Class Politics, Crisis, and Opportunity: A Call for Solidarity

By Douglas A. Medina and Anya Y. Spector


The COVID-19 pandemic is providing a stark reminder that higher education institutions, and faculty in particular, exist in a constant state of precarity. The crisis triggered by the pandemic is revealing the underlying contradictions at the heart of the employment relationship between faculty and administrative managers at colleges and universities. We suggest that without the protection provided by shared governance, tenure, and academic freedom, the core mission of colleges and universities to pursue truth and produce knowledge—as carried out by its faculty for the betterment of society—risks being eroded and eventually eliminated altogether. A brief review of the City University of New York and the evolution of the Professional Staff Congress, the union representing 30,000 staff and faculty at CUNY, as well as administrators’ attacks on faculty at Ithaca College, shows that it is crucial to organize beyond the walls of academia during moments of crisis and establish connections with broader social movements. Responses to the crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic are an opportunity to fight back against the commodification of public goods.

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