Myths are alive and well. One of the most pervasive myths, along with the one that says clergy only work on Sundays, is the concept that educators take the summer off. Undoubtedly some do, but the summer is traditionally the time for professors to conduct research without having to break up their concentration with several classes a day. Those were the halcyon days. This morning’s newspaper slapped me like a fistful of razors as I read the story of Rutgers University’s president’s resignation. I knew about the resignation, but being fumblingly employed part-time by his mighty university, and having to take annual ethics training for the pittance I’m allowed, I blanched as I read these two sentences: “McCormick earns $550,000 a year as president and is eligible for a $100,000 yearly bonus, though he hasn’t taken the money in recent years due to the university’s budget troubles. Ralph Izzo, chairman of the board of governors, said he thought McCormick would be worth his [continued] $334,000 professor’s salary.” A few pages later the headline tells how Chris Christie, New Jersey’s cut and bleed governor, took a state helicopter ride to get to his son’s baseball game. Also, he wants to prevent state employees from making a viable living.
In this twilight zone of an educational nightmare, a guy with professional ethics training just wants to close his eyes and make it all go away. For what are we educating our young if not for greed? What professor is worth more than 100,000 dollars to any university? In the old days, back with ethics had intestinal fortitude, the term for such folks was “sell outs.” Is there really any drive for excellence at such pay scales? It is no wonder we are raising the “entitlement generation.” Actions used to speak louder than words. State-mandated ethics training has now corrected that little oversight. Higher education used to be about ideas; today it’s “show me the money.”
The truly sad part of all this is that we keep pretending. We preach the myth to a public easily pacified and crucify those who beg to differ. Back in my Nashotah House days a trustee once hushed me so that the board might listen to a student with “fire in his belly.” My belly’s a blackened cinder by now. Is anybody listening? Mythology, particularly in the Greek world, revolves around the concept of hubris. It is a concept with which modern university folk are clearly unfamiliar. It goes something like this: like most people I think I am better than others. In order to prove it, I’ll increase my blandishments until there is no longer any doubt. Is that Olympus straight ahead? I might as well take that as well!
I’d love to stay and lecture some more, but I’m apparently entitled to more state ethics training.