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

The Top Issues Facing Higher Education in 2014 and Beyond

Writing for Forbes, John Ebersole, the president of Excelsior College, has identifeid the following ten issues as the most significant issues facing higher education this year:

1. Cost.

2. Renewal of the Higher Education Act.

3. Workforce development.

4. Competency-based education.

5. Accreditation.

6. Assessment.

7. Quality assurance in non-institutional learning.

8. Recognition of the new majority in student bodies.

9. Crisis in leadership.

10. The economy.

Ebersole notes that many readers may wonder about his exclusion of MOOCs as an issue, but he feels that the questions about their efficacy for most students and their over-exposure in the media have greatly decreased the consideration of MOOCs as an major innovation in higher education.

I agree largely with that assessment, but I would take issue with a fairly large number of his choices for the list. 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

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

If Picky Eating Is Now a Disorder, Here’s the Remedy–Eat a Plateful of Sausages and Call Me in the Morning if You Don’t Feel Cured

You wouldn’t know it from looking at me now, but as a child I was a very picky eater. I have an anecdote to illustrate just how picky an eater I was. And if you bear with me long enough, I’ll explain why I think that this discussion may be of broader interest.

I grew up in my grandfather’s house. There were nine of us—my grandfather, my aunt and my uncle, my parents, myself and my three siblings—and my great uncle who lived next door and was a widower, often ate with us as well. My aunt and uncle were siblings and single and worked full-time, she as an executive secretary and he as a diesel mechanic. The house was large, and when my grandmother died when I was about a year old, my grandfather asked my mother essentially to cook and to keep the house clean in exchange for our living there rent-free.

On my mother’s side, my ancestry was German and Polish, and on my father’s side, my ancestry was Austrian/Russian/Rusyn or Ruthenian (more on that in a still pending follow-up to a previous post). For a while when I thought that I had settled on the idea that I had Russian ancestry, I became fond of describing my German-Polish-Russian ancestry and then saying, “So if it sometimes seems that I am at war with myself, now you know why.”

But, despite this ethnic mix, there was one absolute point of almost universal agreement in our home—on food. Everything was fried. Even the mashed potatoes. The one exception was the vegetables, which were always boiled. And at every meal that didn’t feature some sort of beef or pork roast, or whole chickens or a whole turkey or ham, there was some sort of “-wurst.” Continue reading

We Are Just Not Working Hard Enough

Earlier this month, the Ohio Conference Communication Committee (although I formally chair the committee, our Executive Director, Sara Kilpatrick, now drafts most of the regular communications with our members) distributed the following item.

Rosenberger Releases Report from Higher Education Study Committee

As we reported to you in September, the Ohio House of Representatives had formed a “Higher Education Reform Study Committee” that traveled around the state seeking input on various aspects of higher education in Ohio.

OCAAUP President John McNay testified at one of the hearings, setting the record straight about faculty workload and administrative bloat.

Earlier this week, the Chair of the Committee, Rep. Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville), held a press conference at which he unveiled a 59-page report that outlined findings and recommendations of the committee (although 21 pages of the report is summary of testimony given at the hearings). 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

California AB 2705: A Small Step Toward Equity

The following statement was released today by the Steering Committee of AAUP’s California Conference:

The California Conference of the American Association of University Professors (CA-AAUP) endorses Assembly Bill 2705.

The bill changes terms used by the California Education Code to describe the hard-working professional educators who now teach the majority of our community college students.

AB 2705 Section 1 acknowledges that “the terms ‘part-time faculty’ and ‘temporary faculty’ do not adequately describe the qualifications, contributions, and importance of the community college faculty to whom those terms have been applied.”

AB 2705 replaces “part-time” and “temporary” with the term “associate faculty,” which it holds is “a more accurate and useful term with which to refer to these educators, who are so integral to the successful functioning of community colleges in this state.” Continue reading

PA State Senators Crafting Legislation to Allow Universities to Secede from State System of Higher Ed

Author’s Note: A version of this post was publish on Raging Chicken Press under the title, “Slow Train to Destruction of Public Higher Ed in PA?: Defund then Divide-and-Conquer,” on Saturday, Feb. 22. 

PASSHE Freedom to Secede SQUAREIf the fall 2013 semester saw the term “retrenchment” – the elimination of faculty, programs, and jobs – become part of daily conversations on campuses of Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities (PASSHE), during the next several months we may witness the birth of the next phase in the slow destruction of public higher education in the Commonwealth. This past fall, PA Senator Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson (R – 6th District) and Senator Andy Dinniman (D – 19th District) began working in earnest on legislation that would allow individual PASSHE universities to secede from the state system and become a state-related university – or even completely privatize. On Thursday, PASSHE’s new Chancellor, Frank Brogan, seemed to be laying similar groundwork during his testimony before the PA House Appropriations Committee. And, after three years of austerity policies stemming from Gov. Corbett’s slashing PASSHE’s funding and the System’s “shock doctrine” accounting schemes, there just might be the appetite in the legislature to begin the process of dismantling the 14 university PA State System of Higher Education.

The Tomlinson/Dinniman Alliance: 

Senator Tomlinson is by all accounts taking the initiative in drafting this legislation, but according to sources at WCU, Tomlinson said publicly that Senator Dinniman is so interested in the legislation that he will introduce it if Tomlinson does not. To understand why Senator Tomlinson, a Republican, and Senator Dinniman, a Democrat, would join forces in supporting legislation that would allow individual PASSHE universities to secede, you need only understand that both Senators have strong ties with West Chester University and that West Chester University is growing and thriving. Tomlinson serves on West Chester University’s Council of Trustees and is a WCU alumnus. Dinniman spent well over three decades as a professor at West Chester. Both Senators represent districts in which the university has a strong presence. West Chester University is the second largest PASSHE university, right behind Indiana University of Pennsylvania and is on pace to become the largest in the system in the near future. Continue reading