Resisting Corporate Education: Is "Business Productivity" Coming to the University of Texas?

Search form

Resisting Corporate Education: Is "Business Productivity" Coming to the University of Texas?

Resisting Corporate Education: Is "Business Productivity" Coming to the University of Texas?
Tue, 6/11/2013 - by Reihaneh Hajibeigi

Educational institutions are no longer safe from the reaches of profiteers. For the University of Texas at Austin, the “Smarter Systems for a Greater UT” is the newest move by the administration to treat the university not as a school but rather as a business.

Introduced early this year by UT President Bill Powers as a way for the university to survive state budget cuts, the school's so-calledBusiness Productivity Initiative seeks to foster an educational system that is “reformed and always reforming.” In his January 29 speech, Powers said business operations and efficiency have always been a part of UT’s story and that the ideas proposed by 13 business leaders would save the university as much as $490 million over a decade.

But if we correctly consider businesses as organizations that work contrary to the interests of most people -- in this case especially, the consumers -- then Powers will achieve his goal. The Business Productivity Initiative will harm students greatly, in addition to faculty and workers.

According to Powers and his team, the plan will help run the university using less resources. Currently the state only funds 13 percent of UT’s costs, which is a problem in itself. But rather than prioritize the necessary costs of the university, the administration has turned to outsourcing all non-academic functions of the university in order to save money.

For concerned students like computer science sophomore Mukund Rathi, this is an issue that should not be overlooked by the community.

“Education is a public good, and the more selective it becomes, the more selective our success prospects will become,” Rathi said. “This plan takes education out of the right hands and into the hands of businessmen.”

The report is the epitome of the 1 percent ruling the 99 percent, Rathi added.

“The committee’s chairman is from Accenture, and this company’s negative effect on Texas’ food-stamp program shows what happens when businessmen are in charge.”

Active protesters like Rathi and UT senior Michelle Uche said it is necessary to bring as much attention to the university's profiteering efforts as possible.

“When this plan is implemented at UT, it will show other universities that they can also do whatever they want to cut costs while making a profit,” Uche said. “The administration says that it will save money, but the president never talks about the actual math of the report or what the human toll will be.”

In the plan, three areas of the University of Texas system will be targeted: Asset Utilization, Technology Commercialization and Administrative Service Transformation. Each of the areas has a group of either students, faculty, staff -- or even all three -- that will be penalized in the push to save costs.

“Asset Utilization” focuses directly on UT’s constituents, and introduces ways to make greater profits from parking, food and housing. It was noted at the start of the plan's business report that these areas are functioning well enough for the UT community and do not require change. Yet the Smarter Systems measure would either raise the prices to “market rates” – rates that are found in competitive industries outside the UT campus – or privatize those services altogether, putting them into the hands of companies not directly associated with the university.

Having their food, parking and basic living costs increase would put further strain on already cash-strapped students, and would also result in significant worker layoffs – a projected 64 percent in reduction in food and housing staff at the university.

The plans for “Technology Commercialization” and “Administrative Services Transformation” would consolidate and prioritize the school's academic departments. Once the plan is implemented, research initiatives will be evaluated and the ones that are deemed most profitable in various industries will be moved to the top of the funding list. This means liberal arts majors and departments will be given minimal funding if the benefits of those studies aren't seen as being profitable to UT.

Consolidation within information technology services may indeed save the university money after layoffs go into effect, but limiting access to these services will hinder students' and faculty’s ability to correct tech problems quickly.

Rathi said UT community members need to care about the impacts of a plan that will be directly affecting their livelihoods. Until now, though, the administration is successfully pulling off the heist without outrage from students, faculty or workers.

“The simple fact is that ‘privatization’ means that instead of socializing the costs of education to society, to which the benefits of education would ultimately flow when we graduate and get jobs, the costs will be privatized to individuals and their families,” Rathi said.

“This is a plan to save money, but they don’t bother to explain to us how they plan on doing this.”

Article Tabs

Dozens of ranchers, farmers and Native Americans calling themselves the Cowboy and Indian Alliance rode into D.C. on horseback to set up camp in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.

A new report shows that top C.E.O.'s were paid 331 times more than the average U.S. worker in 2013, and the poorest fifth of Americans paid twice the average tax rate as the richest 1%.

Jeremy Rifkin's new book, "The Zero Marginal Cost Society," brings welcome attention to the Commons – which lies at the heart of a major cultural and social shift now underway.

Unrestrained data collection by private companies and the government is threatening the very nature of how the Internet – and, likewise, the companies that populate it – was intended to run.

Naveed Shinwari hasn’t seen his wife in 26 months. He suspects it’s because he refused to become an informant for the FBI.

Revolts are shaking the world, bursting in the most unexpected places, but they rarely take power. Is the big explosion still coming?

Posted 6 days 7 hours ago

The Vermont Senate passed a bill to require labeling on all GMO foods sold in the state – signaling a wave of nationwide victories against the Gene Giants may be underway.

Posted 6 days 7 hours ago

A new Cold War has arisen between Russia and the U.S. over the future of Ukraine.

Posted 3 days 7 hours ago

From climate change to Crimea, the natural gas industry is supreme at exploiting crisis for private gain.

Posted 6 days 7 hours ago

A right-wing Canadian outfit funded by the Kochs wants to privatize the Canadian health care system – and Prime Minister Stephen Harper is now steering policy that way.

Posted 6 days 9 hours ago

Based on today's beautiful CIA women triumphing on TV and film, it seems that elite spies don’t inhabit the same universe with enlisted women who get raped just for being military.

If the Spanish financial sector was the main actor involved in the housing bubble and it got a $50 billion bailout, isn't it logical to ask that that sector receive the “austerity treatment” instead of the whole society? Here's how change is going to happen.

Wal-Mart, one of the country's largest corporations, is selling Occupy Wall Street posters online. The company has itself been the target of demonstrations advocating for higher wages. On sale are large, panoramic posters of protesters camped out at Zuccotti Park in New York City, where the movement started in 2011.

Declassified tapes of President Lyndon Johnson's telephone calls allow us to hear his private conversations as the Democratic Party tore itself apart over the question of Vietnam.

Seven States to Sue the EPA

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and a seven-state coalition of seven states announced it will sue the EPA for violating the Clean Air Act by failing to address methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry.

Sign Up