Crises Connected like Spokes of a Wheel—or the Pockets on a Roulette Wheel

Last Sunday, the New York Times published an editorial, signed by the editorial board, titled “The College Faculty Crisis” [http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/14/opinion/the-college-faculty-crisis.html].

In many ways, the editorial does not say much that should be new to anyone in higher education, but it is certainly significant that the most highly regarded newspaper in the country is highlighting the issues related to the declining state support for public colleges and universities and the effects of the increasing contingency among faculty.

Citing a new study by the Center for Community College Student Engagement, a research center at the University of Texas at Austin, a study that is based on the responses of some 71,000 faculty about their working conditions, the editorial writer emphasizes four major points, which I not only will summarize but will also elaborate on to some degree. Continue reading

Higher Education “Reform”: The Price Paid by the Next Generation of Students and Professors

An “On the Issues” Post from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education [http://futureofhighered.org]

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The increasing awareness of—and outrage about–the size of the debt crushing college graduates is, we must hope, a sign that meaningful action to address it may be possible.

The numbers alone are staggering.  According to recent reports, the average student debt for graduates with bachelor’s degrees is now $29,400—roughly 80% of a young person’s average income in this country. (See more at http://www.edcentral.org/student-debt-review/.)

The implications of these numbers are also frightening.  As we are increasingly aware, student debt is fueling the widening wealth gap in the United States (http://save2limitdebt.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Student-Loans-Widening-Wealth-Gap_Fullreport.pdf) and even threatening the health of our overall economy (http://www.kansas.com/2013/08/10/2935730/crippling-student-debt-affects.html).

Less understood is the parallel economic precariousness of this generation of college professors. Continue reading

Please Stand with the Educators and Academic Professionals at Portland State University!

By a 94%-6% margin, the AAUP chapter at Portland State University has voted to strike on April 16 if substantive progress has not been made in their contract negotiations with their administration.

They ask that you show your support for that vote by signing this petition:

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/i-stand-with-the-educators-academic-professionals-at-psu

They were initially hoping to get at least 1,000 signatures on the petition. They have already surpassed that goal.

The chapter leadership feels very strongly that Portland State University is headed in the wrong direction. The faculty and academic professionals are fighting for a contract that will refocus the university on academic priorities and, in the process, contribute to the broader defense quality public higher education. Continue reading

Cops and Robbers at the University of Southern Maine

This guest post was written by Michael DeCesare, Chair of the Department of Sociology at Merrimack College and President of the AAUP Chapter there.

At a special meeting of the University of Southern Maine (USM) faculty senate on March 14th, USM President Theodora Kalikow announced her plan to eliminate four academic programs and lay off 20 to 30 faculty—including tenured and tenure-track professors—along with 10 to 20 staff. What was the ostensible purposes of these unilateral decisions? To “re-brand” USM from a liberal arts institution into a “metropolitan university” and to make up $7M of a $14M shortfall. Martin Kich reported on these austerity cuts on this blog a week ago.

To this point, neither USM nor the University of Maine (UM) System has declared financial exigency. The supposed severity of the budget shortfall was quickly shown by Susan Feiner, a professor of economics and women’s and gender studies at USM, to be a flimsy justification for firing faculty and closing programs. As Paul Krugman put it in his New York Times blog last week, USM’s administration “seems eager to downsize liberal arts and social sciences for reasons that go beyond money.” Continue reading

How the Adjunct Crisis Hurts Students and the Importance of Fighting Back

Today I’m pleased to be able to publish this guest post by AAUP member Miranda Merklein, a contract professor serving the Northern New Mexico area. She holds a Ph.D. in English from University of Southern Mississippi, an M.A. in liberal arts from St. John’s college, and a B.A. in political science from College of Santa Fe.

Adjuncts are frequently told that basic necessities like a living wage and health care are not “in the budget” of the institutions that employ us, where we work full time hours as contracted, part time labor in a semester-to-semester purgatory state of what-ifs, often at multiple institutions with little to no control of our teaching schedules. We are the lowest paid, albeit terminally educated and skilled, employees at our institutions where we are treated like untouchables by virtually everyone on campus except our students who, until recently, had no idea we were teetering on the edge of financial ruin and emotional collapse. When we approach management about an increase in pay, a living wage, our intentions are questioned and we are accused of putting our own monetary needs above our chosen profession, teaching. At the same time, the people who are in it for the money—college presidents, upper administration, sports coaches—continue to earn raises like we collect white hairs while watching our students and our own children fall deeper into debt.

Tenure track and full time faculty speak of themselves as “we,” as in “we, the department”; contract professors, better known as adjuncts, are the outsiders, the “you guys”, separate and inferior no matter how long we have worked at a particular institution or how many classes we teach. “Thanks for helping us out,” they say. “We appreciate your flexibility.” While I realize this internalized superiority is not necessarily a result of conscious intention, it is damaging nonetheless, especially because this ideology is continually reinforced by the polarized working conditions of the two-tier faculty campus (see Jane Elliott’s Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes exercise). Although I consider myself lucky to have worked with many interesting and considerate colleagues in a variety of roles in my professional life, I would not be surprised if it were suddenly “in the budget” to build separate bathrooms for adjuncts; that’s how deranged the adjunct crisis has become, at great cost to our students and higher education. Continue reading

Full-Text of Today’s NLRB Decision Permitting Athletes at Northwestern University to Unionize

Northwestern University has already indicated that it plans to appeal this decision, and it may very well be overturned on appeal. But the arguments presented by the NLRB regional director who has communicated the decision are very thought-provoking.

I have removed the footnotes because I think that the decision is more than long enough without them. The full text of the decision, including the footnotes is available at: file:///C:/Users/Michael/Downloads/E-Mail/Decision%20and%20Direction%20of%20Election.pdf

I think that it is ironic that, of all of the Big Ten schools, Northwestern should be the institution at which student athletes should have sought to make this point, since the public perception would seem to be that it is probably the Big Ten university least associated with the its athletic history. But perhaps that–as well as its location in a state with a strong union tradition–make it the perfect place for such a petition to have been filed.

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UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT

BEFORE THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD REGION 13

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

Employer 

and                                                                           

COLLEGE ATHLETES PLAYERS ASSOCIATION (CAPA)

Petitioner

Case 13-RC-121359

  Continue reading

Ohio Higher Education Coalition Holds Press Conference on Student Debt

The Ohio Conference of AAUP (OCAAUP) has joined such groups as the Ohio Education Association (OEA), Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT), New Faculty Majority (NFM), Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association (OPTFA), and Ohio Student Association (OSA) in forming a statewide advocacy group on issues related to higher education. After taking some time to create an operating structure and to define its goals, the group held its first press conference this past week. What follows is the news items that the OCAAUP is distributing to its members.

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On Tuesday, March 4, the Ohio Higher Education Coalition (OHEC) held its first press conference announcing the formation of the coalition, highlighting student debt stories, and calling for restoration of the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG), which gives need-based aid to lower income students.

OHEC Continue reading

The Continuing Battle to Save City College of San Francisco

It has been some time since I’ve reported on the fight to save City College of San Francisco (CCSF).  As readers will recall, last summer the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) announced that it would terminate CCSF’s accreditation as of July 2014.  (See my original post of July 8 and subsequent posts on July 13, August 13, and November 8.)  Several recent developments highlight the importance of this fight.

First, on January 2, a San Francisco Superior Court judge granted a key aspect of a motion by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera to enjoin the ACCJC from terminating CCSF’s accreditation in July.  Under terms of the ruling Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow barred the ACCJC from finalizing its planned termination of City College’s accreditation during the course of the litigation, which alleges that the private accrediting body has allowed political bias, improper procedures, and conflicts of interest to unlawfully influence its evaluation of the state’s largest community college.

Continue reading

“Right to Work,” by the Numbers: Part 8: GDP in Urban and Rural America

Business Insider has published a map that graphically illustrates the reality that 50% of the U.S. GDP is generated in just 22 urban areas—Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis/St.Paul, Denver, Seattle, Portland, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Miami:

Map GDP Urban Areas Continue reading

Aren’t More Administrators Needed to Meet Increased Federal Regulatory Requirements?

The title of this post is another one of those entrenched but hackneyed questions that obscures the real issues in higher education. The often-heard claim that federal mandates have necessitated the proliferation of administrators makes little sense on several levels.

First, and most basically, why should keeping data, etc., on what are essentially secondary, if not peripheral, services require full-time, highly paid positions while instruction, ostensibly each institution’s primary reason for existing, should be left to contingent employees? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the opposite to be the case?

Second, the specter of over-regulation and its corollary of unfunded mandates has become one of those broader political talking points that very much needs to be challenged. We have been deregulating for 35 years. Either the Far Right is really lousy at doing it, or they are continuing to misrepresent the extent of the problem because it serves their purposes to do so. I can’t make a case from one illustration, but it is worth noting that the chemical plant in West Virginia that has been responsible for the spill that has polluted a third of that state’s water supply has storage tanks on site that are 80 years old–and I believe that they were last inspected in 1993. Continue reading