Quality Higher Ed for the Twenty-First Century

By Ezra Deutsch-Feldman

The AAUP has joined with other faculty organizations in the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, an initiative that seeks to ensure the long-term survival of quality higher education. Faculty members, students, and allies from across the country met at the National Press Club on May 17 to launch the campaign, in an event that featured faculty leaders from California, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and other states. They outlined the purpose and long-term goals of the effort, including universal access to higher education, more support for teaching, lower tuition rates and student debt, and a more unified faculty voice in the nationwide debate over higher education.

Howard Bunsis, a professor at Eastern Michigan University and the chair of the AAUP’s Collective Bargaining Congress, spoke about the need for more public funding for colleges and universities, noting that his own state of Michigan just passed a budget that spends more on prisons than it does on higher education. “One of the ramifications for giving college students less support is that many of them will simply not be able to afford to go to college,” he said.

Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of New York, emphasized that the campaign is being organized to counter attacks on higher education: “Too often, the new prescriptions amount to asking students to pay more for less.” In response to an audience question about what message administrators should take from the campaign, Bowen encapsulated the core impetus behind the project: “Stop saying everything is fine. Everything is not fine.”

As for specific strategies, campaign supporters said they would focus mostly on state-level reforms. 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 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 departments, schools, or career tracks; and the importance of a common defense of higher ed. The launch made clear that the campaign is the first step toward establishing that aggressive, national defense of higher education.

More information about the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education and a video of the event are at http://futureofhighered.org.

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