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

USM President Rescinds Proposed Faculty Layoffs

Those regular readers of this blog will know that we have published several posts on the proposed elimination of faculty positions at the University of Southern Maine ostensibly to close a continuing budget gap but also to allow the administration more “flexibility” in funding programs.

This afternoon, the Lewiston Morning Sentinel is reporting that the president of the university of Southern Maine, Theodora Kalikow, has reversed herself on those faculty cuts: 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

Ohio’s Public-University Presidents Take a Stand, of Sorts, on Faculty Workload

As I have indicated in several previous posts, there is another attempt in this year’s budget review bill (HB 484) in the Ohio legislature to increase faculty workloads by ten percent.

I have posted OCAAUP President John McNay’s full testimony on that provision to the House Committee considering the bill.

Bruce Johnson has also testified before that committee. Since 2006, Johnson has served as the President of Ohio’s Inter-University Council (IUC), the organization through which the state’s public university presidents coordinate their initiatives and their responses to legislation related to higher education.

Johnson is a Republican, a former Lieutenant Governor of Ohio and the former Director of the state’s Department of Economic Development. Under his leadership, the IUC has not exactly been supportive of public university faculty. Most notably, the IUC not only accepted but actually advocated for the language in Senate Bill 5 that would have eliminated all collective bargaining rights for faculty.

Below is Johnson testimony on the workload provisions in HB 484. It’s actually a fairly cogent response to a poorly conceived, ultimately unenforceable, but now annually recurring attempt to mandate an across-the-board increase in faculty workloads. Johnson manages to make some of the arguments that John McNay made in his much more openly skeptical testimony, while still seeming to make the politically required gesture of supporting the broader intent of the bill. Continue reading

Bobby Jindal Calls a Large Tuition Increase an Increase in His State’s Support for Higher Education

In its December 2013 report on state support for higher education in the previous fiscal year, the American Association of Colleges and Universities highlighted the singular decline of state support in Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana, where the 17.6% decline in state funding was very close to double the second highest decline among the states, an 8.9% decline in West Virginia.

To put those numbers in further perspective, in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, only seven of the 50 states failed to increase their spending on higher education. This general pattern of increased allocations reflected the states’ attempts to restore some of the funding lost in the unprecedented cuts that occurred during and immediately following the Great Recession. The increases in funding were, however, fairly modest in comparison to the cuts, averaging about 2.9%.

Over the last seven years, the Jindal administration has cut almost $700 million in funding for higher education in Louisiana. At the same time, the state has permitted tuition increases covering only about two-thirds of that lost funding.

In his new budget, Jindal is calling for a $142 million increase in state spending on higher education, but $88 million of that total is simply permitted tuition increases that, unlike in previous years, will not be offset by even larger cuts in state support. 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

Three Years Ago, Senate Bill 5 Was Signed into Law in Ohio

This is a post by John McNay, President of the Ohio Conference of AAUP and the author of Collective Bargaining and The Battle of Ohio: The Defeat of Senate Bill 5 and the Struggle to Defend the Middle Class (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) [http://www.amazon.com/Collective-Bargaining-Battle-Ohio-Struggle/dp/1137339179/ref=la_B001KI3NOG_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396230324&sr=1-1].
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Three years ago, on March 31, 2011, the Republican-dominated Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 5 in the face of overwhelming public protests. That evening Gov. John Kasich had a celebratory signing ceremony covered by statewide television. Senate Bill 5, derived mainly from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, was designed to crush public unions across the state.

Championed by Gov. Kasich, SB 5 was the centerpiece of his legislative agenda­, and was defended as necessary to close a $6 billion budget gap. Proponents inaccurately blamed public workers for the deficit when, in fact, it was produced by years of irresponsible income tax cuts imposed on the state combined with the recessions. Since 2005, the income tax had been slashed by 31 percent. The crisis atmosphere was exploited by the Republican Party to try to impose extreme ideological positions on Ohio that in ordinary times Ohioans would not accept. Continue reading

Challenging the Necessity of Eliminating Faculty as an Austerity Measure: A Letter from a University of Southern Maine Alumna to University President Theo Kalikow

What follows is a letter sent by a University of Southern Maine alumna to Theo Kalikow, the university president, in response to his announcement that full-time faculty positions need to be eliminated in response to a projected deficit in the institution’s budget. It is, in some respects, a follow-up to a previous post that I have made very recently on this topic: http://academeblog.org/2014/03/23/students-and-faculty-demonstrate-against-austerity-cuts-in-maine/.

The letter is re-printed here with the permission of its author.

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Dear Theo Kalikow,

I would like to explain to you, using the critical thinking skills I cultivated under the guidance of extraordinary faculty at the University of Southern Maine—skills that got me into a highly competitive doctoral program in Sociology at an R1 University—why as an alum, I strongly suggest you resign immediately.

Having majored in Sociology and Women & Gender Studies (with a minor in English), my analysis of your current predicament is a sociological one. The institution of higher education in the U.S. is facing a crisis. Not a financial one, but a crisis that arose from a larger political and economic shift toward privatization of formerly state-controlled institutions. Continue reading