As political and racial turmoil persist on college campuses around the country, we are faced with a very real possibility: what if college students go on a prolonged strike?
Historically, when a disgruntled body of people have grievances, they resort to this labor tactic of refusing to work. Students in France, Puerto Rico, and Canada have boycotted class en masse. Although American students are not unionized, they appear organized and determined to have their issues addressed.
The most organized movement, thus far, sparking from the outrage at Yale and Mizzou, is the Million Student March. They succeeded in a number of class walkouts, but those were just a few isolated incidents. Their demands are simple:
- A $15-an-hour minimum wage for campus workers,
- Free tuition, and
- the cancelation of all student debt.
Obviously, this is ridiculous. Only a pie-in-the-sky youth with no real-world experience would believe billions of dollars in costs can evaporate with the wave of a magic wand. It is too much to expect a Queer Musicology major to understand basic economics, so we are back to the original question: What if college students go on a prolonged strike?
Will manufacturing come to a standstill? Will the stock market crash? Will patients not get proper medical care? Will there be a major downturn in professional, educational, hospitality or government services?
Well, no. But what about a dip in tuition? With tuition paid prior to a given semester, or a payment plan set in stone, this is not a concern. If you buy a four-year gym membership, then choose not to go work out, that's your problem.
These institutions have admission waiting lists a mile long, so they can refill their ranks rather quickly. Whether they have the gumption to threaten expulsion and replacement remains to be seen.
OK, so aside from the obvious PR problems, maybe striking college students would not be a terrible thing. But, lost in the hilarity of their plight is the fact that college students actually have a point - it just is not in the way they think. The whole college system is in desperate need of reform, but not because of "white privilege" or some other liberal bogeyman myth. It needs change because it often fails to accomplish the supposed basic tenet of college's purpose – namely, equipping men and women to get a better job and go farther in their career than they would without a degree.
Smart people look at every monetary decision as a cost-benefit analysis. The same needs to be true for college students. If you are planning to spend $50,000 in tuition to earn a degree in Advanced Feminist Studies, maybe you need to determine if there are real job opportunities available. But, this should be done prior to spending said money, not after. Failing to do so does not excuse students to demand their debt be canceled because they cannot find a job.
But, students are only partially to blame. When the college system offers inane courses with no real purpose, it does young men and women a major disservice. Courses such as these accomplish nothing: “What if Harry Potter Is Real,” “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame,” “Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond,” “Arguing with Judge Judy,” and “How To Watch Television.” When we tell students it is OK to waste their class time discussing Lady Gaga, Klingon, and Judge Judy – how can we expect them to be valuable contributors to society?
There is something to be said about having a few fun and easy classes to balance the workload of a difficult degree. But, what about majors? How many doors can you really open with a degree in Liberal Arts, LGBT studies, Puppetry, Sequential Art, Golf Management, Leisure Studies, Latin, or Comedic Arts? Aside from becoming a college professor that teaches one of those disciplines, there are not many recruiters looking for people with such educations.
Are college administrators laughing their asses off as they see how much money they raked in teaching Fashion Design - and at students who think they will be the next Calvin Klein, but end up working at JCPenney for the next 20 years? Yeah, probably. If not, they should. Then, hang their heads in shame for ripping off gullible youths.
There is a higher-education bubble in this country. These recent protests indicate that its bursting is inevitable and coming soon. Loans will continue to go unpaid. The magnification of this trend will only increase. People considering college are getting the message. Students will eventually stop paying exorbitant costs for useless degrees. Colleges and universities will adjust because they must. It is simple economics.
Protesting students have started a revolution that was bound to occur. But, their demands for free stuff should go unheeded. The final result will come through a difficult process, but it will be better for the educational system and the country as a whole.