(Lori Piotrowski) – The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), an organization founded in the early 1900’s to ensure the academic freedom of university professors, continues to actively work to ensure that the voice of educators is heard during this fiscal crisis.
In today’s newsletter, the authors of “Campaign for the Future of Higher Education” advocate that faculty throughout the U.S. begin their own grassroots movement to counter efforts to rein in costs.
In January, a meeting was held in Los Angeles, CA, to
construct a positive counter-narrative in the national debate over the future of American higher education at a time when public higher education is at great risk. The mission of this grassroots campaign is twofold: to ensure that affordable quality higher education is accessible to all sectors of our society in the coming decades; and to ensure that faculty, students, and our communities, not just administrators, politicians, foundations, and think tanks, have a voice to guarantee that “reforms” to higher education are good for students, for the quality of education, and for the public good.
Who could argue with that? We all want quality institutions, and we’d like them to be affordable to those who pursue post-high school education. What we cannot agree on is the pathway to reach that common ground.
Today’s newsletter does nothing to promote understanding, let alone compromise. The 70 or so faculty members who attended said meeting set themselves up as the only party worth consulting in shaping the future of education. They drew up seven principles to “guide the development and assessment of policy and practice in higher education.”
Briefly, these guidelines state that higher education must be inclusive, available, and affordable; must have a diverse curriculum; must invest in excellent faculty who has academic freedom, terms of employment; must incorporate new technologies; must pursue real efficiencies and avoid false economies; and will require “substantially more public investment over current levels.” They capped the list with an admonition that standardized, simplistic metrics cannot measure quality education.
This set of principles wasn’t enough; the group of academics deemed it necessary to call on all faculty everywhere to declare April 13 a day of action. Activities are left up to the individual faculty member or university, but the AAUP will help them to publicize the events.
The AAUP is encouraging diversity amongst the campaigners advising readers that the success of April 13 “depends on widespread participation by faculty and other constituencies (students, civil rights groups, community groups, organized labor) who care about the future of higher education.” The newsletter even provides ideas for this day of action:
- This can be as big as a campus demonstration or teach-in, or as small as hanging fliers with information about the situation in your state or on your campus. For more ideas, see the California Faculty Association website. Please let us know what you have planned so we can get the word out: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Talking to your friends and neighbors about the importance of higher education. The time to take action is now. Too often, a reluctance to engage in political conversation means that people outside the academy may not be aware of the work that happens on campus or of threats to quality higher education posed by political agendas.
- Write to your local newspapers and legislators about the value of higher education, public funding for education, and the other principles listed below.
- Let others on your campus know about this campaign.
Wisconsin was just the beginning. We’re beginning to see the seeds of revolt being spread throughout the country. It’s the 1960s all over again with one exception: The 60s students are still leading the charge, this time as faculty.