Militarism, Entrepreneurialism and Austerity at SU

From the September 2015 PNL #845

by Ben Kuebrich

 

Militarism, Entrepreneurialism and Austerity at SU
Ben Kuebrich
Ben is a teacher and organizer. Many members of THE General Body at SU 
contributed ideas to this piece.
In April 2008, a special issue of the Peace Newsletter analyzed the role of Syracuse University in maintaining and perpetuating US militarism and imperialism. This included discussions of the maliciously named INSCT (Institute of National Security and Counterterrorism), which began in the School of Law in 2003, and the Student Association on Terrorism and Security Analysis (SATSA). This issue continues with a similar analysis in the context of austerity, as militarism on campus has spread while education and necessary services and scholarship programs are cut.
While SU refines its mission and vision statements to reflect a sharp turn toward corporate and entrepreneurial schooling, it seeks to increase its numerous military entanglements. One of Chancellor Syverud’s recent “Fast Forward” working groups was named the “Leadership in Veterans and Military Affairs.” This group was charged with working to “ensure every aspect of SU is veteran- and military-friendly.”
The working group charge also describes how SU can “leverage our reputation... to attract funding for critical research programs that will positively impact the personal and professional lives of veterans and the military” and make SU “*the* greatest University for veterans during this time of significant opportunity.” 
As Professor Don Mitchell described in the April 2008 PNL, this parallel language between entrepreneurship and the military is hardly accidental. Mitchell describes “entrepreneurialism” as a “code word for a certain kind of neoliberal capitalism,” one that necessitates what David Harvey describes as “accumulation by dispossession.”
Accumulation by dispossession doubly links militarism and entrepreneurialism. On the one hand, the global exploitation of resources and labor requires at least the threat of violence and thus necessitates military might. On the other hand, the commonsense language of the market makes critique of these programs difficult. As Mitchell describes: “the growing cult of entrepreneurship is an increasingly important means by which US hegemony is projected, internally and around the world... the language of entrepreneurialism becomes a neutralizing language” and the “means by which imperial militaries are welcomed back into the university.” 
Look no further than the Whitman School of Management’s Defense Comptroller MBA Program, “a unique cooperative endeavor between Syracuse University and the Department of Defense,” for another concrete example of the insidious mix between the academy, the military, and neoliberal capitalism. With this mix so evident at US universities in the present day, it should come as no surprise that Dwight D. Eisenhower originally considered the phrase “academic-military-industrial complex” when he coined the “military-industrial complex” in 1961 (see The Imperial University). We hope this issue will renew and intensify the work of students, faculty, staff, and community in arguing for a university that supports peace through justice instead of submission through violence.
The articles in this issue explore militarism on campus from two angles: the normalization of the Israeli occupation of Palestine via various campus groups, and the rhetoric of empire as it is taught at a student-sponsored conference. Also in this issue is the perspective of a member of THE General Body at SU. The rest of this introduction describes the ongoing austerity measures at Syracuse University, through which we can understand the consequences of privileging military contracts over education. 
Health Care Cuts: In a brash move last spring, the university announced that it would bounce all graduate assistants and teaching assistants from the employee healthcare plan, resulting in healthcare cost increases in the thousands of dollars per year for many graduate student employees.
Scholarship Cuts: In 2014 Syracuse University broke its contract with the POSSE Foundation, a program that recruited student leaders from three US cities.
Service Cuts: In 2014 the administration unilaterally closed the Advocacy Center, a center for survivors of sexual assault that was committed to ending rape culture on campus.
Staff Cuts: In 2015, the university offered its employees the “voluntary separation incentive program” as a first step toward cutting down on staff. Now instructors are reporting that they have been fired, with multi-year teaching contracts no longer being honored.
Austerity Farce: While the university cuts vital student services, staff, instructors, scholarships, and healthcare in order to save money, it is evident that the university is both financially thriving and top-heavy with administration salaries.
A recent Syracuse Post-Standard article revealed that many upper-level administrators and coaches are making between $500,000 and $2 million per year. Meanwhile, a 2014 Bain Consulting report noted that 200 managers at SU oversee only one person. 
Further, while Chancellor Syverud describes a recent “budgetary shortfall” as justification for austerity measures, he fails to mention that the university’s endowment doubled between 2009 and 2014, from $500 million to over one billion dollars. 
For the peace and social justice community in Syracuse, the university is and will remain a crucial site of struggle. 

 

Ben is a teacher and organizer. Many members of THE General Body at SU contributed ideas to this piece.

 


 

 

In April 2008, a special issue of the Peace Newsletter analyzed the role of Syracuse University in maintaining and perpetuating US militarism and imperialism. This included discussions of the maliciously named INSCT (Institute of National Security and Counterterrorism), which began in the School of Law in 2003, and the Student Association on Terrorism and Security Analysis (SATSA). This issue continues with a similar analysis in the context of austerity, as militarism on campus has spread while education and necessary services and scholarship programs are cut.

While SU refines its mission and vision statements to reflect a sharp turn toward corporate and entrepreneurial schooling, it seeks to increase its numerous military entanglements. One of Chancellor Syverud’s recent “Fast Forward” working groups was named the “Leadership in Veterans and Military Affairs.” This group was charged with working to “ensure every aspect of SU is veteran- and military-friendly.”

The working group charge also describes how SU can “leverage our reputation... to attract funding for critical research programs that will positively impact the personal and professional lives of veterans and the military” and make SU “*the* greatest University for veterans during this time of significant opportunity.” 

As Professor Don Mitchell described in the April 2008 PNL, this parallel language between entrepreneurship and the military is hardly accidental. Mitchell describes “entrepreneurialism” as a “code word for a certain kind of neoliberal capitalism,” one that necessitates what David Harvey describes as “accumulation by dispossession.”

Accumulation by dispossession doubly links militarism and entrepreneurialism. On the one hand, the global exploitation of resources and labor requires at least the threat of violence and thus necessitates military might. On the other hand, the commonsense language of the market makes critique of these programs difficult. As Mitchell describes: “the growing cult of entrepreneurship is an increasingly important means by which US hegemony is projected, internally and around the world... the language of entrepreneurialism becomes a neutralizing language” and the “means by which imperial militaries are welcomed back into the university.” 

Look no further than the Whitman School of Management’s Defense Comptroller MBA Program, “a unique cooperative endeavor between Syracuse University and the Department of Defense,” for another concrete example of the insidious mix between the academy, the military, and neoliberal capitalism. With this mix so evident at US universities in the present day, it should come as no surprise that Dwight D. Eisenhower originally considered the phrase “academic-military-industrial complex” when he coined the “military-industrial complex” in 1961 (see The Imperial University). We hope this issue will renew and intensify the work of students, faculty, staff, and community in arguing for a university that supports peace through justice instead of submission through violence.

The articles in this issue explore militarism on campus from two angles: the normalization of the Israeli occupation of Palestine via various campus groups, and the rhetoric of empire as it is taught at a student-sponsored conference. Also in this issue is the perspective of a member of THE General Body at SU. The rest of this introduction describes the ongoing austerity measures at Syracuse University, through which we can understand the consequences of privileging military contracts over education. 

Health Care Cuts: In a brash move last spring, the university announced that it would bounce all graduate assistants and teaching assistants from the employee healthcare plan, resulting in healthcare cost increases in the thousands of dollars per year for many graduate student employees.

Scholarship Cuts: In 2014 Syracuse University broke its contract with the POSSE Foundation, a program that recruited student leaders from three US cities.

Service Cuts: In 2014 the administration unilaterally closed the Advocacy Center, a center for survivors of sexual assault that was committed to ending rape culture on campus.

Staff Cuts: In 2015, the university offered its employees the “voluntary separation incentive program” as a first step toward cutting down on staff. Now instructors are reporting that they have been fired, with multi-year teaching contracts no longer being honored.

Austerity Farce: While the university cuts vital student services, staff, instructors, scholarships, and healthcare in order to save money, it is evident that the university is both financially thriving and top-heavy with administration salaries.

A recent Syracuse Post-Standard article revealed that many upper-level administrators and coaches are making between $500,000 and $2 million per year. Meanwhile, a 2014 Bain Consulting report noted that 200 managers at SU oversee only one person. 

Further, while Chancellor Syverud describes a recent “budgetary shortfall” as justification for austerity measures, he fails to mention that the university’s endowment doubled between 2009 and 2014, from $500 million to over one billion dollars. 

For the peace and social justice community in Syracuse, the university is and will remain a crucial site of struggle. 

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