“Oregon’s largest university.”
Indeed. Not Oregon’s finest, most diverse, oldest or most respected university, but it is the largest. That’s something you say when there’s nothing better to say – sort of the equivalent of, “Well, she’s got a great personality!” However, this slogan is indicative of the general direction in which our fair alma mater is headed, perhaps inexorably.
This is my fourth year here at PSU, and every year I’ve watched tuition go up while financial aid goes down. Brilliant professors like Ridwan Nytagodien are shown the door for daring to challenge PSU to live up to its posturing of diversity and inclusion, while bright-eyed 23-year-old English lit grad students teach University Studies classes on Asian politics and history. Geographers teach political science, then claim to be “unqualified” to defend assertions they make in class.
While in the midst of a budget crunch, gleaming new dormitories rise up over Broadway and Sixth Avenue, vacant storefronts leering suggestively from their base like empty eye sockets. These wannabe Pearl District paeans to profligacy, these architectural celebrations of blatant disregard for current student needs, are beehives of $700-per-month cells just waiting for the tide of wealthy and oh-so-lucrative international students who will (fingers crossed!) fill them.
My favorite new addition has got to be the “renovation” of the Smith Center. I don’t know about you, but I have been anxiously pacing the halls for years now, wondering when the Food Court was going to be redone. And the meeting rooms on the second floor: atrocious! And while you’re at it, knock out a few walls in the convenience store on the first floor, put in a lovely new wood floor (which my friend scarred badly on its first day of use while delivering Pepsi, so I hear) and skew those aisles diagonally. The feng shui is ever so much better now. Don’t focus on the fact that there’s not a single new product, focus on the pretty new cashier’s station!
Focus on the fact that the conveniently located little coffee and pizza shop on the corner across the hall is now gone and has been replaced by thermoses, paper cups and boxes of brightly colored tea. But if you still want espresso, and don’t want to walk through the rain to a coffee shop off-campus, feel free to stand in line with all the folks waiting for bagels. Hell, if you’re lucky, a group of visiting high school students might barge through the inch-wide space left for egress and spill your peach lemon passion fruit decaf rooibos/green tea blend all over your new BCBG hoodie.
Hey, this is the college experience we’ve heard so much about. These are the best years of our lives, remember? What am I doing bitching and moaning? So what if my tuition is ever ascendant, but every class I need to take is booked to the gills and only offered once every two years because they can’t afford to hire professors to teach them? There are only so many ex-poetry majors to go around to teach these classes, right?
Ah, PSU, how we love thee. What’s not to love? Look at it this way, friends: We are here at school, most of us, to learn the skills we will need to move on in life cheerfully accumulating capital, cars and kids. It’s all about money, right?
PSU is teaching by example. In its voracious pursuit of “growth,” the university has time and again sold out those of us unfortunate enough to be going here now, and not in 10 years, but they’ve done so with the 퀨͌_ber-American motivation in mind: profits, baby!
And when we hear that our school wants to buy up chunks of land across the 405, or to nearly double enrollment (because there’s way more than enough quality education to go around as it is) over the next decade, we can rest assured that those with the power to make these decisions are continuing to do so with the forethought, wisdom and compassion which they have brought to bear on every decision they’ve made.
Remember the parable of the scorpion and the frog; it’s their nature. Don’t be surprised. And if it makes me sick to see the perversion of an institution ostensibly dedicated to education and service to the city, it must be that I just don’t get it. Who the fuck do I think I am, anyway?