Especially during times of slashed budgets and eroding rights, it’s important to make common cause with as many people on campus as possible. (This might even mean administrators!) Faculty should be reaching out to #alt-ac folks, to administrative faculty, to (other) unions, if they exist, on campus, to alumni, to the media, and to legislators and other local community leaders–and also to students.
The last group probably seems the most out of place, even though most of us spend a good part of every day talking with students. Generally, however, we shy away from using our classrooms as a platform for advocacy around specific issues, even ones that we believe are of critical importance to our students.
Budget cuts to colleges and universities are a separate matter, however. As Cary Nelson occasionally comments (no cite–I heard him say this recently in Boston), it’s entirely appropriate to discuss with them the material conditions of the education they’re receiving. I’m not suggesting turning every class session into a seminar on bargaining rights or higher education funding, but passing along information, inviting them to rallies, encouraging them to contact their legislators–all of these seem entirely appropriate to me. Be sure that your information is accurate, and provide citations for more information, and you’ll gain credibility.
A couple of resources:
- The U of Wisconsin’s Teaching Assistants’ Association has a page about talking with undergraduates.
- Tenured faculty need both to be mindful of the Garcetti decision limiting the speech of public employees, and to advocate for the academic freedom of others on campus, such as faculty on contingent appointments, administrative faculty, etc. (A future post will detail ways to advocate for faculty on contingent appointments).
Do you talk about university-related budget issues with your students? What’s been effective on your campus? Let us know in comments!
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