AAUP leaders have joined with faculty leaders from across the country and from many different organizations, in the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, an initiative that will work to ensure the long-term survival of quality higher education. Read the campaign's principles or visit their Facebook page. The Campaign is planning a day of action in April.
Faculty members, students, advocates, and allies from across the United States met in Washington. D.C. on May 17 to launch the campaign. The launch event, held at the National Press Club, featured faculty leaders from California, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and other states. They outlined the reasons for starting the campaign and the long-term goals of the effort, including universal access, more funding for teaching, lower tuition rates and student debt, and a more unified faculty voice in the nationwide debate over higher education.
Maria Maisto of New Faulty Majority talked about the need to address the soaring number of contingent faculty on campuses, and Arnold Mitchem of the Council for Opportunity in Education spoke about higher education as a tool of social mobility for minority or low-income students.
Howard Bunsis, a professor at Eastern Michigan University and the head of the AAUP's Collective Bargaining Conference, spoke about the need for more public funding for colleges, noting that his own state of Michigan just passed a budget which spends more on prisons than it does on colleges. "The ramifications for giving college students less support is that many of them will simply not be able to afford to go to college."
Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of New York, emphasized that the campaign is being organized in response to financial (and often partisan) attacks on higher education: “Too often, the new prescriptions amount to asking students to pay more for less.” At the end of the event, in response to an audience question about what message university administrators should take away from the campaign, Bowen encapsulated the core impetus behind the project: “Stop saying everything is fine. Everything is not fine.”
As for specific strategies for higher education reform, campaign supporters said they would mostly focus on state-level reforms, including state funding for higher education. The campaign will also include a “virtual think tank” to collect ideas and present a unified front in the national debate over higher education priorities. Unity, nationwide, among faculty was a major theme of the event, with more than one speaker referring to strength in numbers, tearing down “walls of isolation” between faculty of different schools or departments, and the general fact that the only hope for defending quality higher education is for everyone involved to present a unified voice. The event made clear that the campaign is the first step towards establishing that aggressive, national, unified, defense of higher education.
You can visit the website of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education at http://futureofhighered.org and watch the video of the event (about one hour) here.