Hamline professor David Davies joins the "99 Percent" with letter on student debt

david davies letter.jpg
David Davies' letter has gone viral on Facebook.
David Davies is a professor of East Asian studies at Hamline University. Or, at least, that's what he was yesterday. This morning, Davies woke up to find he'd become an internet sensation, and the new Minnesota face of the "We Are the 99 Percent" movement.

Davies's contribution was a letter modeled after those on the "We Are the 99 Percent" website, in which protest sympathizers take a picture of themselves holding a letter with their take on an issue. After the website didn't post his letter, Davies simply threw it on his Facebook page.

Monday morning, it had 10 Facebook shares. Yesterday it had about 30 shares.

This morning, Davies woke up to find that his posting had hit the tipping point: As of this writing, it's been shared more than 1,200 times.

"I'm absolutely flabbergasted," Davies told City Pages. 

"I thought I just wanted to add my voice. And it just so hapened that what I said, a lot of people are saying, 'Yeah, that's what I was thinking.'"


Here, for easier reading, is the larger version of Davies's letter.

david davies letter.jpg

Davies said he was inspired to contribute his letter after reading through some of the postings on the We Are 99 Percent Tumblr feed, which he found "pretty moving," especially when he noticed a lot of college students among the contributors.

But more than that, Davies was writing from his own personal experience in dealing with students at Hamline.

"In my class, I talk about the power of debt to reduce freedom, the way that debt restricts people's opportunities and limits their choices," Davies said. 

In recent years, that conversation has shifted from students talking about debt in the Third World and developing countries, to students sharing fears about the debt they're picking up while they're in college. 

In his own case, Davies attended Hamline in the 1980s and then went on to graduate school. Davies said he benefited greatly from attending a private college, but he couldn't have done it without low-interest loans provided by the government. Davies incurred debt in paying for his tuition, but was also able to finance a significant part of his tuition with government-backed Pell Grants, which he said are increasingly sparse compared to tuition costs.

"Some time since the '80s," Davies said, "it's become private debt for a private investment. It's even seen as, quote, 'good debt.'"

Davies continued, "The monetization of college really narrows the freedoms of students to choose what they do after graduation."

Davies said he's "a little uncomfortable" being entirely lumped in with the Occupy protesters, but is both "shocked" and thrilled at the response the letter's gotten from students -- both nationally, and, perhaps especially, his own.

"The students have really humbled me with their comments," he said. "They really have been supportive in a way that I -- it's really clear that this resonates with them. And to have a professor say this meant something to them."



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40 comments
Patrick
Patrick

Should it not be noted that this Professor with his exorbitantsalary contributes to the high cost passed on to the students tuitions? Do wereally need his sympathy? If he really sympathizes he should to go to the administrationand ask for a pay cut. The protest should be moved from Wall Street to the American Associationof University Professors or some other arm of the academic complex that gougesstudents.

And he teaches such a useful subject too! Well I guess itwill be once china finally calls in our dept.

Kairos
Kairos

What about people that simply don't want to take on debt period? Why are we never given a real alternative to that paradigm? I think the whole debt-based system needs to be done away with and replaced by something more constructive, like national credit. We could use that to build the nation and the American Dream and it wouldn't put us into debt in the process like it does when we try to "grow" the economy by creating more debt. National Credit would only require that we put investment into the most intelligent ideas (infrastructure) and be willing to do productive work, instead of leeching off the backs of people through interest usury.

Kirk the Conservative Jerk
Kirk the Conservative Jerk

Um, Mr "Professor", YOU are part of the problem behind the student loan debt.

ALL student loans will come from the federal government as of 2013.  It was completely taken over within the federal healthcare legislation. Who are the kids gonna blame after that is implemented?

Sparky
Sparky

Uh, even a cursory understanding of how money works tell us that when our government throws essentially unlimited subsidies (in the form of student loans and grants) for 30 years (1973-2003) it's unsurprising that the cost of 'college' will rise unimpeded to take advantage of those monies.  Problem is that when the money runs out, as is has, colleges and universities are institutionally unable to reign in their bloated cost structures.

Wickedsnake77
Wickedsnake77

If you don't want college debt you can't pay off, then don't go to college. There is no reason the government should pay for suzy hipster to get a useless english literature degree.

Warren G. Buffett
Warren G. Buffett

Is there something Im missing here? A professor at a $20K+ private school is complaining that his students are paying too much and having to take on debt? Pot, meet kettle.

Possible solutions:-Decrease tuition at Hamline-Go to a cheaper school that you can afford-Work more, increase income-Tax Wall Street

guest
guest

What exactly are you protesting against???

guest
guest

WWhy don't you people get off the back of wall street and go after the real "criminals" here. Go protest at 1600 Pennsylvania ave. They're the ones that bailed them out.

Pubilus
Pubilus

How does the cost of college education have anything to do with Wall Street?

amalone
amalone

aka The Flea Party, kind'a catchy, and apt.

Johnny
Johnny

I don't see any indication of anyone in higher education, professors included, turning back a portion of their salaries to fund student fees and tuition.........

paul wang
paul wang

wonderful and exciting!!!! this is the way! 

Guy
Guy

I know there's only so much space in high school curricula, but we really need to push for more "real world" finance education at the pre-college levels. Most kids are making their decisions based on what the colleges and banks tell them, and it doesn't help that they're being pushed from the other direction by baby-boomer parents who think a college degree is some sort of golden life vest that must be obtained at any cost. If I try really hard, I think I can remember one hour of one day when we talked about loans in high school. Kids need at least a whole semester to make this stuff sink in.

But good on Mr. Davies for making a statement. Like Wall Street, the higher education money machine is due to take a few knocks.

ae_umn
ae_umn

Um...no. All federally-backed student loans will come from the government. Private loans will still continue to exist. Much of this is already in place, actually, and it has been more or less since I first entered college. My Stafford loan--government money--was funneled through to Wells Fargo that then passed it on to me before the government got wise and made it all Direct Loans. No middle man. This doesn't mean private loans just go away.

Old Student
Old Student

 As David points out "unlimited" is not correct. The amount of federally subsidized loans has not increased since they were implemented. So colleges are not inflating costs to take advantage of these subsidies. The subsidies do not increase with inflation. Students are just borrowing more from private lenders to cover the inflation. Even if the government were to increase the subsidies, it is in their best interest. So for all of you who think the government should not “pay” for a college degree (which they dont) please note: A BA pays on average 2.1 million more dollars over a lifetime then a high school diploma does. That is approximately $270,000 more in taxes over a lifetime paid by those with a BA compared to those without. So maybe the governement should concider "paying" for college.If student pays the extra amount to get a degree for a “$20K” college as Warrant G. Buffet points out compared to someone who goes to a college that is….well I don’t really know of a 4 year college that is less than that, even state schools such as the U of M are above that. But I assume he means it is a higher priced school. Which is true, it is also a very reputable school with a low admittance rate so it has time to personally prep their graduates for the job market. In fact many of Hamline’s class curriculums require undergrads to participate in career counseling. With this in mind the overpriced Hamline prepares their students to get into the system sooner than other schools, therefore creating even more revenue for the government. The professor is not complaining his students have to "take on debt". If you read the article and the picture, he is stating that--something that was once a "public good" has now become another well for Wall Street to drain and get rich from. Wall Street has hijacked higher education in this country, just as they have done to other nations resources all over the globe. Education is one of the last resources we have in this country, lets preserve it.   

Mark Gisleson
Mark Gisleson

Does anyone who listens to talk radio have a clue how the real world works?

COLLEGE TUITION WAS ALWAYS SUBSIDIZED. We just cut back on the subsidies until only the rich could afford to go to college.

Our nation benefits from having an educated populace. Business benefits from having morons for consumers. Yes, business is winning big time right now.

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

Anyone that has ever taken a Stafford Loan knows this, "essentially unlimited subsidies " is complete horseshit. Stop lying, liar.

It's like saying the Earth is "essentially" water.

Admittedly, your argument is valid.

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

If no one goes to college, there will be no one to drop out and manage you at Lowes...suburban chaos will ensue and the streets of Savage will be strewn with the carcasses of a thousand gutted Yukons...is that what you want?

EK
EK

Man you so totally like don't get it.  It's in like the constitution that I get to expand my mind.

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

Your query asks, what "you" are protesting...who the fuck are you talking to? Who is, "you"? The professor from the article?

Perhaps if you used more precise language, you would elicit the response you appear to desperately crave so you can make your retarded point already.

guest
guest

Why won't anyone reply to this one? Haha!

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

Well, the the guy that lived there that "bailed them out" sorta moved back to Texas awhile back.

We may as well protest outside a fucking Wendy's if we want to protest the shitsipper that instituted TARP.

Your larger point holds water though...as long as we allow corporations to pay for the re-election campaigns of our "representatives", we're all fucked.

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

Uh, even a cursory understanding of how money works tell us that when our government spends our money bailing out banks and private industry, it has less to fund grants and provide subsidized loans for tuition...

I mean, there is a larger argument to be made, but do you really not get that wasting our money propping up people that failed at capitalism leaves less money for shit we all use?

yahoo-42EJLCLJGVDAMEDDLUTIUCCPPY
yahoo-42EJLCLJGVDAMEDDLUTIUCCPPY

Isn't that part of the point?!  Professors get paid a decent wage commensurate with their education and experience.  Also, their salaries are a very small part of the expenses of a university.  The 1% needs to pay their fair share to support public post-secondary education, a public good from which they currently take value from but do not support adequately.

Mark Gisleson
Mark Gisleson

Maybe they will once you've set the example by paying a buck to everyone who's brain was harmed by reading your illogical and flatulent comment.

Warren G. Buffett
Warren G. Buffett

The first paragraph seems to mention something about 'incredible debt his students are taking on'. Did I misread that?

I just through out $20K as a arbitrary number for reference. I meant to add that it was per year. Obviously, as someone pointed out, its much higher. 

guest
guest

Hamline is actually $32,000 per year.  U of M is $13,000.  do some research before you attempt to sound intelligent.  if you're going to bitch about tuition costs, don't go to such an expensive school.  it's all about choices, and don't blame anyone but yourself because you chose an expensive one.  and let's not pretend that these schools are hurting in $$$.  why don't they take their saved tax $$ by not paying any, and put it towards helping students, not helping their best interests in washington.  if anyone has "hijacked" big education, its washington. 

Erin
Erin

See, now, the problem with your argument is that you used facts and discussed this issue with nuance. That will get you nowhere with the knuckleheads who posted above and it doesn't fit on talk radio.

Bilky
Bilky

But... isn't that what Savage is like already?

butch
butch

I was starting to think that you were an ok liberal that one could have a civil argument with, but there you go, you blew it.  little bit of a stretch accusing the poster of not being good at grammar to make yourself feel intelligent, isn't it?  well, let's hear it then almighty one, what are you protesting against?

Mark Gisleson
Mark Gisleson

Probably no one replied because they were afraid of catching cooties.

Economic injustice. Two words that sums it all up. Happy? Or do you need to borrow a dictionary?

Patrick
Patrick

If you’re going to ban corporate contributions then you alsoneed to ban union contributions and any other kind of organization contributions.Heck lets ban ALL contributions! Even personal contributions. Just issue each candidatea modest campaign fund – each one gets the same amount. I believe this is howthey do it in England. Plus they are only allow a 4-6 week window from the dateof the election to campaign, not this bull crap 2 and 3 year head start. Then wecan say any candidate accepting a contributions outside of this fund goesdirectly to jail. Just like in Monopoly.

Pubilus
Pubilus

Uh, even a cursory understanding of how politics works tells us that Congress has the spending power. Therefore, if Congress is the entity that decides how to "waste' our money by bailing out banks, wouldn't it make sense to go directly to those individuals who waste the money - Congress - as opposed to those who benefit from receiving the wasted money? 

guest
guest

Why don't these schools start paying taxes. Maybe then the burden will be a little less on all of us. Oh, because then they won't have any funding for the democratic party to keep them at the zero mark....

Erin777
Erin777

What? That's not the point at all. Average salary of a professor at a MN private college - $60,000 - $90,000. Average salary of someone who works on Wall Street - LOTS MORE!

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

People that make the mistake of thinking grammar and the passive voice are the same thing?

That...and cancer. I'm protesting against cancer...right now.

ron
ron

Economic injustice? What the hell do you want?!?! Should i just sign my checks over to you? Do you want my bank acct info? How about I just pay all my taxes to you. Will that make you stop protesting and go take a shower and not make the police take care of you and your dipshit buddies? Take some responsibilty for yourself and quit whining.

Etwansherlew2000
Etwansherlew2000

Erin 777: Wrong, I'm an assistant professor (4 years in) and I make 48K. 

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