Showing posts with label food insecurity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food insecurity. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

UC's Janet Napolitano and Harvard's Drew Faust are silly, little people: Doing nothing to ease the suffering of college-loan debtors

In the scene at the water well in Lawrence of Arabia, Sherif Ali (played by Omar Sharif) gallops across the shimmering desert on a camel and shoots an Arab from a rival tribe for the petty offense of drinking from Sherif Ali's well.

T.E. Lawrence, a British officer played by Peter O'Toole, is outraged and rails against Sherif Ali's senseless violence against a fellow Arab. "So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe," Lawrence tells Sherif Ali, "so long will they be a little people, a silly people--greedy, barbarous, and cruel, as you are."

Today it seems that Americans are dividing into warring tribes--left against right, red against blue, progressives against conservatives. And this tribal warfare is causing us to descend to being little and silly people.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at our elite universities, where academic leaders engage in political posturing over petty issues while saying nothing about the suffering experienced by millions of student-loan debtors.

Here is an example. Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California, recently pledged $302,000 to expand food pantries at 10 UC campuses to help in the fight against "food insecurity" among college students.

I fully support food pantries for anyone who needs food. But Napolitano's gift, stretched over two years, is a pittance.  In fact, it amounts to only 5 percent of Napolitano's personal compensation over a two-year period.

Has Napolitano said anything about the suffering experienced by student-loan debtors in California? Has she tried to lower tuition costs at UC? Has she spoken out in favor of bankruptcy relief for student debtors who have been dragged down by massive debt they can never repay? Has she publicly criticized the for-profit colleges that have exploited so many low SES and minority students in the Sunshine State?

I don't think so. In fact, Napolitano once referred to student complaints about UC tuition hikes as "this crap."

How about Drew Faust, who pulled down nearly $1.5 million in total compensation while president of Harvard and who pocketed another $200,000 in cash and stock for serving on the Board of Directors of Staples? She sanctioned single-sex social clubs at Harvard--clubs that Harvard does not even recognize. But who gives a damn about privileged college boys and their private clubs?

Has Faust said or done anything to help solve the student-loan crisis?  No, she has not.

In fact, I don't think any president of an elite American university has uttered a peep about the for-profit colleges, insane tuition prices, or the total disregard for college students who have borrowed themselves out of the middle-class in order to obtain wildly overvalued college degrees.

I don't think any of these pompous academics have directed their institutions' lobbyists to put pressure on Congress to reform the bankruptcy laws so that insolvent college borrowers can shed their student loans in bankruptcy court and get a fresh start in life.

I could be wrong about Napolitano and Faust. Maybe they've done a hell of a lot to ease the suffering of student-loan debtors. If I judged them unfairly, I will apologize; and I will send them both a $20 gift card for a meal at the Waffle House. Who knows? They might meet one of their former graduates working as a Waffle House fry cook.



References

Nanette Asimov. Many college students going hungry, need donated food groceries and food stamps. San Francisco Chronicle, November 23, 217.

Isabelle Geczy. Napolitano--"This Crap" Pays Your $570,000 base salary. The Bottom Line, April 1, 2015.

John S. Rosenberg. Harvard Discloses Leaders' Compensation, Harvard Magazine, May 12, 1027.

John S. Rosenberg. Harvard Imposes Single-Gender Social Club Sanctions. Harvard Magazine, December 5, 2017.

 

 

 


 



 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

UC Berkeley students on food stamps: Are college students really suffering from "food insecurity"?

According to the media, more and more college students are going hungry.  Many universities are organizing food pantries to feed students suffering from "food insecurity."

The San Francisco Chronicle reported recently that more than 500 UC Berkeley students have applied for food stamps so far this year--up from only 111 during all of 2016. Thousands of UC Berkeley students rely on the university's food pantry; 1,549 students obtained donated food there during the month of September alone.

What's going on? Today, the typical college graduate is burdened with $37,000 in student loans. How can students borrow so much money to finance their studies and yet go hungry?

Here are my reflections on food insecurity at American colleges.

First, college students have struggled to feed themselves for more than a hundred years. Dorothy Day, for example, the founder of the Catholic social justice movement, wrote of going hungry during her college days at the University of Illinois back in 1914-1916. "At night," she wrote, "I could study in the university library. When I went back to my room I had to go to bed immediately, and when I was cold and hungry it was hard to get up in the morning."

I don't think Dorothy Day's college experience was atypical for her time. Even when I was in college more than 40 years ago, students heated Campbell's soup in their dorm-room popcorn poppers or made grilled cheese sandwiches by wrapping them in tinfoil and heating them with an electric iron.  And ramen noodles were a staple of many college students' diets.

As a college freshman, I recall eating at Griff's Drive-In with my dormmates on Sunday evenings, when Griff's sold hamburgers for ten cents each. We would pool our resources to buy 30 puny burgers (each garnished with exactly one pickle chip), and we would all eat about four.

Today, however, we have a new term--food insecurity--to describe students who live on limited budgets. Being food insecure doesn't mean students are starving; it just means they have too little to eat from time to time and are often forced to purchase substandard food (like Griff's hamburgers).

For example, the Chronicle featured one food insecure student who eats a typical lunch of "oatmeal, raspberries, chia seeds, flaxseeds, chocolate chips and coconut shavings, plus a spinach salad."  As Joseph Conrad might have put it, "The horror! The horror!"

And of course, college leaders would like the media to focus on their students' so-called "food insecurity" rather than the long-term suffering their graduates will experience when they try to pay off their student loans.  Maybe that's why Janet Napolitano, president of UC, pledged $302,000 to expand food pantries at UC campuses and help students sign up for food stamps.

Janet herself is not missing any meals. Her UC compensation was $3.7 million in 2014-2015, which makes UC's $302,000 contribution for food assistance seem puny in comparison.

 And the UC chancellors are doing OK as well. According to a 2016 newspaper report, nine UC chancellors received a total of $1.5 million in outside income for serving on various corporate boards during 2012-2014--that's in addition to their munificent salaries.

UC professors aren't worried about their next meal either. They draw handsome salaries, have top-notch health insurance, and expect to retire with generous pensions.

The reality is this. College students are not suffering unduly from food insecurity, even though some may be forced to eat spinach salads for lunch. Their suffering is in the future, when they graduate with massive student loan debt they can't pay back and can't discharge in bankruptcy. In fact, many college graduates will be eating ramen noodles for a long, long time.

References

Nanette Asimov. Many college students going hungry, need donated food groceries and food stamps. San Francisco Chronicle, November 23, 217.

Diana Lambert and Alexei Koseff. UC Davis chancellor apologizes, will donate textbook stock to student scholarships. Sacramento Bee, March 4, 2016. Accessible at http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/the-public-eye/article64041327.htm

Patrick McGreevy. University of California administration is paying excessive salaries and mishandling funds, state audit saysLos Angeles Times, April 25, 2017.