June 5th, 2014
Imagine you had a fairy godmother or godfather for that matter who with the wave of a wand erases all your debt to creditors, in this case, your student loan debt? Well, students at the Universidad Del Mar, a private for-profit tuition based institution, in Chile had their wish come true last month. Their entire debt history was expunged, wiped off the ledgers, erased, zapped, deleted, you name it, by a fairy godfather of sorts; an artist by the name of Papas Fritas, or Fried Potatoes.
The visual artist managed to sweet talk his way into the vaults of the University under the guise of an art project, gathered all the documents concerning student loans worth about $500,000,000.00 and set fire to them, leaving absolutely not a scrap of paper to trace back to a single student!
This is what $500,000.000.00 worth of student loans looks like when burnt into ashes:
He then compiled the ashes into a Volkswagen van creating a mobile art project and is traveling around the country to the people’s delight. (I start smiling every time I think of what this genius of an artist has accomplished. Bravo!) Whether we call what Papas Fritas did as art or a prank, is debatable. I prefer calling it an artistic prank. Kembrew McLeod, the author of a new book Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World,” explains this the best. “If reduced to a mathematical formula, the art of pranking can be expressed as Performance Art + Satire x Media = Prank,” he writes. “Put simply, pranks are playful critiques performed within the public sphere and amplified by media.” (Though I’m digressing a bit here, check out the review on McLeod’s book in Slate’s online blog: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2014/05/kembrew_mcleod_s_pranksters_reviewed.html)
A few words about the Universidad Del Mar; a notorious money-laundering establishment that was stripped of its accreditation and shut down by the Chilean government last year leaving thousands of students in a lurch but still responsible to pay back their loans. The University was founded in 1989 and was later discovered that it bought its accreditation through bribes and siphoned monies from tuitions into private real estate dealings. Though it had hired professors with post-graduate degrees, its focus was not on strengthening its academic programs as evidenced by its abysmal ranking as 51st out of 53 universities in the country.
Back in 2011 Chilean students began protesting against for-profit universities and demanded the government to strengthen the state universities instead. These students brought to light moneymaking schemes by the for-profit institutions and succeeded in arrests of leaders of the universities and the closures of several of these institutions. In 2013, the students at the Universidad Del Mar caught on to the shenanigans at their institution and took over the university and occupied its main buildings. They too succeeded in having the university closed and its leaders arrested.
The final blow to the now defunct Universidad Del Mar is most definitely Papas Fritas who took matters into his hands by lighting a match to the bogus loans that were left for the students to pay regardless of the demise of the university. According to lawyers in Chile “only by formally testifying in court and acknowledging the debt would students now be forced to pay.” Can’t see that one happening!
To learn more about Papas Fritas and his art installation check out this link:
To read more on the 2013 Chilean student protests against Universidad Del Mar check out this link: http://digitaljournal.com/article/349396
The Frustrated Evaluator