By Jim Hightower on December 17, 2013

We've learned from hard experience that the moral values of corporate chieftains rarely penetrate deeper than the value of their multimillion-dollar pay packages. But shouldn't we expect more from the chieftains of colleges and universities?

After all, campuses are places of erudition and enlightenment, where we hope students will absorb a bit of our society's deeper ethical principles, including our historic commitment to fairness and egalitarian justice. Yet, community college officials in my town of Austin, Texas, recently issued an edict that could've come straight out of Walmart. The headline on a newspaper story about the college's edict reads: "Adjuncts at ACC face cut in hours/School seeks to avoid paying for health care."

Of nearly 2,000 faculty members at ACC, three-fourths are "adjunct professors" who get low pay and no health care benefits. But the new Obamacare law would've finally given them a break by requiring colleges to provide health coverage to employees who work 30 hours or more a week. But the honchos of ACC -- a school with the word "community" in its name -- have snatched this basic element of human decency out of the adjunct faculty's hands by arbitrarily decreeing that none can work more than 28 hours a week.

That's a double-whammy: Not only are the college chiefs denying needed health care for the people who carry ACC's teaching load, but the sneaky cut in hours means that these poorly-paid professors will also suffer a pay cut. It's is the Walmartization of higher education, and it's happening at all levels all across the country.

Did I mention that ACC provides full health coverage for the college's president and other well-paid administrators who're nixing coverage for the adjuncts? Now isn't that a fine ethical lesson for students to absorb?

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Photo: Flickr user Community College of Vermont, creative commons licensed.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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