Saturday, April 10, 2010

T is for Turlock

Or maybe “turkey”

The modest California town of Turlock in Stanislaus county currently boasts a population of 70,000 and a campus of the California State University. The university is the legacy of a sufficiently well-connected state senator who thought his hometown should snag one of the new campuses being planned during the 1960s expansion of the CSU system. It gave Turlock something else to brag about aside from the poultry farms that inspired the memorable radio jingle about “Turkeys from Turlock.” (This is assuredly the reason that California State University, Stanislaus, is fondly referred to by many as “Turkey Tech.”)

I recently had breakfast in Turlock with an old grad school buddy who is a professor at Stan State (that's the other nickname of CSU, Stanislaus). It was impossible, of course, to avoid twitting him about the selection of Alaska's former half-term governor as guest of honor for the “celebration of excellence” marking Stan State's fiftieth anniversary.

Perhaps Sarah Palin is not someone you automatically associate in your mind with “excellence.” Or “education.” The snarky among us might say the same thing about Stan State, but the truth is that CSU Stanislaus has gained a reputation as a good deal in public higher education. Away from the high-cost environments of the CSU's urban campuses, Stan State offers a low-rent alternative path to bachelor's and master's degrees. (We shouldn't hold it against Stan State that one of its professors is the wacky IDiot Richard Weikert.)

Besides, as my friend pointed out, the university's leadership is simply pandering to the local political environment—and taking advantage of it. California's Central Valley is the locus of blood-red politics and teabagging. The university's “independent” foundation doesn't have to admit how much money it's paying Palin to aw-shucks her way through a “Knowledge is good” speech. The foundation claims, however, that it will clear between $100,000 to $200,000 from her appearance, even after crossing Palin's palm.

So think about it. The right-wing residents of Stanislaus county are being drawn like moths to Palin's bright and shiny flame. In return, each will be relieved of at least $500. (The hardcore Palinistas can unload $50,000 for the honor of being called “platinum sponsors.”) All of that money will go into student scholarships and other educational programs.

And, as we all know, the result of a public higher education in the liberal arts is more liberals. Glenn Beck said so, and he's an “expert” (on everything!).

Yeah, let's take their money.


llewelly said...

And to think that all these years I thought Stanislaus was the name of a Polish saint.

Nevyn said...

Another nickname for Turlock is "City of God" according to Wikipedia. Surprised the heck out of me.

I was appalled to hear Stan State is bringing Palin. So many people with actual accomplishments (that don't involve quitting in the middle) who would have been much better speakers. But it's true that they wouldn't bring in the numbers she will here in the Central Valley.

I live in Merced, and I hope that between the CSU in Turlock and the UC here in Merced, that in a few years, we'll start to balance the left-right politics in the area. There's a long way to go, though.

Zeno said...

My college buddy who lives in Turlock told me he was less than delighted upon beginning his job at Stan State to discover that it was a point of local pride that Turlock allegedly had more churches per capita than any other U.S. city. He doubts that it's true today, since Turlock's population has grown and he hasn't seen a corresponding boom in church construction.

I think the limited number of universities has a lot to do with the Central Valley's right-wing politics. More liberal-minded people gravitate to the college towns and leave the valley behind. Between Sacramento State in the capital and Bakersfield State near the valley's south end, you had only Stan State and Fresno State. That's not much for a 300-mile stretch. UC Merced should help in the longer run, assuming that the locals don't attack it with pitchforks and torches.

Karen said...

I was ranting about the news article which indicated it is costing $75K to bring Palin in. But the economics make sense now! Yes indeed, take conservatives' money to contribute to a liberal higher education.