December 19, 2014
Yesterday a group of faculty and staff here at UNM viewed Ivory Tower (2014), filmmaker Andrew Rossi’s critical look at the costs and benefits of colleges and universities in the United States today. http://www.takepart.com/ivorytower At 90 minutes, the documentary by necessity glosses over many issues (the adjunct instructor crisis and sexual assaults on campus, to name two) and simplifies others: rising college costs can’t really be explained by college presidents’ high salaries or fancy gym facilities, as annoying as these costs are. However, the film does highlight the unprecedented and crushing debt that many, many college graduates face, a debt that makes students and parents more “consumer-minded” and more apt to view college as a business transaction and less a chance for self transformation and the pursuit of knowledge.
What was heartening, for many of us watching the film yesterday, was the articulateness of the students themselves – students at diverse institutions such as ASU, Deep Springs, Cooper Union, and Spelman, as well as students who are part of the “uncollege” movement of young people learning on their own in a communal setting. http://www.penguin.com/book/hacking-your-education-by-dale-j-stephens/9780399159961 College students are stressed and scared, but some of them are using this energy to challenge their conditions and even create new alternatives. I’m grateful to be working at a university where in-state tuition and the “lottery scholarship” means greater access and less debt for our students.
What were your reactions to the film?
* Those who do not end up graduating face even worse consequences since they have the debt without the diploma.