Genteel Poverty in Academia

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

College and university administrators and their representatives seem to show up in Washington, D. C. with their hats in their hands as frequently as the capital city’s homeless do. Although the former group of supplicants seeks far greater sums than the latter crowd requests, the money seems to go just as fast.

Arguably, both population subgroups practice comparable levels of spending restraint. Last year, “Taxpayers outfitted Tennessee’s state universities and
community colleges with everything from new shrubbery to a softball field press box,” according to the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, which combed the state budget to find:

• “$1.1 million in new state bonds for an outdoor pool at Austin Peay State University’s Student Recreation Center;

• “$580,000 to replace the tennis courts at Middle Tennessee State University;

• “$290,000 to renovate the Gill Gym at Southwest State Community College;

• “$220,000 for landscaping at Northeast State Technical Community College,” and

• “$100,000 for a new press box at the Volunteer State Community College softball field.”

At that, taxpayers in the volunteer state may be getting more of a bang for their buck than their cousins in the Sooner State. As tabulated by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, some high traffic community colleges and state universities offer remedial courses alongside classes in esoterica not normally associated with higher education.

Tulsa Community College, for example, boasts of at least half a dozen courses in basic communications skills as well as classes in Beginning Ice Skating, Badminton, Yoga, Therapeutic Horticulture and Principles of Floral Arranging. How basic are the communications skills covered? How about “Spelling and Phonics,” also known at Tulsa Community College as English 0631.


• Southeastern Oklahoma State offers courses in Pre-College English (ENG 0123) and “Listening”(COMM 1553) along with classes in Coaching Football and Social and Square Dance.

• At Northeastern State, you can take a class in Elementary Algebra along with courses in Billiards, Basketball Fundamentals, Aquatic Activities, Beginning Bowling and the Drivers’ Education “Beginners Course.”

• Not to be outdone, East Central offers courses in Beginning Algebra (MATH 0113) and Foods (FCS2113).

• Finally, the University of Central Oklahoma offers courses in Vocabulary Building (ENG 1252) as well as a Sociology course in Human Sexuality. You know, come to think of it, those two could go together.

Maybe they’ll combine it next year as an interdisciplinary course.

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.