Thursday, January 28, 2010

Paula Varsavsky's Visit

Paula Varsavsky is a very good Argentinean writer. I invited her to speak to my students this coming February, and the whole Department was very eager to see her here. I included her short story as required reading in my courses. The plan was to have the students read the text and then give them a chance to meet the author and speak to her. Paula is a very good speaker, and I know they would have loved listening to her. Everybody was really looking forward to this.

Today, however, I had to disappoint my students. I told them that the writer's visit to our university has been cancelled bacause of the budget freeze. The budget for Paula Varsavsky's visit was actually very very modest. The writer offered to limit the budget even more, but all to no avail. We are not allowed to spend even a dollar on such an important cultural activity.

I can't begin to tell you how frustrating this is. The students would have benefited from this in a variety of important ways. When I heard the President say in his yesterday's State of the Union address that universities need to start cutting spending, I thought how sad it is that we have to give up on such important cultural activities - which also cost next to nothing - while there is always money to send more troops all over the world and the Pentagon does not see even a tiny little cut in its spending.

They call it a "freeze" and a "cash flow problem." I know from sad experience, however, that when an institution gets into the practice of cutting funding for cultural and educational events, it's very hard to get it back on track. The efforts to kill the Humanities have been going on for a while. They started long before anybody even heard of the current economic crisis. I feel that this particular crisis is just an excuse that is being used to continue the assault on Humanities.

And more than anything in the world I hate having to deprive my students of the educational experiences they deserve.


Anonymous said...

Can you still make all the photocopies you need? If so, then don't complain. We've got it worse than you do at our school. It feels like we've got it worse than everybody else, to tell the truth.

And hell yeah, I can relate to the frustration.

MJ said...

You should get your students to complain en masse. That might do some good with the administration.

Clarissa said...

I'm actually hoping they will complain. This is too ridiculous for words. Our budget was really tiny. Compared to the benefits of this event, it's truly negligible.

It's not the school's fault, though. The Governor is the one who froze spending.

Thank you for the commiseration, Anonymous. We are still kind of OK with the copies. (Knocking on wood furiously.)

JTR said...

Well if the author really cared she would do it for free. Trey Parker, the creator of the t.v. show South Park, recently flow out and spoke to a university for no charge. He said you shouldn't have to pay to learn something. Kind of ironic because of the ridiculous tuition prices for colleges.

Anonymous said...

If I were Trey Parker, I could afford to be demagogic. He is making good money out of South Park. Not all the writers are as wealthy as he is.

However, we have to wonder where tuition money goes. There is a ridiculous gap between the amount of money invested in Sciences and in the Humanities. Ridiculous.

I vividly remember when filmakers and writers went to give talk in my undergraduate classes. They were key moments in my intellectual formation. It's sad to see that such activities are in danger.