It’s only 6 or 7 weeks in, and 2011 already feels like a very long one for higher education. One newly-elected governor after another–and some incumbent governors!–have indicated massive cuts are coming for higher education. Whether it’s Jerry Brown’s $1.4billion cut to California’s higher education system, or Texas’s $1.7billion cut, times are tough. Three states in particular–Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan–stand out for choosing to demonize public employee unions rather than work concretely to save money. And then there’s Texas governor Rick Perry’s improbable $10,000 bachelor degree challenge.
Cuts to higher education are only a part of the picture, of course–there is also a sustained raid on public education, driven in part by a historically misinformed rhetoric of “failing” schools. And, as Dean Dad documents today, public schools can’t grow their way out of budget crises–every additional student represents pure cost.
Gloomy times. But, as the old organizers will tell you, don’t mourn, organize!
There are others out there who will help. While the full fruits of this winter’s meeting of higher education labor leaders in California won’t be realized until a bit later in the spring, one immediate initiative is to dub April 13, 2011 Take Class Action Day, and to organize protests, teach-ins, rallies, and other events to defend our commitment to education as a vital public good, and to protect access to a quality education, rather than glorified corporate training. The California Faculty Association, as part of the planning for that meeting, developed draft principles for “Quality Higher Education for the 21st Century”, which is an excellent articulation of common ground.
Most of the higher education unions are supporting the April 13 day in one way or another–but if your campus isn’t unionized, that’s not a problem. Here are some steps anyone can take:
- Contact your AAUP state conference. While April 13 started with the CFA, your state conference will be able to put you in touch with other faculty interested in speaking out against the appalling cuts to American education.
- Contact your legislator. Time and time again, legislators mention how infrequently they hear from faculty on higher education issues. As James T. Richardson has argued, lobbying is an underrated form of shared governance. Your state legislators need to hear from you!
- Organize an event on your campus! The California Faculty Association has awesome downloadable materials–including quality versions of the image above–that are free to use.
- Talk to your students. Since their tuition is probably going up–in exchange for reduced quality–they are natural allies.
- Introduce a resolution in support of April 13 in your faculty senate or other governance body. The more voices that are brought to bear on these questions, the better.
- Distribute the draft principles. Talk about them with colleagues.
What are concrete steps you’re taking to defend quality public education? Let us know in comments!