Sunday, August 30, 2009


Ever since my arrival at Los Angeles in July, I started meeting a few college teachers, in the neighborhood of Los Angeles county, a number of times.To my utter surprise I found that the economic recession has not spared even the education system of this great country. I was aware of the fact that recession created unemployment in industry and trade. But I had no idea that college education system could be also a victim of the recession.. Now a days in America most of the young graduates who joined the service , during last few years, have lost job in industry and trade. The shutters of many medium sized trading houses have been brought down. Till now ,I was under the impression that jobs in education and government sectors were recession proof. But I found here that even in Government sector employees have accepted pay cuts so that cost of running the government could be salvaged. Only grocery stores, seven to eleven stores and health clinics and pharmacy are doing moderate business and only the department of defense is still trying to recruit people offering extra fascilites.

California is the eighth biggest economies of the world. But recession and excessive spending by government has made it a sick state. The Governor of California Mr. Schwarzenegger publicly admitted that had the state of California would have been a corporation it would have been compelled to declare bankruptcy. It was a revelation for me that once such a strong Lion like economy can also be turned into a dormant rabbit. However Economist here greatly differ in their views and some of them felt that California has enough resilience to come back to life again. Perhaps those economist may be true in their conviction but presently the economy is surely under stress. None knows how to empower the economy immediately. Now any visiting person can feel the air of depression as well without being an expert..I was impossible to believe that a hotel room in a four star hotel at San Jose area of Silicon valley, which used to cost around $200 dollar a day, is now available for $ 56 dollar a day with breakfast and evening tea as complimentary deal. I was sadden at the turn of event. During the month of July Governor of California has increased the tuition fee of all school going student by 20% and budget allocation for the school education slashed forcing less numbers of teacher per school now.

I had visited California number of times in my life but never found people so depressed. A pound of clean fresh whole chicken is now available; in our neighbourhood of Castaic city, at Ralphs Grocery Store at 55 cent a pound. Translating it to Indian rupees and weight the cost stands at Rs 53 a KG ( the cost of chicken at Guwahati is much higher now). With the cost of product going down people should have been happy but they are not. Why? Because this is the sign of strong depression. The deflation now can set in at any time, they were afraid. We need to remember that if the strongest economy in the world can suffer, how vulnerable our country is against recession.So we need to save now and invest when opportune time knocks at our door. The share market is high now and surely it would come down .Invest money at that point of time to reap the benefit after a few years.

One of my friend Dr. Maria Borrowvitch,an adjunct professor of Sociology in CalState University. She told that she is convinced by now that after her present contract expire in August there would be no renewal of her assignment. She was teaching in the university continously for last fifteen years.

I also visited recently a neighborhood college , the "College of the Canyons". It is in the Santa Clarity Community College District. The community colleges are backbone of the American educational system. It is not a graduate college. It is an intermediate college offering "AB degrees"mostly offering vocational, technical and community demanded courses like security services, water Technology and Recreation services etc.". THESE COLLEGES ARE government aided. The Fall semester in USA begins from August and registration starts from July in these colleges. The Directors of studies replying to my question stated that "the State of California is experiencing a severe budget shortage. The College would get much lesser grants this year. This would require the change in number of courses offered..The class with low enrollment have a greater risk of being canceled, the tuition fee would be required to be upwardly revised." With strong possibilities of cancellation of classes either teachers shall have to be reduced or pay cuts would be inevitable.( Thank God at least in our poor country teachers are not loosing jobs or getting pay cuts due to recession). At first I thought this was the condition of community colleges only. But even the great institute like Harvard university is also facing the impact of recession.It is not just a mere gossip but it is a fact of life now.

During past February, President Drew Gilpin Faust of Harvard said : "We are a community of distinguished scholars, talented students, and dedicated staff-teachers and learners defined by our ideas and discoveries, not by our financial resources." That same month, Harvard announced its first cuts to cleaning and custodial staff at Harvard Medical School, and budget cuts resulting in custodial staff layoffs at Harvard Real Estate Properties and Peabody Terrace.

Many of those whose jobs have been targeted are among the most vulnerable in the community-the lowest paid, the immigrants, the marginalized staff. However .Harvard maintained that the cuts are justified as part of a university-wide response to an estimated thirty percent drop in the value of its endowment this year. Yet, Harvard , according to information given to me, remains the wealthiest university in US and one of the wealthiest non-profits in the world. President Faust declared that, "for Harvard, as for many other colleges and universities, our challenge is to confront the new economic realities and intelligently adapt ourselves to them."

Some economists felt contrary to the above statement. They felt" an institution as wealthy as Harvard can and should find more creative and equitable ways to make up the deficit than by laying off its lowest-paid workers". Since Harvard administration have not done enough to confront the issue many scholars and society leaders are criticising them today.But example that must be appreciated is that seniors , administrators and professers at the University have also taken pay cuts volunteerily. This is what we need to learn from them. Some Bank bosses did not do that and were forced to step back while taking their performance Bonus or return the stimulus package taken.

Harvard's peers are now exploring ways to prioritize jobs through shared responsibility. The president and top administrators of Stanford University have taken a voluntary 10% pay cut for the next two academic years. University of Tennessee Acting President Jan Simek and his executive staff will take a voluntary pay cut of 5%, while Mark S. Wrighton, chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, will take a 10% pay cut for the next academic year.

In the Boston area, the faculty members have been asked to support a 1% pay cut to help retain employees who work in non-teaching positions at the school, while executives at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center recently took a salary cut to preserve several hundred positions.

In US unlike our country, univeristies are growth engine of the community. So depression in universities creates depression in their community.Communities are trying to help the university by endownments, donations and by accepting cuts in their salary and by accepting increase in their tax liabilites in municipal educational rates.

This would be impossible for us to imagine back home.. When lots of people from Assam are getting job loss, the government has dared to declare pay rise for government employees alone. Perhaps, people would have appreciated more if bold steps, to rejuvenate employment situation for youth of the state, would have been taken first before the income raise to the government employees were granted..


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