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.
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.