Preventative maintenance has fallen through the cracks.
“Why do they treat us this way?” asked one student. Oakland’s Laney College, called “The Flagship” of the Peralta Community College District, is a source of pride in the Oakland community which relies on Laney for accessible education. But so many aspects of this complex institution are dysfunctional or don’t work at all that growing numbers of students, faculty and staff are increasingly outraged.
There is growing ferment on campus to demand that the school work the way it should, to carry on the human right to education. People don’t understand why they have worked and struggled (for decades in some cases) to correct infrastructure problems, yet there is no plan for preventive maintenance on kitchens, classrooms and even restrooms.
Students talk about where to find a working, supplied restroom. Faculty are told that “if we fund more custodians and maintenance engineers, it will come out of faculty salaries.” The school loses enrollment because it’s hard to get assessment and counseling appointments required to enroll, and just plain difficult to enroll. Then, if you don’t pay fees by two weeks before class starts, the District automatically drops you.
Why would such mismanagement be tolerated at an important educational institution? Why do state leaders such as the ACCJC (Accreditation Commission) not insist on infrastructure maintenance, but instead demand that faculty spend hours logging Student Learning Outcomes(SLOs) and assessments into data websites, where they perform little or no educational function?
Is one student’s statement, “It’s almost like we don’t matter,” prophetic of what’s to come? Do community college students and teachers matter less than billionaires?
The poisoning of the population of Flint, Michigan is on everyone’s mind these days; the people of Flint just don’t seem to matter. In fact, there seem to be lots of people in America who no longer matter, either being kicked under the rug, blamed for the country’s problems, or subjected to state violence or outright death for being the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A system that is by law dedicated to maximum profit, whose values are centered on what can be bought and what can be sold, cannot value people it can’t employ; and the country is filling up with factories which run with few or no people. Unemployable people don’t matter. Facing sinking profits in manufacturing, the public sector is being reshaped to fit the needs of corporations, whether by declaring austerity in public education or raking in big bucks from for-profit colleges.
Regardless of whether we matter to corporations or to a government they control, we matter to each other. Real value lies in the relationships between human beings, and when we stand together to demand that our schools be safe, healthy, dignified places of study, we begin to define a new future which will place human needs above profits, and eventually end the profit system altogether, creating an economy based on cooperation and public ownership of public resources.
Previously published on The People’s Tribune.