The Labor of Others: The Labor of Us

As students, we are already workers. Students who have jobs in addition to their studies, are doubly so. We invest vast amounts of time and energy into our schoolwork, while we reproduce and advertise the college’s brand, conduct research for faculty, and represent the college to alumni, visitors, and donors. Despite all the time we spend working at jobs and working in school, many of us will still graduate with debt. How is this possible? Because the cost of colleges all over the U.S. has been exploding for the last three decades. Since 1990, Middlebury’s tuition has increased by 75%– from roughly $14,000 to the whopping $58,753 that it costs for academic year 2014-2015. This places Middlebury in the top ten most expensive colleges in the country. This is happening while federal and state governments are gutting their subsidies to universities and their funding for financial aid programs, and as collective student debt surpasses the $1 trillion mark.The college is invested in our not thinking of ourselves as workers, but only as “pure” learners, so that our actual labor is devalued and disappeared. This is exemplified in the encouragement that we take unpaid internships, which function by exploiting the free labor of young people and reproducing class inequities when those who can’t afford to work for free don’t have access to careers in certain professions. When we graduate, many of us face unemployment, fuel the low-wage labor market, and/or are stuck with exorbitant student loans. So what is there to do? Students all over the world have actively been protesting tuition hikes, striking, taking to the streets, and demanding financial transparency from their administrations. These protests have taken place in Canada, Chile, Mexico, France, (to name a few)–and the U.S. as well, though they have not escalated to the same level here. We need to keep in mind, throughout our time at Middlebury, the following: 1) We are workers, and we do valuable labor for the college through knowledge production. 2) We collectively pay the college millions of dollars for our educations–we are entitled to transparency in what the administration does with that money (hint: it’s not going towards pay raises for custodial staff). 3) We have the power to demand no more tuition hikes!!

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