The Ignorance of OWS

There is a story from NPR today that is mostly really good and since it is about a small college in Kentucky, my home state, I really enjoyed it.  Well, I mostly enjoyed it.  I’ll get to that in a minute.

Berea College is located in the Eastern part of the state at the beginning of the Appalachian mountain area which contains not only some of the poorest people in the state but also in the country.  There are places in Eastern Kentucky where, if you were blindfolded and dropped into the area, you’d think you were in a third world.  I was born in the western part of the state and graduated from college in Louisville so I was fairly insulated from this but I was fortunate.

The NPR story is a good one in that it tells about the mission of Berea College and how it is helping kids, who couldn’t afford college, obtain their bachelors degree without having to pay tuition.  How do they do it?  Here is a copy of the college’s goals

  • To provide an educational opportunity primarily for students from Appalachia, black and white, who have great promise and limited economic resources.
  • To provide an education of high quality with a liberal arts foundation and outlook.
  • To stimulate understanding of the Christian faith and its many expressions and to emphasize the Christian ethic and the motive of service to others.
  • To provide for all students through the labor program experiences for learning and serving in community, and to demonstrate that labor, mental and manual, has dignity as well as utility.
  • To assert the kinship of all people and to provide interracial education with a particular emphasis on understanding and equality among blacks and whites.
  • To create a democratic community dedicated to education and equality for women and men.
  • To maintain a residential campus and to encourage in all members of the community a way of life characterized by plain living, pride in labor well done, zest for learning, high personal standards, and concern for the welfare of others.
  • To serve the Appalachian region primarily through education but also by other appropriate services.

So they can ‘give away’ tuition to roughly 1,500 students each year basically through a work/study program and a huge endowment that currently is valued at approximately $950 million.  Yes, you read that right.  This huge sum comes from individuals, foundations, corporations and organizations that want to support the schools mission and when measured on a per student basis, this college has one of the largest endowments in America.  I have no problem with that though, what better way to invest in our country than through education.    

Oh, and according to the Washington Monthly, Berea College is the #1 ranked Liberal Arts College in the United States! 

So the net take away from this story is that kids whose family makes less than $25,000/year can have a free four year education (valued at $25,000/year) in the hopes that, when they graduate, they can improve their social and economic well being and maybe that of their family as well.   

What’s not to like about this story?  There were two small sections of the NPR story that jumped out and made me cringe. 

Here is the first:

In October, about 40 Berea students rode a bus to New York City for the Occupy Wall Street rallies.

There are 40 students that, while getting a free, first class education provided to them by donations from corporations, chose to drive to NYC to protest corporations.  Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!  You’d think that if any college students understood the value that corporations (and to a larger extent Capitalism) provide, it’d be the students at Berea College. 

Now this is only 40 students and that is a small percentage of the total enrollment so I’m hoping this is just the fringe.  I don’t want to be guilty of painting the whole campus with the same broad brush so I’m telling myself that the rest of campus isn’t this stupid.

Now the other part of the story that I didn’t like:

And Sam Gleaves, a Berea sophomore, knows he is going home to Wytheville, Va., with his guitar and banjo. He’s an Appalachian Studies major. He wants to teach music at home and to help organize.

Now don’t get me wrong, when a kid goes to college it is his prerogative what he chooses as his major but since it is his decision, he must live with the consequences.  Looking at the majors offered at Berea, there are some real heavy weights in there which would lead to very well paying jobs.  Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Political Science, Sociology, Economics, Nursing and Technology/Industrial Arts are just to name a few.  If you are getting a free education and you see the poverty that is all around you, surely you would want to choose a major that would allow you to make a decent living so that you can not only help yourself but others in your family.

Now it could be that this young man isn’t interested in the money and chose that major to help those in this poverty stricken area in another way and if that is the case, then I salute the young man and wish him all the best. 

UPDATE: Based on comments left after the post was published it appears I was in error that Mr. Gleaves might have attended OWS (I never said he did but my words could be interpreted that he did).  I removed those comments from this post and apologize to readers and most importantly to Mr. Gleaves for leaving the impression that he did. 

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23 Responses to The Ignorance of OWS

  1. Berea Gradute says:

    I wish you knew Sam. He’s one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met.

    • cosmoscon says:

      I have no reason to doubt you on this. And if you re-read my next to last paragraph I think you’ll find that I have nothing but the best of wishes for him as he starts his career after graduation. Again, I salute him for his willingness to make the sacrifices, to serve his community and make it better. I hope he succeeds in that area and gets all the praise due him.

      My point was….choices have consequences. Choosing a major that historically will not pay high salaries is the student’s choice and in doing so you can’t blame evil corporations for preventing you from rising to higher income levels. Most likely those who choose these lower paying majors know that up front and accept it. But if he was one of the students who went to OWS, which publically states corporations are the reason poor people aren’t making more money, then I think that is inconsistent.

      And by the way, thanks for taking the time to post here and providing more insight to the story. I do appreciate it.

  2. Melissa says:

    The college gives an illusion of free tuition, but if you ask any of the students it’s anything but. They constantly have to pay an increasing amount each year that was set by the college with the logic that each student should save their below minimum wage pay check to pay off the college (students are told they get such a low pay grade because it makes it able to have “free tuition”, this is told to students working for $3.80 an hour, doing the worse of the campus jobs. Sadly, most of these students would be able to go to any other school and literally get paid to go there, due to government scholarships and grants that they have due to their economic background and grades from high school. Also, Kentucky students who worked hard for their KEES scholarship get robbed of it each year, instead of getting a little over $1000 or so the students get only $300 which the school will automatically give itself instead of allowing students to use the money to buy cheaper books, as the scholarship should be used for. Berea College gives the appearance of wanting good for the students, but do the opposite, several students make the college money by existing there without the college even using the money that they receive by labeling the school as a free tuition school. In fact, if several students look at their fasfa over their education they’re bringing in over $120,000 into the school’s pocket, and get charged a seemingly low amount. But whenever you keep in mind that these are some of the nation’s poorest children you understand that they can’t afford to even go to a place that calls itself free, and end up having to take out loans to go to a free college.
    The students grew up as part of the 99% and watch as their family and friends struggle financially, at their current stage of life they are being cheated by the corporation Berea College has made itself.
    You’re ignorance of what is actually happening in Berea gives you no right to questions Gleaves’s decision on what he wants to study. Gleaves and several other students study what they believe is necessary, do you even know what Appalachian studies include? Clearly not, or else you would understand why Gleaves wants to return home and help his home community.

    Before you argue something you need to first understand it.

    • cosmoscon says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment here and provide more details about Berea and its system.

      I do know what an Appalachian studies degree entails and I also have an idea of what one can earn practicing with it. Every college student must make the difficult decision about what to major in. Some look for alignment with their skills. Some look for alignment with what makes them happy. Some look for alignment with their desired salary.

      All of these actions have consequences and the student should realize what they are. Picking a major that, historically, yields a much lower average salary than the average college graduate means they will make less money than the average for most of their life. That is a fact and therefore you shouldn’t go to protest corporations and blame them for your low starting salary.

      • David says:

        People involved in OWS are protesting for a variety of reasons. Personally, I haven’t heard anyone complaining about making too small a sum of money. I’ve heard people talking about how they’re floundering without good health insurance, how the U.S. political system has gone to sh*t, how they are unable to find a job at all. You’re undermining the very real difficulties in this country by pretending that people are simply upset that they’re not well-off “enough.” The issues are FAR bigger than any individual’s income.

        Additionally, all studies have merit, especially at a liberal arts college where any degree virtually ensures a well-rounded depth of education. Additionally, poor people, I find, are often the first to dismiss money and place value elsewhere. It makes sense that they choose to study what they find appealing. I feel wealthy people might be far more happy with their lives if they were able to do the same instead of by assuaging their internal guilt with charity (Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates, I’m looking at you). Now if only there can be some sort of justice brought about by OWS (holding banks and corporations accountable for the economic crash and huge taxpayer bailouts is of utmost importance), perhaps this country could get back on the path to true liberty.

    • Annie says:

      I felt the same way about Berea College until I graduated. I was to the point of absolutely hating it and only stayed because a lot of my credits did not transfer. If you asked anyone who was ever talked to me while I was a student they will probably tell you that I was bitching about something Berea College has done. Berea College was incredibly difficult to navigate, but after I graduated with only $3,500 in student loans and 2 study abroad experiences (that absolutely changed my life), I learned how valuable my education is. Yes, I am currently working 2 jobs to make ends meet, but Berea College gave me the education and now it’s my time to get my ass in gear and be the person I want to be.

      $3,500 for the quality of the education that I received is incredible. The professors at Berea College are EXCELLENT and the class sizes are small. With small class sizes the professors hold you accountable (which makes it harder to get away with skipping class, not doing homework, etc), but the professors know your name and are (for the most part) truly dedicated to their jobs. I have solid references, work experiences, and life experiences because of Berea College. After speaking with peers who graduated from state colleges, I see the value in my degree. I know many people who have graduated and the professors they had within their major wouldn’t recognize their faces.

      I graduated with German. I don’t think German will make me a great amount of money, but I am so glad that it is what I studied. I had the opportunity to study abroad (for free) and have become incredibly passionate about becoming a German teacher. That’s another thing I see in Berea College students, passion. There are of course the exceptions, but many of Berea College’s students love what they study. The professors can also provide excellent contacts and opportunities.

      I am not directing this to you in particular, Melissa, but I just wanted to share because Berea College seems to break some promises once you enroll, but it takes awhile to realize what you are really getting. Berea College won’t kiss its students’ asses and can make things incredibly ridiculous and difficult, but the professors, references, and experience you gain can’t be matched by a state college that would give you a full ride.

  3. stellarpiper says:

    Not everyone at Berea receives a completely free education. The term bills are set according to the FAFSA-defined Expected Family Contribution. The EFC, however, is not always an accurate calculation of how much money families can contribute to their child’s education. Students can graduate Berea College with a huge amount of student loan debt while their peers graduate with no debt. What Berea College does admirably do, however, is imbue their students (who came from poverty) with a sense of social justice. The students who went to Wall Street were acting out of a Berean attitude toward systems that keep others in poverty. While many students are aware of the value of corporations, these same students are also aware of their drawbacks.

    What is the point of a liberal education and mindset if not to make the world a better place for all its inhabitants, using whatever skills and knowledge you have to hand? While this goal is admittedly idealistic, it is achievable.

    • cosmoscon says:

      Thanks for your comments.

      I’m all for a Liberal Education if that is what the student wants but it sounds like it is lacking if they think corporations are the reason for the mess we are in. Crony Capitalism and Liberal Regulations are to blame so they should be occupying DC.

      And OWS wasn’t about teaching people to use their skills and knowledge to do the best they can – it was about robbing from successful people and giving to those who don’t work. That is not Capitalism. Hopefully the econ class at Berea still teaches Capitalism and why it is the best economic model in the world.

      • David says:

        Please stop spreading rumors and lies. OWS is about accountability, not about redistribution, though some are in favor of it, just like some are in favor of brining guns to a rally attended by the President. Also, there is an Occupy D.C., as it is a global movement. I agree with you that crony capitalism has to go.

        I also went to Berea, and I can tell you that Berea Econ classes are very conservative.

  4. Thom Price says:

    When I went to Berea (in the ’90s), I had $100 and when I graduated I had $200, and no debt. I was the first to get a degree in Appalachian Studies. I live in Berea, and I work with low-income families to help them reduce their energy consumption as an energy auditor. I agree with you about bighting the hand that feeds you. Unfortunately, the world isn’t so black and white as you seem to see it. I know Sam, and I know many of the folks that went up to OWS (which didn’t include Sam), and you are completely off base in your criticism.
    There is, and has been for years, a struggle between some students and administration over how the endowment should be invested. I belive that the College does a pretty good job with their management of funds overall. It would be nice if they could give so many a free, or very low cost, education and be able to do so without investing in Wall St. but an alternative investment that would allow them to continue doesn’t seem to exist in the world as it exists today. Fortunately there is this struggle, and it makes students think about these issues, and maybe even try to find a solution. We can be sceptical of their strife, but to call it rediculous is very shallow.
    You really should retract what you said about Sam.

    • cosmoscon says:

      Thanks for the comments Thom. I have learned a great deal about Berea from the people who have been kind enough to come to this site and post comments. OWS was clearly about protesting Capitalism and Corporations and if you choose to participate in that then you are choosing to advocate the destruction that is at the foundation of our country. So I will not retract my comments about those who choose to participate in that protest. They are exercising their free speech and I am exercising mine.

      As far as the comments to retract about Gleaves, which would you like me to retract? Which statements are untrue? I didn’t make any claims about him other than what was in the NPR article. I will gladly take back the speculation that he went to OWS as you have commented here and provided evidence that he didn’t. I never made the claim he went but the way the NPR article was written it made it sound like he did. Was this the portion you suggested I retract? I don’t see any issue with that but if my comments lead those to believe he did something that he didn’t then i’ll gladly remove those.

      And I think I’ve been very clear in the article and the comments section that I wish him the best in all he does. My only advice to him still stands – Don’t think about criticizing corporations for keeping your salary below a certain level. We all make choices that affect our lives and those choices have consequences. That’s life.

  5. Berea Berea Beloved says:

    First off, the endowment of Berea is not from corporations. It came primarily from private donors throughout the years and a very high percentage of alumni who give back on a regular basis. Imagine that, loving the college you went to so much that you give them money after graduating, visit even when it isn’t homecoming, and get really exciting when a reputable news source gets the word out about this little gem.

    The endowment isn’t touched, either, but it’s the interest that goes towards paying the faculty and staff salaries, powering the campus, purchasing supplies (such as desks, chairs, or hey, the 100% free laptop every student gets and the software packages that power them), etc. Unfortunately that isn’t enough to take care of everything, especially with the poor economic climate, so additional funds are brought in through student crafts and a partially student-run hotel on campus. Each student is paid a small hourly wage for the work they do, but receive a Student Work grant that, if they received it in pay (and therefore would have a higher tuition), would have them making $12 or more an hour. Yes, the college makes a lot of money from the student crafts, but they provide the materials and tools, teach the student the skills, the items are created in a campus building that the school pays to power, and the students are paid for their time. AKA just like a real job. But they can also take those skills and make items to sell on their own instead of through the college… it’s just not that often that people take that kind of initiative.

    And the idea that a student should get a degree in Nursing or Law just because they’re poor is absolutely idiotic. First — going on to medical or law school afterwards will cost a LOT more money, so it’s not helping that much. But most of all — why should a student be denied studying what they’re passionate about just because they might make more money studying something else? Someone could become just as wealthy and successful with a Theatre or Music degree as they might with a Biology one, whether or not they work directly in their field. And FYI… people with ALL of those degrees and then some are laid off right now due to the economy, which was crashed by corporations. (Maybe you should read some more about the big bank bailout… remember that thing that happened? Where the government gave hundreds of millions of dollars to banks that almost failed due to poor management, and then they turned around and gave that taxpayer money out as millions of dollars worth of corporate bonuses?)

    I don’t understand why people don’t realize the harm that’s being done by not only corporations, but any greedy heads of business. They affect the people who work for them by dictating their pay, work conditions, and the amount of hours they can work, and affect the consumers by the prices they set versus the quality of the product they manufacture. Look at small machinery today versus the 1950’s… for the most part, products used all-metal gears inside and could run forever. Today it’s all cheap plastic that breaks within a few years, but costs exponentially more, so not only do you have to pay loads for it, but you also have to buy a new one (or pay the company for repairs) before too long. The point is that it’s not right for the few people who already have everything they want to use their power to keep everyone else struggling just to get the little they need.

    And yes, I went to Berea, and I’m proud of it. The lessons I learned there, both in schooling and in life, have shaped me into the person I am. Not all of the people I know from school are working successfully in their field, but they have what’s most important — the knowledge that all good comes from hard work, and the belief that if they apply themselves, they can succeed. Let’s hope that’s true.

    • cosmoscon says:

      Thanks for commenting but I disagree with you on a few of your points.

      The endowment most certainly is associated with Corporations. First the Wikipedia site on Berea clearly states this but more importantly, the investments that keep the endowment going is most certainly, in some form, connected to the stock market (i.e. corporations). Here is the Wiki link.

      2nd, you need to go back farther with regard to the bank bailouts. Why did the banks need bailiing out? Because of the subprime housing crisis. what caused that? in 1999 Clinton pushed for and got from Congress the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act. Repealing that Act removed certain restrictions that lenders (like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae) had to impose on customers. Because Liberals thought everyone deserved a house right now, no matter how poor their credit was and no matter how little savings they had. The rest is history that i suggest you check out. Banks pushed us over the cliff but the repeal of Glass Steagall and Freddie/Fannie paved the road. oh, and check out this link to see how much of that bailout has been repaid. As much as I didn’t like TARP either, in hindsight, the tax payers didn’t lose any money.

      3rd, that description of companies setting wages and prices of goods is what’s called the Free Market and is nothing new. If you don’t like your job, go find another one. If you don’t like the merchandise at the store, go somewhere else. The only thing that has changed since the 50’s is the lack of education about Capitalism and its benefits. Here is a refresher course.

  6. Ansurr says:

    First off, as one of the students that attended OWS and saw what was going on, you’re vastly misinformed of what is going on there. One important aspect is actually about spreading knowledge and skills, seen clearly through the dozens of teach-ins featuring prominent people from around the country, and the library of 5000+ books in the middle of a city park. And the movement is not anti-capitalist, or else why would there be a finance group for the movement? Sure, some of the Occupiers are against capitalism, but nobody is saying capitalism by itself is bad. Our form of capitalism has grown corrupt, a malignant tumor on our once-great country. But that doesn’t mean the idea doesn’t have merit; it means simply that many of the basic assumptions of our economic system are just plain wrong.

    And, the movement isn’t about protesting at one specific location. Although, about 50 people from OWS WALKED the 240 or so miles from New York to DC, to do the very thing you suggested. The movement is about spreading awareness of the many, many abuses of corporate power.

    And how can you say OWS is about robbing anyone? What do you call the billions of dollars corporations stole from American taxpayers to fix their screw-up. And what about the fact that many corporations are getting away with paying NO income tax whatsoever? If you think the people at OWS are just looking for a handout, (As if there were something wrong with asking for help, you awful person.) you have missed the point of the movement entirely and should try very carefully to actually learn about something instead of just spreading whatever propaganda you’ve heard.

    Finally, who are you to judge someone for the major they choose? There is much more to life than earning tons of money, and all your talk of “averages” doesn’t account for anything on an individual level. I’m a Technology and Industrial Arts major, with a minor in Sustainability. But you know what? I chose that major for what it could teach me, not for the money it will earn me.

    • cosmoscon says:

      Thanks Ansurr for your time to make these comments. I appreciate hearing views counter to my own.

      But read the following list of demands that OWS came up with and tell me how you’ll pay for these. There is no way to get there without going down the Socialism path which means ending Capitalism and robbing from those who have money.

      And while I have not attended an OWS event, there are plenty of news stories to give me a flavor of what goes on there. Here is a link.

      And re-read my post. I do not judge anyone for their major. It is the choice of the individual and I applaud them for whatever field they choose to enter. My point is…If you willingly choose a field that doesn’t pay high salaries then don’t get upset with those who chose fields that do pay high salaries.

      Now the only thing I do agree with OWS is eliminating Crony Capitalism. And OWS didn’t get to that first, the Tea Party hit that drum pretty hard several years ago. On that we can agree. But we don’t stop that at the corporation level, we stop it at the Washington DC level.

      • Ansurr says:

        For one, that’s a months-old list that ONE single person wrote, with no input from anyone else. That’s not a list of OWS demands, and is a completely unreasonable and stupid idea.

        Second, if you saw the signs at OWS you’d realize there are a very large number of people that dislike Obama very much, myself among them. It’s not a partisan issue, but your source is trying to cast it as one to fuel their own agenda.

      • You seem to have done a lot of research to back up your claims. Congratulations! I would suggest, however, that you check the credibility/authenticity of your sources -especially the one regarding the list of demands. Hint: Look for the personal pronoun “I” in the 11th demand. I hope it rings a bell.

      • Ansurr says:

        Also, as a note, the return of the Glass-Steagall Act is one of the bigger issues you hear about at OWS. Clinton was a bastard for that one.

  7. jonashollon says:

    I go to berea college. I pay 3000$ a semester for “room and board” even though because of my ACT scores, I could’ve (and did to other colleges) gotten a free ride at other places.

    Regardless of who made the donations to the school, and honestly I cannot say that I even know where the majority of the endowment came from, corporations are corporations. They have their own interests at hand. If you don’t believe me, just look at lobbyists from privatized prisons lobbying congress for more stricts laws so that more people wind in prison. This provides private company that owns the prison with more $$$$. So “biting the hand that feeds you” is not applicable here. Corporations may make donations to the college which helps some students out (but not me at all really), but at the same time, they are practically in control of our government, and only have their own interests in mind.

    And how dare you criticize Sam for choosing the major that he wants to study! This life isn’t about getting a good job with a “heavyweight major” like chemistry or physics. Its about doing what makes you happy and trying to make the world a better place. So don’t ever try to tell someone that they shouldn’t be doing what makes them happy. Cause I know I sure as hell would be more happy teaching kids music instead of working in some lab doing chemistry. I should know, I was a chem major when I first started here.

    Not to be too harsh on you, but you gotta think before you speak or write. Also remember that life isn’t about money.

    • cosmoscon says:

      “Corporations are practically in control of our government….”

      US corporate tax rates are among the highest in the world – see here.

      The DoJ raided Gisbon guitar because they used wood that violated some obscure India law.

      FDA is increasing regulations to the point where drug companies are backing off new products and production. Other medical device manufacturers can’t get new products approved.

      HHS/Obamacare is already causing companies to scale back in anticipation of the new taxes in 2013.

      EPA is stiffling the Energy Industry, won’t let the US drill safely for oil/natural gas and is seeking to penalize companies over a mythical human caused global warming.

      Many details of the above can be found at an earlier post here.

      And you do realize that companies pay taxes on every finished widget they make in the US but if they move that offshore they don’t pay these taxes?

      NLRB brought a suit against Boeing because they expanded in South Carolina and built a new plant. they were upset because Boeing expanded in a Right to Work state (no unions) instead of in Washington state (plenty of unions). the government is telling compnaies where they can build their plants. Unbelievable!

      With all this evidence (and plenty more) that shows our Government actively trying to hurt Corporations…..How can you say that Corporations are in control of Government? It’s just not true, no matter what the OWS talking points tell you.

      • Ansurr says:

        First off, anyone that thinks global warming is a myth is bad at math. 200 million internal combustion engines all running in roughly the same time period WILL cause a noticeable rise in carbon levels. You can’t deny that these things put carbon into the atmosphere, and therefore can’t deny that humans can affect climate change.

        Many corporations pay no income tax. Whatsoever.

        And we don’t need to be looking for more oil, we need to be diversifying our energy sources. We’ve used up more than half the oil on the planet, Appalachia won’t have enough coal left to bother mining in 25 years, et cetera. We need to be investing in renewables and updating our terrible infrastructure. And none of this changes the fact that corporate lobbying vastly influences our political process.

        • cosmoscon says:

          Ansurr, I don’t want to go too far off topic but if you want to learn more about AGW, you can go to another post of mine here and you can check my math.

  8. Berea Grad says:

    Okay, how in the world can you compare Appalachia to the Third World? Sure, we have poverty but Third World? That’s quite a rough comparison

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