CORRESPONDENCErnLetter FromrnNew Yorkrnby Robert BermanrnThe Asphalt LeaguernIn his 1942 swan song. The NewrnLeviathan, dying British philosopherhistorianrnR.G. Collingwood called thernlife of the mind “a magic journey.” Remarkablyrnfree of illusions regarding thernlife of the university, however, Collingwoodrnargued for “domesticating” professors,rnrather than being subject to them.rnBut things have only gotten worse sincernthen. Whether “public” or “private,” today’srnuniversity might more aptly berntermed an “antiversity,” where reason,rnscience, evidence, and debate are heldrnin Thrasymachean contempt, while repression,rnprivilege, pseudo-science, andrnviolence are lionized. Public and privaterncampuses alike are dominated by massiverngovernment subsidy and coercion.rnThis is particularly true in New York.rnTake, for example, the City Universityrnof New York (CUNY). With the departurernlast September of CUNY’s embatdedrnchancellor, W. Ann Reynolds, somernobservers thought this once great institution,rnwith an enrollment of 210,000 students,rnmight yet be reformed from within.rnThe 20,000 full-time employees whornlive large at the taxpayers’ expense inrnCUNY’s $4.4 billion-a-year patronagernmill have had a generation to consolidaternthe culture of failure established inrn1970 with the policy of “open admissions.”rnA bread-and-circuses response tornfears of black race riots, open admissionsrnguaranteed acceptance at CUNY to everyrngraduate of New York Cit)”s publicrnschools.rnCUNY’s Asphalt League of urbanrnhigher education will be reformed fromrnwithout, or not at all. Among the obstaclesrnto internal reform are “bilingual”rn(read: English-free) Hostos Communit}’rnCollege. Over 65 percent of CUNY’srnstudents at four-year colleges, and 87 percentrnof its community college students,rnfail tenth and llth-grade-level examinationsrnand require remediation in reading,rnwriting, and/or madr. The communityrncollege graduation rate is 1.3 percentrnafter two years, and the seniorrncollege rate under nine percent afterrnfour years. Thousands of “college-level”rncourses require no English fluency,rnwhile hundreds of classes are given entirelyrnin Spanish. Activist professors seekrnto abolish all grading and all testing inrnEnglish. CUNY alumni have the lowestrnpassing rates on law boards and teacherrncertification exams (yet comprise oer 80rnpercent of the cih’s public school teachers,rnand continue teaching despite failingrnthe exam) in the state of New York.rnStudent and staff goons routinely intimidaternfaculty, students, and administrators.rnThe adjunct “gypsies” who comprisern75 percent of CUNY’s facult)’ arernexploited and abused. Administratorsrnand professors assume the racial inferiorityrnof the black and Hispanic studentsrnwho make up 80 percent of CUNY’srnstudent bod-. Finall)’, CUNY leadersrnvehementiy oppose students on welfarernperforming even 20 hours a week ofrnworkfare activ ity. All of these problemsrnderive from open admissions and its underlyingrnwelfare mentalit}’.rnConfronted in 1993 with a tearful, angryrnwhite woman who had just flunked arnremedial reading final for the secondrnconsecutive semester, I realized whyrnsuch courses are a waste of time and taxpayers’rnmoney. Asde from their childishrnlevel, thev assume that reading is somernsort of specialized skill, like welding, asrnopposed to a way of hfe. Meanwhile,rnreading courses are geared towards “students”rnwho are indifferent or hostile tornthe w ritten word. The most prolific readingrntextbook writer, John Langan, andrnthe department heads who assign Langan’srnbooks, refuse to admit that you cannotrnteach welding to people who are anti-rnwelding. CUNY’s defenders insist thatrnpeople who despise the intellect have arn”right” to a higher education.rnAny slender hopes I still held out forrninternal reform were dashed upon encounteringrnneoconservative “reformers”rnwithin CUN”s ranks. Just as muldculturalistsrnthink that quoting Brazilian pedagoguernPaulo Freire makes them revolutionaries,rnneoconservatives think thatrndropping Allan Bloom’s name will makernthem classicists. At an almost emptyrnmeeting of the predominandy neoconservativernNational Association of Scholars,rna request by CUNY Vice-ChancellorrnHerman Badillo (a CW College of NewrnYork alumnus) that reform-minded instructorsrnresearch their schools’ practicesrninspired only a complaint from a tenuredrnBrooklyn College professor that the demandsrnof teaching four courses perrnsemester and sitting on the odd committeernwere giving full-timers “heart conditions.”rnThese slackers have lifetime jobs,rnpaying $60,000 to $110,000 per year,rnplus ample benefit and pension packages,rnfor perhaps a 40-hour week—withrnfive months’ vacation time!rnThe professor responded to Badillo,rn”We have to work here,” explainingrnthat some students might not appreciaternbeing criticized by their instructors.rnCUNY’s full-time professoriate is composedrnof genteel OPU (overpriced pri-rnN’ate universitv) educated “aristocrats” ofrnall colors who look upon their studentsrnalternately with terror and condescendingrnfascination. Full-timers panderrnshamelessly to—and pass—student bidlies,rnsometimes sicking them on colleagues.rnYet seeing their students as geneticallyrninferior punks is essentialrnto maintaining full-timers’ fragile selfesteem.rnCUN’*!’ adjimets are paid an average ofrn$2,300 per course on a piecework basisrn(still twice as much as many New Yorkbasedrnadjuncts make at New Jerseyrnschools), receive no benefits, and mustrnhustle every semester anew for work.rn(CUNY once commonly hired its ownrnalumni as full-time faculty, but now almostrnnever does.) Ruthless departmentrnheads routinely make empty promises ofrnwork to some adjuncts, while other adjunctsrnquit just as a new semester begins,rnor walk out on ongoing classes. Recently,rna full-timer at Bronx CommunityrnCollege quit hvo weeks before midterms.rnAt the replacement teacher’s first class,rna late-arriving, 240-pound black manrnwho refused to identify himself lecturedrnthe white professor, “You got an attitude!”rnThe following morning, a studentrnsobbed to the department’s secretar)’ thatrnshe had flimked the same course, a graduationrnrequirement, under two separaternprofessors the previous semester. Certainrnthat the new man would turn tailrnand run (he didn’t), she feared she wouldrnnever graduate. The professor’s blackrnfemale department head then sought tornhumiliate him in front of his students.rn38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn