system of the “oppressed” and the “oppressor.” If we look back to these roles, we can see how it has reinvented itself over the years. With the industrial revolution came the notion that people could be replaced by efficient and quick machines, emphasizing quantity over quality that very much hurt the blue collar workers. He tells us that “society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other—Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.”
The power makes the profit and the exploited workers monetized. In ‘The Communist Manifesto,’ among other famous works by Marx, he tells us that there is a distinction of “Haves and Have Nots” and the ones on top benefit from the work of the ones underneath. The biggest problem that occurs is that these workers are objectified—literally turned into an object. The bourgeoisie makes them work as many hours possible while giving them as little as possible. It is basically work until you can’t stand, eat just enough to stay alive, sleep enough to stay alive, and then go back to work. Is that really an existence at all?
We think of the human condition as one capable of deep thought, feeling and expression. When you are surviving on the basic minimum, there is not time or ability for these qualities that make us human. The lives of these exploited workers are shorter lived and when they drop of exhaustion, the broken cog is replaced with another one.
There are more and more cogs that can be replaced. While these machines barely live, the bourgeoisie profit immensely from this abuse and sacrifice. It is easy to distance yourself from someone when you take away their humanity because they become inanimate objects without thought or feeling; this objectification is clearly dangerous and these people turn into property owned by the bourgeoisie.
My fear is that when I see and read about the situation between the faculty and state system, I see the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat. I see Chancellor Frank Brogan getting an $80,000 raise when a lot of professors are not even breaking three figures (think I am wrong? Check it out online where you can see professor salaries). This fight is not just about money, even though the faculty need to support themselves and their families. It is about the state morphing into a bourgeoisie and taking the profit while they are trying to force the professors to do more work for the same amount or less.
They want to increase distance education. By taking us out of the classrooms and putting us online, they are distancing us from the personal and mentoring relationship we have with our professors. If they have more and more hours, how can they invest all they have when they have nothing left to give from the start?
This affects us as well. I am continually inspired by the way that my professors have cared about me and by the way they have sacrificed their own comfort, energy and money for us. We are their students, not degree gaining machines.
The state is trying to get our money and then pump us out for more money. It is the development we gain as humans capable of higher learning that we gain from our professors that changes our futures. They pass off the torch and let us take over. This is more than, “What will happen to me?” This is the human condition and the question, “What will happen to our future?”.