Do you know what’s happening to public colleges and universities in the U.S.? Are you noticing this thing where funding is being cut to programs many humans need to be humans and not simply human-like wafers to be chewed by the economic machine? To be more than wage-slaves too exhausted to question whether a bigger flatscreen really is a fair exchange for their souls?

Nicole Walker is noticing. And she’s writing about it here in a series of open letters to the governor of her state. In one of them, she describes a former student who needed her state’s university system to become the Contributing Member of Society she is now. I can relate. Without the State University of New York and federal financial aid, I don’t know where I’d be, but I’m pretty sure I’d be such a miserable pain in the ass, I’d be making everyone around me miserable too.

Because when you have intelligence and talent–and I think people do, generally, have these qualities–and it goes undeveloped, it turns rank, toxic, dangerous. But when, as a society, we stay committed to making sure even poor kids like I was get the guidance and support needed to develop raw appetite for artistic expression into career-and-life-building skills, we all benefit.

Please make sure your political representatives understand that state colleges and universities need to be protected and respected as intellectual and creative incubators, not stripped down to serve only as vocational training programs run by business, for business.