Monday, August 23, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xiii)

In March, April and May of 1971, I began to spend more time than previously browsing in the Lehman College Library in the afternoon and evening. Not being a student there in the Spring of 1971--and not yet realizing that it was sometimes still possible to gain college library book borrowing privileges at some of the CUNY campus libraries, like at Brooklyn College, by just paying a $50 fee each year—I assumed there was no way I could take home any university library books to read like I had been able to do at Columbia, Richmond College, Queens College and Lehman College when I was officially a student at those places. So most of my browsing activity in the Lehman College library in the Spring of 1971 involved examining reference books that were unavailable to take home from the library even by students who were officially enrolled at Lehman College.

I can’t recall much of what I read while browsing in the Lehman College library in the afternoon or evenings in late March, April and May of 1971. But one thing I do remember is that it was in the Lehman College library that I found the CUNY public records of CUNY faculty salaries which indicated that--while the hippy students at Richmond College received no money for attending college classes taught by hip professors who claimed to be for economic equality and into the hippie values of being more into sharing than making money--the hip professors at places like Richmond College and other CCNY units were being paid $28,000 per year in 1970-71, when most young U.S. workers in Manhattan were only earning between $5,000 and $10,000 per year in 1970-71 for having to work at 9 to 5 menial clerical or blue-collar jobs.

Prior to discovering the CUNY public records of what CUNY profs were being paid in 1970-71, I had assumed that, at most, for doing a soft job that involved mostly just leading discussions and lecturing from notes in a classroom for maybe 15 hours a week, as well as hanging out in their academic offices for another three hours, CUNY professors were being paid no more than the $10,000 to $15,000 per year salaries that the older clerical or unionized blue-collar workers who were trapped in 9 to 5 jobs for 35 hours per week were generally being paid at that time. So when I learned that the CUNY profs—some of whom were only in their late 20s or early 30s—were being paid 4 to 5 times what most of their recent students were being paid once they found themselves trapped in the 9-to-5 “real world” and 2 to 3 times what most older office workers or blue-collar workers who had been stuck in the 9-to-5 “real world” for over 20 years were only allowed to earn, I was shocked. And I quickly concluded that left academics and hippie academic professors in the United States were, by 1971, bringing home such relatively high upper-middle-class salaries that they now had a vested economic interest—like their less intellectual, less politically radical, less hip, more conventionally straight middle-class colleagues who were also members of the privileged, economically secure, now affluent U.S. “professoriate”—in not really encouraging their students to support a Black Panther Party-led or a revolutionary feminist-led anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-classist, anti-racist and anti-sexist Revolution in the United States during the 1970s.

What I also remember about browsing in the library at Lehman College in late March, April and May of 1971 is that I chatted for a long time in the evening a few times with the reference librarian there, who was a bearded, bored, intellectual guy in his early 50s, who looked a little like Nat Hentoff looked at that time in his appearance. One reason the bearded librarian probably was bored being the reference librarian in the Lehman College library during the weekday evenings is that on some evenings only a few Lehman College students bothered to use the library for studying, research or even socializing purposes. And on some evenings, the librarian and I—just a non-student—were the only ones inside the library during the last hour—until the night janitor came to shut the library down.

Like many other underemployed, more intellectual older guys of his generation, by 1971 the librarian seemed to realize—as a result of the by then obviously wasteful and stupid endless U.S. military intervention in Indochina, the 1960s urban ghetto rebellions, things like the 1970 Kent State Massacre and the post-1969 economic slump in New York City and beginning of the post-1970 prolonged U.S. economic decline of the 1950s and 1960s affluent U.S. society—that the System in the USA was corrupt and irrational; and that only his retirement within the next 15 years would give him something qualitatively different to look forward to in terms of his daily life. But like the other underemployed bearded intellectual guys in his 50s at this time, who often seemed to be just working then for the sake of supporting their kids and stay-at-home wives, and not out of any intense interest in their jobs, the reference librarian at Lehman College seemed totally skeptical that U.S. society would ever be changed in a more radically democratic direction. So that people like him would ever not feel trapped in dull 9-to-5 day jobs or 1-to-9 evening jobs, if they were in their 50s and still had families to support, as he felt trapped in 1971.