So many people are writing about what is happening in Missouri, and rightly so. Many familiar contexts are playing out—what it means for sports, for universities, for protest and how quickly the powers that be can neuter it—but as an observer from afar, I will only attempt to make the loosest of connections here. If I could latch onto a single truth among many that I see there, it’s this:
A number of Missouri students, faculty, and staff demanded that their system President actually stand for something.
A quick look at the list of demands makes this breathtakingly obvious. Let’s just say that, when finally raising their voices, “the needs of business,” “nimble flexovation,” and “the 21st century global blah blah blah” weren’t highly prioritized. In short, there is a truly human agenda: quality of life, inclusion, healthcare, social justice, spending more on important resources.
Which brings me back to the UW System.
I’ve long felt conflicted about how much anger I should reserve for the system President, or any system President of a public system—being angry at such people is like being mad at the Queen of England. We’re essentially talking about well-paid middle management whose main purpose is to enact the wishes of the true sources of power: state legislatures and their financial backers. So the Missouri protests trained a good amount of focus on individuals (the President, Chancellor), who quickly became compensated fall guys for their role in assuring that a change in personnel is synonymous with structural change, which it isn’t. (This is what people mean when they say that things like gender discrimination are systemic—the system survives the individuals who participate.) Any incoming President in Missouri will be vetted to insure they can say the right things, repackage the status quo, and most importantly, ensure that football continues (i.e. the appropriate people get paid; the Romney people from Bain will be at this week’s BYU game, after all). But the situation is still unfolding, and maybe such quick managerial touch-ups will also be rejected. Continue reading “UW Struggle: Missouri Thinkblog Edition”