In the wake of his sudden resignation as president of Wayne State University over the Labor Day weekend, David Adamany agreed to tell the South End the reasons behind his decision.
Adamany said that his reasons went far beyond the immediate issue of his disastrous handling of the strikes facing the University. He cited what he called the “massive dehumanization” which distinguishes “this and every other university whether one is a student, faculty or worker.”
The ex-president went on to outline his criticisms of “a complete social system which subverts every human impulse into relations of domination and manipulation, which progressively destroys every vestige of human community and substitutes for it the wholly false community of the market.”
Coming from a self-confessed “lifelong believer” in the American system of capitalism, Adamany’s remarks appear to signify a remarkable conversion, one all the more remarkable for the obvious conviction with which he seems to have arrived at it.
The wire-rimmed glassed Adamany halted for a moment and toyed nervously with a paper clip, apparently searching for the right way to express his contention.
“You see, this university operates as an apparently neutral training ground with no other goal than the gathering and transmission of knowledge. But beneath this seemingly innocuous exchange in the ‘marketplace of ideas’ a whole set of mysterious things is going on. It turns out, in fact, that the university’s most important product is social passivity.”
Adamany continued, “Nothing could be more appropriate, I think, than the characterization of the university as the marketplace of ideas, and those people in the academic world who identify it as such have very often not even an inkling of how revealing the description is.
“The university buys and sells knowledge, students, instructors, everything; the exchange relation underlies its every activity. The university with its corporatized, hierarchical structure, with its immense bureaucracy, its emphasis on scheduling and quantifying, its authoritarian teacher/student relationships is the perfect training ground for the production of a workforce amply adjusted to the ‘realities’ of work, of ‘deferred gratification,’ of ‘sold’ time, and of obedience to authority.”
Adamany said that he knew all of this was hard for the average student to understand, but felt it was crucial for him to state this for the record so everyone knew fully what the university was all about.
He continued, saying, “Regardless of what skills or knowledge it may incidentally impart, the university’s real function is the socialization of individuals into unquestioning acceptance of the status quo, of the natural, inevitable and unchangeable nature of the society in which they live. Never for a moment must they even begin to suspect that human society has ever operated on anything but a basis of competitiveness, distrust and individual acquisitiveness.”
“One of the most important ways I’ve detected through which the university achieves its goal of socialization is via the fragmentation of knowledge and experience. Because of the ever increasing necessity for specialization under advanced capitalism, it becomes impossible for capital to make use of the complete human being. It must instead select his or her most usable—that is, most marketable—skill and develop that skill exclusively, to the complete detriment of all the myriad thoughts and activities which make a living human being who is capable of acting on the world,” he sighed.