Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In UMass an Obama plan

Perhaps some of you have already seen the following news item:

University of Massachusetts officials on Monday quashed efforts by an Amherst campus chaplain to offer two college credits to any student willing to campaign in New Hampshire this fall for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama...

Chaplain Kent Higgins told students... that an unnamed "sponsor" in the university's history department would offer a two-credit independent study for students willing to canvass — identify supporters — or volunteer on behalf of the Democratic nominee.

University officials disavowed the effort after inquiries Monday by The Associated Press. They said it could run afoul of state ethics laws banning on-the-job political activity, as well as university policy.

"We do not engage in or sponsor partisan political activity," said Audrey Alstadt, chairwoman of the history department. "We certainly do not give academic credit for participation in partisan politics." - Click
here to read in full.

But have you seen this one yet?

Excerpted from the University of Massachusetts' Daily Collegian - The article, apparently, was addressed to the University's student body:
Barack Obama has a plan to fix the tax system in this country. He would raise the capital gains tax from 15 percent to 28 percent, set the rate for estates of more than $1 million to 55 percent, raise the income tax for those earning over $200,000 to 36 percent and of some higher brackets to nearly 40 percent of an individual's income. No longer, he says, should the tax burden be laid on those who earn modest incomes. We need to further progressivize our tax system so that the rich pay more and redistribution of benefits becomes a higher priority.

Since the overwhelming majority of University of Massachusetts students will undoubtedly vote for Obama, I'm confident most of you will find yourselves in agreement with the following, consistent with Obama's plan for the country: a New Deal for UMass.

I propose the institution of a progressive grading system here at UMass Amherst. The wealthiest of earners would have a certain percentage of their hard earned GPA points taken by school administrators to be redistributed to students in need of more stable grade-point averages for the greater collective good. The growth of grade inequality at this University is such that we can no longer allow the high earners to capitalize from their privileged positions.

Obama frequently points out the gross figures from Exxon's income of $11 billion last quarter. Exxon paid 41 percent taxes on that income. The top 1 percent of income earners in this country pays nearly 40 percent of income taxes and the top 10 pay 70 percent. It is only just for the government to jack up those taxes on high earners even further, and UMass should follow suit.

Performance in college can have implications for the rest of one's life. Do we really want to leave that up to some invisible hand to work out? Do we really want to leave the inherent biases in the grading system unaddressed by administrative oversight? We can't let this competitive dog-eat-dog mentality of every man for himself determine the trajectory of success in our students' lives. Without a safety net for those who can't make it we will continue to exemplify that evil capitalist approach that each ought to be afforded according to his ability rather than his need....

Surely ardent Barack Obama supporters know, as he reminds us in his speeches, that we are our brother's keepers and that we are loathe to simply sit and watch while our fellow UMassers fall by the wayside due to the compassionless, archaic traditions of competitive academic performance.

I mentioned my philanthropic proposal to a friend, beaming with pride at how noble and caring it would make me seem (a maverick for equality I'd hoped), and he arrogantly rejected it, claiming it was presumptuous of me to claim that the fruits of one's labor belong not to him, but to the whole of the UMass community. He excoriated that those grade points ought to be left to those who have earned them. I defiantly countered, explaining that low grade point earners can't be blamed for their status. They try hard, it just isn't their fault and it is more just to punish productive high earners for succeeding academically. I think Obama and I won that battle. This is change UMass can believe in.
in full