BY ALEX BERTSCH firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Blackhurst isn’t your friend. I know this may come off as contentious or rude or even needlessly confrontational, however, I believe this is something every single student, faculty member and staff member at MSUM needs to acknowledge. Anne Blackhurst does not, and cannot, support your goals, and you cannot change this fact by working with her and pretending that you all have the same goals.
I don’t mean to say that Anne Blackhurst is a bad person. She might be a very nice person; I don’t know her well enough to say. She could be a saint, and it would not change the fact that she cannot be your friend, and she cannot support your goals. Her role as the president of MSUM means that no matter how nice she is, or how much she likes you, she cannot be your friend. The nature of power and class struggle restricts her from ever being able to occupy both roles congruently.
For the sake of explanation, let’s say there are three classes at MSUM; the Students, the Staff and Faculty, and the Administration . Students want to receive a high quality education and pay as little tuition as possible in doing so. Staff and Faculty want to be able to do their jobs as effectively as possible, while being paid as much as possible to do their jobs. Administration wants to balance the budget and effectively serve the goals of those higher up than them, the MnSCU system and Chancellor Devinder Malhotra, who in turn serves the State, and the State is not interested in funding institutions of higher education.
On the surface of it, it may seem that the goals of the Students to pay as little as possible and Faculty and Staff to be paid as much as possible are in direct conflict. However, if the State was willing to fully pay Faculty and Staff, while charging Students no tuition (which is something they would be able to do), there would be no conflict. Any conflict between these two classes is wholly generated by the State, and, thus, those in Administration who serve the State.
Administration’s goals of serving the State puts them in direct conflict with Students, Faculty and Staff, and because Anne Blackhurst is a member of the Administration class, she cannot be an ally or a friend to anyone in the other classes without one of them betraying their class.
This is why, even while she bemoans the “need” for budget cuts at MSUM, she fails to criticize the people who underfund schools. She would rather see dozens of hardworking Faculty and Staff laid off, and the programs they taught in get shut down, than properly fund their colleges and universities. Blackhurst treats the lack of funding like it is a universal truth that no one had input on, rather than the deliberate decision that it is.
While Students, Faculty and Staff may think that it is ghoulish to fire people, cut programs, and then raise tuition the next year, no matter how much she says that she does, Anne Blackhurst doesn’t care. She doesn’t serve Students, Faculty and Staff. She serves the people above her, who made the decisions that led to these cuts. She cannot listen to Students, Faculty and Staff because they don’t control her salary.
However, you shouldn’t have to grasp this theoretical jargon about class struggle to understand that Anne Blackhurst is not on your side. As miner and labor organizer “Big Bill” Haywood once said, “I’ve never read Marx’s Capital, but I got the marks of capital all over my body.” All you need to do is look at the decisions she makes.
Anne Blackhurst could have decided not to cut programs and jobs in order to cover the budget deficit. She didn’t. Yes, the cuts likely still would have happened without her support. She probably would have lost her job and been replaced. But, she could have stood in solidarity with Students, Faculty and Staff. Instead, she decided to make the cuts and keep her comfortable position making $290,000 a year. And that should show you exactly whose side she’s on.
What Yet May Come
I didn’t write this just to gripe about the praise and respect that many wrongfully bestow upon Anne Blackhurst. I wrote this in the hopes that Students, Faculty and Staff would understand that we don’t need to be kind to Administration and work with them while they stick a knife in our backs.
I want Students, Faculty and Staff, especially those in unions and Student Senate, to understand that we don’t need to work with Administration—we need to take collective action against them.
Now, because of MSUM’s weird, fascist bylaws, I cannot encourage students to protest, so when I say that we need to make Administration uncomfortable by taking collective action, like picketing outside their homes and offices, I am in no way suggesting this as a course of action. However, I would support any form of collective action that was to be taken against Administration.
We need to stop being kind to Administration and acting like we’re all on the same team. Because at the end of the day, they know which side they’re on, and it’s not ours.