Starving the beast is a right wing political strategy to force the federal government to reduce spending by depriving it of revenue. Steve Mims’ and Bill Banowsky’s STARVING THE BEAST is a lucid and compelling 75-minute rebuttal, eloquently expressed with factual details and analyses buttressed with interviews, of right wing efforts to radically change America’s public higher ed system with policies that cause skyrocketing tuition and fees as well as harmful reductions in academic services and support at public higher ed campuses.
Simply put, public higher ed institution tradition calls for preparing students to be contributors to the public good and that goal is supported by state and federal funding, an investment in their education, an investment in the future of the American Dream. Educated students are investments in America’s future. The starvers, however, based on alleged business marketing theories and philosophy, regard students as consumers who should be concerned about their own personal agendas, with little regard for contributing to the public good, and thus must carry the burden of financing their education.
The starvers’ financial and economic statuses allow them to exert considerable political influence to carry out their business strategies for public higher ed institutions.
The film shows how state funding for higher education has dropped almost catastrophically since 1980 while tuition and fees have increased incredibly. Louisiana, for example, has reduced its funding of higher ed by 80 percent in eight years, according to the film.
The starvers should be recognize as those who want to make American as un-American as possible. University of Wisconsin, University of Virginia, University of North Carolina, Louisiana State University, and University of Texas and Texas A&M are the primary foci of their documentary, reflecting what is happening around the country. Those of us at City University of New York actively concerned about higher education– students, instructors, community activists – understand the dynamics and nature of what we consider an attack on higher education.
The filmmakers interviewed 19 subjects, ranging from the president of the University of Texas to emeritus presidents, professors and other academics. Leaders of the starving strategy, like Jeff Sandefer, a Texas oil magnet, were provided ample time to hawk their ideas on camera. But the filmmakers also provide in depth responses to the right wing flimflamming and deceiving rhetoric by interviewing scholars like Dr. Siva Vaidhyanathan of the University of Virginia to rebut their theories. There were others of course.
The filmmakers are meticulous allowing what saboteurs’ ample face time to espouse their opinions and strategies. But that path for transparency makes more acute the rebuttals provided by scholars, such as Vaidhyanathan.
STARVING THE BEAST opened at the IFC Center Friday. Click here for remaining show times.
Gregg Morris can be reached at email@example.com