Out d'Coup Interview | Brian Bailie on Higher Ed Cuts, COVID-19 Disaster Capitalism, and Organizing for the Fightback | May 27, 2020


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It’s Wednesday, May 27, 2020. Welcome to Raging Chicken’s Out d’Coup podcast. This is Kevin Mahoney, editor, and founder of Raging Chicken Press. On today’s show, we’ve got a Raging Chicken interview with Brian Bailie. Bailie is an Assistant Professor of rhetoric and composition at the University of Cincinnati’s Blue Ash College. He’s got some new articles that hitting the interwebs in the weeks ahead: “Are We an Academic Journal? Editing as Ethical Practice for Change,” in Reflections: A Journal of Community Engaged Writing and Rhetoric. That’s authored with Steve Parks and the article, “So, Richard Spencer is Coming to Your Campus. How He was Allowed on, and How You Can Confront Him,” due out soon in Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society. I wanted to talk to Brian today about the ways COVID-19 is giving cover for the wholesale destruction of public higher education.

What’s happening at Ohio University? Since the beginning of the month, OU has eliminated the jobs of at least 340 people coupled with the retirement of another 88. 74 of those retiring are faculty members. The cuts have included layoffs of 53 instructional faculty and the elimination of 149 administrative positions. Most recently, OU announced cuts to 40% of the faculty at their regional campuses. All these cuts have been done with the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s like Margaret Thatcher has returned from the dead to remind us “there’s nothing we can do.” Is this just a force of nature or are we seeing disaster capitalism on steroids?

At the University of Cincinnati, we see similar patterns of cut, gut, and punish with one significant difference. While faculty members are discouraged from using the copier for class handouts in the name of saving money, the university has been on a spending spree when it comes to NCAA Division I athletics. According to an excellent investigative report by UC’s student newspaper, The News Record, records show that while UC had an athletic deficit of $5.6 million in 2005, in 2019 that deficit increased five-fold to $29.7 million. What’s that meant for faculty teaching on the University of Cincinnati’s campuses? We’ll ask Brian about that.

UC’s budgeting schemes will sound like they come from the same playbook that we see right here in PA’s State System of Higher Education. Maybe because it is.

And in a time when the most vulnerable are the most at risk, Ohio’s labor laws are double jeopardy for adjunct faculty.

Bailie highlights the fightback coming from AAUP:UC and discusses how important it is to have collective bargaining rights and an active union. He also clues us in on an awesome student organizing effort at UC called Boldly Bankrupt.

And on today’s last call, we’ll look for temporary diversions from COVID-19 and the disaster capitalists to see if we can get Brian to give us some beer recommendations from his neck of the woods. I’m wearing a Rheingeist Brewing hat in his honor! Here’s some of Bailie’s recs:

We close out looking at signs of hope and resistance.

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