Speaking before a crowd of several hundred at Rackham Auditorium Friday afternoon, Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of philosophy, science and linguistics, said society benefited more from higher education than students did.
Chomsky — who has been highly influential in a number of disparate fields ranging from linguistics to philosophy — lectured on national politics and the “corporatization” of universities.
Proceeds from the event, which cost $5 and was organized by the Graduate Employees’ Organization, went to the Chomsky Fund, a non-profit humanitarian aid charity.
Chomsky said as the price of higher education has continued to increase, many public institutions have often operated on a budget increasingly comprised of private rather public funds, leading to these institutions to act more like their private counterparts.
He said this trend could have catastrophic results for the future of higher education.
“It’s pretty hard to imagine an economic reason for (increasing tuition rates across the country),” Chomsky said.
To prevent increasing privatization, he said the United States should put greater emphasis on funding higher education. He added that many other countries, such as Germany and Mexico, offer free or heavily subsidized access to higher education.
“If you want to privatize something and destroy it, it’s simple,” Chomsky said. “First you defund it so it doesn’t work anymore.”
Chomsky said the increase of private higher education, and those institutions with similar practices, edged out the demand in the market for public higher education, which could halt tuition hikes in favor of more modest spending practices instead of spending more to compete with other public institutions.
He said soon the only colleges in the United States that could realistically be called publicly funded were community colleges.
Andrew Gibson, a student at Michigan State University who attended the event, said Chomsky’s encouraged him to be more active in rallying against tuition increases when he returns to MSU.
“It’s a struggle, not the passive resistance we see everyday,” he said. “I’ve never heard of anyone organizing against these tuition rises.”
In an interview after the event, Chomsky said the University is among many “corporatized” universities in the nation. Even MIT, he said, has been corporatized “to an extent.”
Still, Chomsky said he wasn’t apprehensive about being critical of his employer.
“They’ve been putting up with a lot worse from me,” Chomsky said.