Occupy Education

The following guest post is by Craig Vasey, professor of philosophy at the University of Mary Washington and a member of the AAUP’s national Council.

Yesterday I wrote about how faculty at relatively privileged institutions can feel we are operating in a bubble, insulated from the catastrophes befalling higher education, especially public higher education, in some states. But the deterioration of higher education in the US is accelerating. The fact that it’s not that bad here (yet) doesn’t mean we’re smart to disregard what is going on – what is coming down the road.  The future of higher education is being shaped by the corporatizing and privatizing trends of the past decades. In my state,Virginia—and in every state.

This is the common ground of the AAUP, the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, and the Occupy Wall Street movement.  As faculty members and as citizens, we have reason to care about the situation. So do staff, students, administrators, parents of high school and middle school children, the community, and legislators. High quality higher education is something everyone needs access to; it is something the future health of our economy and democracy require—but it is being undermined, compromised, co-opted, and dismantled.

Together, we must try to reverse the trends of recent decades. Occupy Education is the theme of a March 1 “day of action” (in California, a week). We are in the beginning stages of cultivating a national grass-roots movement to change the discourse, and ultimately to change the funding and the cultural trends of higher education in America: to make it a public right, to value it as a public good, and to make it available to all.

What can we do here at the University of Mary Washington?  What can you do, at your college or university? During these weeks leading up to March 1, I’m asking you to begin to talk about the issues and the situation—with one another, with students, with staff. To consider writing a letter to your local newspaper, or an op-ed piece. To team up with a few other faculty members and sponsor a teach-in or discussion on March 1. To team up with a student club or organization to hold a March 1 symbolic bake sale or a petition drive to fund faculty health insurance, or stave off a tuition hike. To sponsor a public forum and show YouTube videos about the Occupy movement. To make a flyer about Occupy Education (or download one from http://occupyeducationca.org) and post it on your office door, in classrooms and hallways. To start a campus-wide conversation!

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