Gary Rhoades: A Time for Action; March 4 and Beyond

Gary Rhoades: A Time for Action; March 4 and Beyond
Gary Rhoades, General Secretary, AAUP, American Association of University Professors

This is a time of and for action.  A time for faculty, professionals, and students in the academy to form common cause and to take the lead in reversing current patterns of policy and practice.  A time to rebalance the academy and to refocus our public policy on the broader public purposes of higher education.   

Around the country, AAUP chapters and members are engaging in activities supportive of the statewide day of action for higher education and the e-march in California on March 4.  Our members who are faculty, academic professionals, and students are forming coalitions with staff in the academy as well as with groups outside the academy, to convey a clear message about the public value of higher education.  The American Association of University Professors endorses those actions, and encourages our members and their colleagues nationally to make the following weeks and months a time of action and education.  We must take the lead in charting the future. 

First, our challenge is to reverse patterns of public policy that are further privatizing higher education in terms of who it most serves and benefits, shifting costs to students and families in what amounts to an excise tax on education, and increasingly focusing colleges and universities on serving an ever narrower band of private interests.  In this context too many universities and colleges are focusing more on narrow organizational self-interest in aspired to rankings and revenues, and less on serving broader academic, educational, social, and cultural purposes. 

Second, our challenge is to reverse patterns of resource allocation within institutions that have been moving monies away from educational purposes.  Over several decades institutions have increased their relative investment in administrative positions and expenditures, and decreased the relative investment in educational ones.  At the heart of that has been a restructuring of the academic workforce from a largely full-time tenure track one to one that is overwhelmingly contingent on managerial discretion and whim.  We are depleting our intellectual capital, the faculty and professionals who serve our students.  We are charging students more for less even as there are more prospective students in society with less by way of economic resources.  And we end up having less capacity and investment in serving the communities in which we are situated.
The AAUP’s basic principles as an association support our members exercising an independent voice in more meaningful involvement in shared governance, without fear of discipline or punishment by the institution.  Academic freedom in teaching, research, extramural speech, and speech about institutional matters, is at the core of higher education’s quality, of sound governance, and of engagement with and service to the external world.  It is at the core of the public mission and dimensions of higher education. 

It is time to rebalance and recognize that higher education is a public good worthy of investment and essential to our nation’s future.  We salute our colleagues in California higher education who have undertaken this action, as well as colleagues nationally who are undertaking their own coordinated actions.  We particularly salute the students who have most aggressively taken the lead in establishing and coordinating these state and nationwide activities.  We hope that the California emarch, and its corollaries nationally serve as a call to action to all who care about the not-for-profit, public missions and functions of higher education and to all who are concerned about the academy’s current direction.  It is time for us to take the lead to define a more promising set of possibilities for the future.

Gary Rhoades, General Secretary, AAUP

American Association of University Professors, 04/03/10