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UC Berkeley and IITs

I read in a Bob Herbert column in the New York Times that UC Berkeley is suffering from all the woes afflicting California's budget.

I saw once that California has an economy that's larger than Russia's. UC Berkeley is apparently the pinnacle of California's public higher education system.

When governments face budget deficits, they often look at education expenditures as a low-hanging fruit. This is unfortunate, but perhaps pure 'research' into the origins of the human race or into the private life of some long-dead writer seems to be rather academic to budget planners compared to, say, unemployment allowance or health-related expenditures.

Again, within the broad umbrella of education, it's topics such as music education in schools which is often the first one to bear the brunt of budget cuts when times are tough. There is this wonderful movie called Mr. Holland's Opus starring Richard Dreyfus that depicts something of this over a 30 year period.

The travails afflicting UC Berkeley bring to mind the curious case of IIT professors indulging in hunger strikes, etc. closer to home.

The argument that IIT dons should be paid more because the students, once they graduate, get astronomical pay packets in the corporate world does not cut much ice to me. The job of a teacher is devoid of the kind of tension that people working in the corporate world are exposed to.

If anyone wants to earn fat pay packets, frankly, they should leave the teaching profession and enter the cutthroat world of business - academia is for those who are willing to be content and happy with moderate salaries. All that dons should demand should be world-class libraries and research facilities.

It would be odd indeed if you want to adopt the career of a teacher - a nobel profession - that is almost synonymous with the word 'stability' and seek the financial rewards that go with the uncertainties of the world of business.

The corporate world no doubt offers astronomical pay packets, but when you are not needed, you can be fired no matter how fat your pay packet might be. At that moment, many of these high-flyers yearn for the stability and job security of academic life although the pay packet might be lower.

In general, it's basically a case of the grass being green on the other side. And it's always going to remain that way.


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