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Dear friends and readers,

Before you read the following you should know a cruel series of events happened to my daughter, and she is now home safe.  After all Queens College, CUNY, fleeced us --  it's one of the many badly and corruptly run institutions of this world and I advise you to stay away from it. They have $9600 of my money and I can't get a dime back nor probably even an apology for what occurred.  I did know (and said below) it was a place for the unprivileged. I should have put it that the past history of being in effect for free still affects the way individual students are treated as cogs that must fit in the wheels of the powerful in the school with no concern for their well-being beyond them doing that.  When I was 17 to 20, it was all that I could reach to help me escape from my wretched limited existence, and I did win a scholarship to go to England and found an alternative livable existence that way; if I had forgotten or began to live under delusions about its behavior to its students, I will do so no longer.

10/16/10: Having received not even an acknowledgement about their behavior -- I would have to call a lawyer and start painful protracted negotiations, pay a great deal of money, I want to announce to anyone who comes here what a terrible place Queens College, CUNY is appalling: it fleeced us, did nothing about a nightmare of bullying and terror.  Their musicology program doesn't exist for real.


Yesterday the Admiral and I drove many hours in his spacious, comfortable (if beaten-up and on its last legs) 1996 off-color Jaguar to and from Queens (the borough and senior college), NYC, starting around 6:30 am in the morning, to get there around noon, and again 4 or so in the afternoon, to arrive back sometime after 10:30 pm.  Together with Izzy, we achieved our purpose, which was to help her begin to install herself and her stuff for the fall term in the one large garden-apartment looking residence hall at Queens college.  Once there -- and I recognized the familiar place as ever from the dome of Colden Auditorium, the gym and center and the tall thin tower as we neared it --  everything was made easy for us.

Paul Klapper building is no longer the library, but otherwise it's not changed much

We were ushered past by a security officer, pointed on by a grounds person, and drove up to a parking lot where yet another officer came over and suggested we put our stuff out on the sidewalk, I ("the mom") go with Isabel to start registering while Jim (the "dad") park the car in the garage across the way.  I was a little nervous about leaving the stuff on the sidewalk, but soon realized all was fine.  There were what seemed squads of young "summit volunteers" around to help us carry our stuff up the three flights and put it in the room, other people to direct us to the registration desks, which were, a bit absurdly (because it was windy and coldish) outside the building. There Izzy filled out forms, got her room number, keys, instructions to return at 7 pm when a large meeting would be called.

The three of us worked steadily for over than an hour putting her stuff away, setting up her computer (which we now know does not have internet access in her room), stereo, walking about and deciding that we needed to shop for her.  So off we went past the central entrance on Kissena Boulevard (which was the one I used to enter when I'd arrive by bus) around a corner until we came to two supermarkets, and a row of shops that included a drug store.  We thought we were just buying a few things as snacks and ahead in case she wanted to cook at night because we assumed the cafeteria was opened. We discovered it was not until classes started.  But we did get a strong whiff of NYC borough culture: there was gefilte fish with splenda at the supermarket (run by Jewish people), tons of stuff, really a lot crowded into a relatively small space, a fruit market outside; Izzy had to make do with what hairwash and conditioner she could find. In NYC I found new reading glasses. A few days ago in a fit where my mind slipped so tired was I at night driving to the supermarket that I had the wrong glasses on. When I got out of my car, my glasses must've slipped off my shoulders chain and all and so my reading glasses slipped away.  I've grown to dislike so much about Kaiser now.  For glasses I'm ripped off (over $250 and more for this tiny gadget), glasses pushed on my nose at trying-on sessions: if I move back, I'm looked askance at for expecting some respect for my body space.  I have to endure condescension at eye-testing sessions (I'm spoken to as if I were a child -- this time he will let me get away with this or that but next ...) Well, we found a pair which did the trick in a local pharmacy. $17.99, pretty, $5 for a light-beaded looking chain, so $22+ w/tax.At Kaiser this costs $250+ for glasses, $20 for chain, another $20 for the useless irritating sessions w/doctor & person supposedly expert in glasses but who doesn't know what is in the catalogue and I end up with much uglier glasses than I wanted.  Here I had them in my hand so no mistakes possible and it took me 5 minutes of my trying to read different pairs to read tiny blurbs on nearby medicines, no embarrassment, little time.

Then back to the room to walk about the college together.  This was an emotional moment for me.  As I've written before (on my old blog), I went to Queens College, CUNY, between 1964 and 1968; I was a student in the English department and, with a chancellor's scholarship which took me to the UK, it became my lifeline and springboard to take me to a life of study, reading, writing, teaching I could endure. I could not have done it today:  the cost then $25 a term, and luckily I could get there by 2 buses. Today there is no meritocracy to take individuals past their origin to another class to fulfill their inward gifts in institutions and middle class jobs.  Then I went onto England: a 12 day boat trip which took me to the white cliffs of Dover and the feeling that imaginatively I had come to a place where I had an imaginative affinity through my beloved books. I'll never forget that moment or the green sparkling channel on that (happily) sunny day.

How little Queens has changed. Unlike GMU (where I teach now), it's still basically a commuter school. This residence hall (the summit) is at the back and is the only one in the college.   The college has grown a lot and there are a number of beautiful new buildings, but the center is the old quad and there are still 3 or 4 Spanish style buildings. The building I registered in is at the fore; the building I took my first English class in with Clinton F. Oliver is there. At the back is a new fountain and sculptured arrangement but the aspect remains the same. 

The quad looking at one of the Spanish style buildings -- now they are fixed up, with air-conditioning with names of those who donated the money to fix them. When I was there, they were pretty shabby :)

The population of students I saw were lower middle class white, black, Spanish, the equivalent of what I remembered in the 1960s -- the customer or client base.  We saw huge SUVs drive up just loaded with stuff for some of the students; others had more modest amounts like Izzy brought.  Today Izzy has some misadventures: wrong information, huge lines to suffer through, chaos, and things are not convenient: she has to go to the library for her access, gets mixed messages, and it appears that she was under a wrong impression about the music history program for an MA. She may be the only MA music history student. No particular effort is made for anyone as an individual at all. Queens College is a place for the unprivileged still. It was so before open admissions.

It's a culture shock for her in part. 

Indeed it looked so small  I realized how shabby it must have been in 1964.  Then it looked like some kind of haven to my eyes and I was stunned by chaos of it all.  What I must've been to react that way. How pathetic. Today it's a small sort of version of GMU or (better yet) Buffalo, but much plainer than either, unassuming but academically sound city college.  I like it for that.  I can still be comfortable there and recognize how I managed it.

Queens is not a place of privilege. If it's no longer $25 a term, it's not like GMU, seeking prestige. It's still a city college with a history of lower middle class customers and is still 80% commuters.  It was a remarkable contrast to even GMU - which is such a phony driven place. Now that we have about 50 or more % of students on campus, they are thinking they are on the way to being Stanford -- the commuters are being punished and sidelined as second class citizens by upping their parking rates and providing much less parking at the same time.  Soon they'll charge us to sit on the benches as I've said.  Everyone unfriendly; you must go on the Net for everything. I now have 69 students; no one gives as shit how large the classes get just as long as they get rid of teachers. On facebook there were 3 (three in the small group I know) stories of people desolated because the classes they expected to teach were cancelled for insufficient registration. Meanwhile corporate profits are up 35%.  All their priorities at GMU are now into buying prestige events, with prestige people coming to talk.  Queens is not grown half so much, changed little; the population looks much lower middle class.

It was an autumn-like day, cooler in NYC.  Jim and I visited my mother who lives about 15 minutes away from Queens College by car -- so Isabel does have a close relative not far away, even if my mother (88) can't help her much.  We stayed about an hour and a quarter with her, which threw us into the later afternoon rush hour going come. It took a full hour to get out of Queens and Manhattan into the Holland tunnel.

We are at the tail-end of what has been a super-hot summer. I'm doing my syllabi for my 3 sections (I've got 69 students) and next Friday I begin to teach again.  GMU is hungry for more upper class customers, to be a school where people live on campus, and determined to gouge everyone there (for parking for example -- if you are a commuter as still the majority of the population is, probably still 50 or more % -- you have to pay through the nose for an inferior right to find a space where there are not enough spaces), enlarging classes, cutting numbers of sections, putting prices up on everything.  They would charge us to sit on the benches if they could.  I didn't quite get that open disdainful feeling of take it or leave it, we couldn't give a shit about you if you stay or not (despising and disdaining) as I nowadays do at GMU. For me the symbols of the changes include a fancy hotel taking up yet another parking lot, police who intimidate and bully you if you sit in your car waiting for someone without paying the 75 cents for each 15 minutes, that parking lots are set aside for students living there so each privileged person can have a space.  An Indian caste system in the public physical arena. I should have mentioned GMU is not a private school; like Queens, it's a state-supported place whose money base is taxes across the state; the difference is the individuals who run GMU tap private donors and the result is a much worse place, much worse.

I shall miss Isabel; we've grown together in the past two years and end this commemorative blog with a few photos of her and me and Jim too.

Isabel and me in front of the president's house at Sweet Briar, 2006, her graduation

Two years later, her graduation, with an MLIS at Buffalo: that's Niagara falls behind us

Jim with her

Our last summer vacation, at a Landmark House in Vermont, she and I, perhaps that sam



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 25th, 2010 03:07 am (UTC)
The changed world (1)
Writing a friend about how I see the world changed since the 1960s:

The Afghan campaign is a linchpin of the whole policy the US has followed since WW2: this includes directly and aggressively in the 1980s dismantling as many of the pro-social policies that made possible your life and mine, meritocracy, institutions and organizations which enabled lots of people to have opportunities to become middle class, turning these back into crony places by shrinking them, destroying the unions. What we are seeing is not an abberation and it Need Not have happened. It's been engineered; the icing on the cake was the getting rid of controls of the banks in the 1990s after passing NAFTA. It's not a thought-out conspiracy but all the people working at this know what they are doing -- and what they have done. And they rejoice in their huge wealth.

Obama rose in this system and by his use of personal politics and his race too, and physical looks, a perfect token. His book is a politician's creation of an identity for himself (especially through the white grandfather -- we hear so little of his mother's PH.d, his stepfather). Naturally he thinks basically the system is good -- it put him where he is.

He makes lovely speeches but no practical pragmatic effort to change the fundamental discourse which should begin with a real jobs program, real rebuilding of social construction and services, and real efforts (the things to do it are in place, they are just ignored) to rebuild the federal government agencies, unprivatize. Keynes economics shows us the so-called lack of money is an invention; it needs taxing the wealthy for real and making a deficit. Deficit spending creates jobs and that money in people's pockets and that is prosperity IPelosi has been the heroine.

Every time Obama talks of our recovery is he betraying us.

FDR was a hotstorm of hatred and controversy in newspapers. I've read and been told if we were alive in 1934 we would have thought he was the most hated man in the US. But he was not. Have you seen that speech he made very old near dying of the "rights" of all US citizens.

I was not alive when he was president so I have not been alive when we had our greatest president. I was born 1946 so our greatest president in my lifetime has been LBJ. He passed medicare, signed that civil rights bill, and I've seen shots of him sickened by what he saw brought home in bags and on wheelchairs from the Vietnam war I sometimes think he left office after one term rather than carry on.

Aug. 25th, 2010 03:09 am (UTC)
The changed world (2)
Not only have policies been successfully set afoot to destroy the middle class (I mean the lower middle class mostly, a great majority) in the US, but this has been accompanied since WW2 with military policies to destroy all social movements around the world. It's been hugely successful in the short run - and that's what counts for individual lives. If parts of the US are starting to look like 3rd world nations, it's that since the 1980s this has quietly and also with much political propaganda been extended to the US.

It's not hugely successful in the long run for I see the religious fanatic movements as a response to dire poverty and desperation. Young men given no lives to live or futures turn (it seems) to fanatic groups for meaning, and perversely deprive themselves of yet more (sex and even life itself) in reaction to their frustration. So in the long run it's very dangerous: it means the powerful have to keep the guns and frighteningly terrific weaponry (the stuff we used so successfully in the trenches in Kuwait that simply burned all the people in them alive) going and forceful.

The most recent cryingly obvious instance is the refusal to let Palestinian people have food by the Israelies. The blockade. Sheer spite, Jim. Do read this one by Patrick Coburn:


Blockades. The reality: carefully crafted callousness. I see carefully crafted callousness growing apace at GMU and in the medical facilities I go to. I am now asked to spend $70 for a tube of cream and only allowed to have such a tube three times a year. Who is getting rich on this? someone really is.

When I read Obama's reiterated statements we are having a (jobless) recovery, I think of this article:


For young people joining the labor force in the midst of the Great Rec! ession, short-term well-being may not be the only thing at stake. Their lives will likely be scarred in important, negative ways for years to come.

This is where it's at Jim: the ruthlessness of a profitable company in an area where unemployment is high makes them grind their employees down. You cannot be a strong union when there are no others -- Reagon started the open destruction of unions with the air traffic controllers. It was an important moment in US history.


Anyway upfront I admit it's that me and mine are hurting bad -- librarian jobs destroyed, all entry level ones gone with the cronyism of local cliques -- and I see enough others hurting bad too.

Aug. 27th, 2010 06:56 pm (UTC)
From a friend
"I just read your blog, Ellen. It's inspiring to think of the continuity of a university( I got choked up reading your blog about Queens and feel the same when I visit the University of Iowa campus, which I don't exactly visit, but it is adjacent to the downtown area of my hometown), and at the same time it's sad to think about the disorganization, the lack of internet access, the obstacles to overcome.

Isabel will like New York, don't you think? It's very exciting: the place we'd all like to live. I envy all those ethnic markets."
Aug. 28th, 2010 11:14 am (UTC)
On the politics of my blog
From Nick:

"The blog on Queens was also terrific, yet another exemplary blending of the personal and political. I read the links - how chilling and horrible are Albright's words? - Asked whether this was worth the death of half a million children, Albright replied: ‘We think the price is worth it.’ - can you imagine what (rightly) horror and indignation there would be if such words came, which they might easily have done, from Stalin or Mao? 'We think the price is worth it'! And what was the price? The cure for cancer? The salvation of the planet? No, the removal of Saddam Hussein."
Aug. 28th, 2010 11:18 am (UTC)
Another friend
"The pictures of you and Isabel are lovely.:)

I do hope she settles in well - though I can see from your account that it has been a bit of a culture shock and a shame about not having internet access - still, as you say, it will be much better than just being at home applying for jobs which don't exist in this economy. Anyway I do hope it goes well for her."

Edited at 2010-10-16 10:13 pm (UTC)
Aug. 29th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC)
From another friend
"Great blog. It is strange to go back to where we once belonged, isn't it? The memories and feelings invoked by an old familiar setting are not to be underestimated.


Oct. 16th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
The US college system in general
From a friend:

American education has been corrupted by tax laws which encourage the wealthy to set the goals for these institutions. These tax laws in essence shift the funding from the government (people) to corporations and individuals. The tuition thus rises as there are so-called scholarships which bring the advertised tuition closer to the real tuition. The institutions of higher education actually plan their budgets on the basis of realized tuition rather than the published tuition. Another element in the budgeting is the charge for room and board. This is a major source of revenue for these institutions. The final element in the cost for student is the activity fee. This fee, which is not elective, is what funds the athletic programs which the institution use to recruit more students to pay these fees.

A major element in the funding process is the annual fund. The annual fund is the process in which old boys and girls give money to their alma maters. Graduates of advanced degrees tend not to give to their graduate schools. The tuitions at the graduate level are quite high and there is generally little financial aid in the first year of graduate work.

I am so sorry that your family has been so devastated by this system. You are not alone. What I find that is hard for older Americans to understand that the U.S. today and its institutions are not the same as when we were young; the health care system is completely different and more expensive, the system of education at all levels is different and more expensive as well as less effective and the opportunities for the young to learn about the fine arts are fewer. The Met used to tour; Mary Lynn saw Marilyn Horne and Joan Sutherland singing Norma in Memphis. Public Broadcasting used to televise plays and operas. It no longer does so. Public radio used to broadcast classical music; in most states today NPR is talk radio. Athletic events seem to comprise the bulk of our culture, and these are closely connected to the militarism currently sweeping the country. There are always tributes to our mercenaries fighting in the colonial wars.

I see the following elements in a fascistic country: 1. a close connection between big business and the government in which big business receives substantial money from the government and is not allowed to fail 2. a glorification of the military with a large number of flag officers, a plethora of medals and small wars against defenseless countries 3. a spiritual ideology based on either race, a glorious past or religion. In the case of America today the spiritual element is based on the Bible with a slavish adoration of Israel, a glorification of Christianity and a hatred for Islam. The only element seemingly missing is the creation of new youth groups in uniform, although if you look at the crowds at football games you will see the students all dressed alike.

As you can see, the educational establishment seems to be closely involved in all of this. When I began my career at the the University of Virginia, the president of the university was a Tennyson scholar. Today most presidents are chosen for their financial or government connections and have little interest in scholarship outside economics.

Oct. 16th, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
History of Ph.d. Alumni
I also received a last publication of the Ph.D. alumni association of CUNY. By Gertrude Schneider it registers a history of deliberate destruction beginning in the early 1990s. Apparently the move from Grace Building to the ex-Orbachs department was part of a politicized down-grading of the graduate programs. The Placement Office which helped students get academic jobs was closed and replaced by commercialized ruthlessly indifferent people to the ideals of the humanities and academic scholarship.

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