Just as states and the federal government announce that college degree completion is the key to U.S. competitiveness in the global economy, colleges and universities are disinvesting in the faculty and staff members responsible for helping students meet educational goals. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, forty-three states have made significant cuts to their higher education budgets, and institutions are responding by increasing tuition prices—transferring more of the burden to students and families—and by not reappointing contingent faculty members and postponing tenure-track faculty appointments. The crisis facing college and university employment threatens not only federal and state efforts to promote student success but also the economic recovery in many cities and states where colleges and universities are major employers.
One effort launched by the AAUP as a defense against additional budget cuts and further erosion of faculty and staff freedoms was a week of action to demonstrate the importance of not-for-profit education. From October 1 to 7, AAUP chapters and state conferences participated in the Higher Education Is a Public Good initiative, a national discussion about the role of higher education in our economy and society. The purpose of the week was to stimulate organizing at the campus level and to communicate the importance of academic freedom and an independent faculty voice. AAUP members and chapters were encouraged to organize and participate in local activities, from teach-ins to policy forums to film screenings, and to use these events to build membership in conjunction with the Association’s fall membership drive.
The week began with the One Nation Working Together march, held October 2 in Washington, D.C. AAUP general secretary Gary Rhoades addressed a large crowd at a feeder march comprising student and teacher activists from across the country. AAUP members and leaders then joined about 175,000 civil rights, labor, environmental, peace, and faith activists at the Lincoln Memorial, where celebrities and policy makers alike encouraged members of Congress and the White House to enact policies now to put America back to work, support excellent and affordable public education, and promote equality for all.
A national day of action to defend public education capped off the week. On October 7, AAUP chapters and individual faculty members joined student activists and organizers at rallies across the country to highlight the impact of privatization on higher education. Students, faculty, and community members gathered to bring attention and strategically respond to the increased educational costs for students and their families, the diversion of resources from instruction to administration, and the growing reliance on poorly paid and insufficiently supported part- and full-time and non-tenure-track faculty members.