Highlights: Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, 3rd National Meeting (May 18-20, 2012)

Report from the Third National Meeting of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE)  

Teri Yamada, Prof. Asian Studies, posting from Phnom Penh

APSCUF March 2012 campaign against state budget cuts to public higher ed.

CFHE, May 20, 2012, Joint Statement on Federal Financial Aid  

Demand for college is at an all-­‐time high and student debt has reached a devastating one trillion dollars. Despite this, Congress is debating whether to cut student aid.

This kind of cut would further close off college access, particularly for lower income students and students of color, the growth demographic of traditional age students.

Proposals to reduce eligibility and the size of Pell Grants and to increase interest rates on student loans, if adapted, would be a tragic and short-­‐sighted slamming of the door on our nation’s future.

We need a strong Pell Grant program that does not reduce either eligibility or the size of the grant. We also need the lowest possible interest rates on federally subsidized student loans.

This is not the time to curtail the prospects for students to attend colleges and universities.

We need a national discussion about how ensure that higher education is affordable, available and accessible to everyone who can benefit from it. 


The third national meeting of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE) was held under beautiful blue skies in Ypsilanti, Michigan, May 18-20, 2012 (1).   More than 60 faculty and professional staff, including members of the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions, participated in a grassroots assessment of the challenges facing public higher education.

The event began with short reports on challenges and successes.   A noteworthy success since the last CFHE  (Boston: December 2011) was a formal meeting with U.S Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter.  The CFHE contingent was able to correct some misinformation, such as the belief that increasing costs in public higher education are due to high faculty salaries rather than dramatically higher administrative costs and expensive building projects that are unrelated to direct instructional needs. Other topics  included problems facing the contingent faculty workforce. Over the past 40 years, institutions have shifted away from tenured faculty to 70% of the workforce being underpaid, contingent or “adjunct faculty with no health and other benefits” (2).    CFHE will schedule a follow-up meeting with the U.S. Department of Education to continue this discussion.

Other successes reported on opening night include UFF-Florida International University’s contract gains; Rutgers AUP-AFT advance of Non Tenture-Track (NTT) faculty issues using a caucus model and its successful negotiation of the first promotion pathway for NTT faculty; the Inter Faculty Organization of Minnesota, which successfully negotiated a restoration of Professional Improvement Funds.

In an age of shock-doctrine capitalism, many states—Pennsylavania, New Jersey, and California, for example—are still experiencing dramatic budget cuts to public higher education, while other states like New York have revenue streams that have stabilized.  New York’s CUNY now has other restructuring challenges, however, with the imposition of mandated Pathways.  The upper midwestern region—Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin—is facing an onslaught of antiunion legislation promoted by ALEC and funded by the Koch brothers.

Over 80 pieces of antiunion legislation have been introduced in Michigan, attempting to change it to a “right-to-work” state. One plan attempts to divide the state by a patchwork of “right-to-work zones” that would be locally implemented in more conservative areas of the state. In response, Michigan-AAUP has organized the Protect Our Jobs campaign, which includes advocating for a state constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining rights. It succeeded in gathering enough signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot. Ohio faculty unions are working on a similar initiative.  The Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and University Faculties (APSCUF) is facing another 20% state reduction to higher education in Pennsylvania.  In response they initiated the United we Stand, Underfunded we Fail campaign in March 2012.   APSCUF is confronting both Governor Corbett’s higher education task force, which narrowly focuses on “technical experience, distance learning and job training”  and the specter of right-to-work legislation.

Discussion on contingent faculty.

Also discussed over the weekend were the poor working conditions of contingent faculty who face at-whim employment and poverty level wages.  The New Faculty Majority (NFM) has contributed to a recent publication on these issues: Embracing Non-Tenure Track Faculty: Changing Campuses for the New Faculty Majority.  As part of its coalition building campaign, NFM convened a national summit in Washington, DC on January 28, 2012: Reclaiming Academic Democracy: Facing the Consequences of Contingent Employment in Higher Education.”  This summit focused on improving communications among stakeholders, identifying broad-based reform goals along with strategies for their implementation.

The reduction in state spending for public education is still a common trend across states.  As Rudy Fichtenbaum and Howard Bunsis stressed in their presentation on university budgets—“Taking on the administration’s ‘We’re broke’ argument”—a state’s fiscal crisis is being used by many institutions as an excuse to restructure. Restructuring is imposed irrespective of the hefty unrestricted reserves which institution’s refuse to allocate to instructional support.  This restructuring conforms to the current trend to vocationalize and standardize pubic higher education while weakening faculty governance.  To track our institution’s actual financial health, we need to examine its audited financial statements.

Several ideas for funding public higher education were brought forth for discussion with the understanding that states alone cannot solve the public higher education funding problem.   A menu of solutions could be used across states depending on their specific situation.  Some funding ideas at the federal level were a “pay it forward” plan that includes doubling the size of PELL grants while increasing the scope of eligibility and providing maintenance of effort provisions at the state level; other ideas involved various taxes including a financial speculation tax.

Gary Rhoades, Head of CFHE Virtual Think Tank

CFHE’s Virtual Think Tank was established to introduce a faculty voice in the national discussion of higher education policies, currently dominated by executives, consultants, and philanthropic foundations.  Gary Rhoades provided an update on CFHE’s first two policy reports.   “Closing the Door, Increasing the Gap: Who’s not going to (community) college?” (April 2012) analyzes recent problematic enrollment and policy trends at the nation’s community colleges. As caps on community college enrollment are expanding, the scope of educational programs is narrowing; as quality is undermined, access is denied to large numbers of lower-income students and students of color.  The second policy report, forthcoming shortly, “Who is professor staff and how can s/he teach so many classes?” is based on New Faculty Majority research regarding contingent faculty working conditions and their affect on student learning. Just-in-time hiring practices do not allow any faculty adequate time to develop a course.  Also, the demographics of contingent faculty models complex racial inequities.

CFHE plans its next meeting, Sacramento, January 2013.

Some Shared Resources:

  • Profs. Douglas Carr (carr@oakland.edu) and Roger Larocca (larocca@oakland.edu).  In response to the advocates of performance funding in higher eduction, including Lumina Foundation and the National Governors Association, and the fact that “many states have adopted performance-funding programs in spite of the weak evidence of their effectiveness” (Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas, for example), Professors Carr and Larocca have co-authored “The Effects of Performance Funding on Higher Education Outcomes” (26 March 2012).

Abstract: “We study the effects of performance funding metrics for graduation and retention on actual graduation and retention rates at all 4-year and 2-year public universities…. We find no significant effect of graduation metrics on graduation rates at 4-year or 2-year institutions, and no significant effect of retention measures on retention rates at 4-year institutions.  We do find that retention measures are significantly associated with higher retention rates at 2-year institutions, but only for 2-year institutions that receive a relatively large share of their funding from state appropriations.”

  • AAUP-Connecticut State University.  Academic Year in Review: 2011-2012. Vol. 3.13 (May 3, 2012).  This report contains information on major administrative restructuring a new Board of Regents for Higher Education imposed on the Connecticut State University System (CSUS), a seventeen-campus system, to prepare “students for productive and satisfying futures.” Restructuring eliminated twenty-four top administrative positions from CSU and CTC. It consolidated higher-Ed into ConnSCU (Connecticut State Colleges & Universities) a merger of CSU, Community/Technical Colleges, and Charter Oak State College.  The legislature was also busy, passing HB 5030 that established a “general education core of courses.”
  • PSC-CUNY.org. (PSC-CUNYORG@PSC.CUNY) “What is Pathways?” In June 2011, CUNY Board of Trustees passed a resolution to establish a new, uniform General Education Framework, called “Pathways” “…ostensibly created to facilitate student transfer throughout CUNY.”  This mandate requires a 30-credit common core for CUNY colleges: 12-credit “required core” and 18-credit “flexible core.”  All Common Core courses must fulfill learning objectives established by the Chancellor’s office. This resolution was passed over the objections of the University Faculty Senate, Professional Staff Conference, among others. Pathways is aligned with the national reform agenda, funded by Lumina and the Gates foundations, that stresses ‘college completion’ above all else.  PSC-CUNY considers this reform an assault on faculty governance and a further corporatization of the university system.  As a form of austerity education it establishes an impoverished curriculum “that will prepare CUNY students for low expectations in an austerity economy,” one that accommodates to rather than challenges underfunding of the system.  See also the CUNY Community College financial analysis report “Invest in Opportunity: Invest in CUNY Community Colleges” prepared by the Professional Staff Congress (PSC).  In fall 2012, tuition will have increased by 212% since 1990-91. “In 2011-12 CUNY community college tuition and fees ($3,946) were 33% higher than the national average tuition and fees at 2-year public colleges ($2,963).”
  • Bruce Nissen and Yue Zhang. Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy.  “How FIU Spends Its Money: FIU Expenditures on Faculty and Higher Level Administration with special emphasis on the two years between 2008-09 to 2010-11.”  The United Faculty of Florida at Florida International University (UFF-FIU) commissioned this report to establish creditable data on the number and salary of administrators compared to faculty as well as data on increased faculty workload.  Information in this report reflects patterns across the United States: administration is diverting resources away from faculty and instruction to administrative personnel and salaries.  Between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators at America’s leading universities grew by 39%, while the number of faculty and service employees grew by 18%.  At FIU during this period, the number of administrators per 100 students grew by 79.5% while the number of faculty decreased by 29.2% as instate undergraduate tuition grew by 40.3% and FIU enrollment rose 57%. During the past two years covered by the study, the pace of administrative growth has slowed to 10.2%; yet the growth in faculty numbers has increased only 4.2% as the growth in students increased 10.7%.  Average annual faculty workload increased 3.5% per year at a rate consistent with the previous 13 year period, when the teaching load grew 56%.  The number of faculty tenure track positions at all levels declined over the past two years by 11.25% as the total salaries for these positions decreased by 5.27%.  The top 40 highest paid administrators at FIU have salaries that range between $522.750 and $217,508.  The average salary of $198,643 for the second tier of top paid administrators, when adjusted to faculty, is $41,789 more than the average salary for full professors.
  • Prof. Rudy Fichtenbaum (President-elect AAUP). “How to Invest in Higher Education” proposes the idea of a “financial speculation tax.”  According to a study published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “A financial speculation tax would generate $176.9 to $353.8 billion in revenue per year.” Some federal legislators have proposed bills based on this idea, which is supported by a number of prominent economists including Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman.
NOTES
  1. Special thanks to Michael Bailey and others of the MI-AAUP (Michigan Conference American Association of University Professors) for hosting this conference.  Twelve CFHE affiliates also assisted with funding for this event.
  2. For further information, see the New Faculty Majority.

Transforming the Knowledge Plantation: “We Have a Dream”

By any measure of moral greatness,  a culture is judged by its treatment of the most vulnerable.  In the case of knowledge workers in our higher education sector that would be contingent and adjunct faculty.   With a Masters or Doctorate degree in hand, facing a crushing job market for tenure-track hires, those who honor and respect knowledge and aspire to the noble profession of teaching find themselves on one of Dante’s rings of hell as adjuncts.  Exploited as cheap-labor academic field hands on plantations of higher learning, they earn as little as $1,000 per course with no benefits.  No wonder the graduate students who curate Online PhD have produced the following statement and graphic:

                                           The PhD’s Job Crisis

“A consequence of the “Great Recession,” states across the country have been mired in debt and forced to make dramatic cuts to higher education. As funding for higher education constricts, fewer tenure track academic positions for recent graduates are opening as universities increasingly turn to economically cheaper adjunct and part-time professors to instruct their ballooning classes. Amid this reduction in the demand for PhDs is the fact that the United States is producing a record number of doctorates. The result is a job crisis for PhD candidates and ultimately the diminished quality of education in America’s higher education system.”

“We Have a Dream,” Anne Wiegard’s welcome address at the New Faculty Majority Foundation Summit on January 27, 2012 (Washington DC) inspires us to move forward together for a better Education America.   Teri Yamada

Anne Wiegard, President, President, New Faculty Majority Foundation

“We Have a Dream”

Thank you all for making time to travel here and join us.

Deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall overcome some day.

I am a child of the Sixties.  I lived just outside of Washington DC when Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke there on August 28th, 1963, inspiring millions to march forward toward civil rights for African Americans.  His words had a profound effect upon me.  They still do.  Much of what he said in his visionary “I Have a Dream” speech applies to all movements for social justice, including the one which brings us to Washington this weekend.  Though the scale and gravity of the Civil Rights movement obviously and vastly overshadows ours, please allow me to liberally invoke King’s language to set the stage for what we hope will be a landmark moment in the movement to secure equity for contingent academic workers and transform higher education in America.

In a sense, like those Civil Rights workers who came with King to our nation’s capital to cash the check the architects of our republic had written, a promissory note guaranteeing all citizens the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we are here to cash a check, too.  Our nation’s founders acknowledged that a true democracy cannot survive without an informed citizenry.  They were implicitly signing a social contract honoring the belief that education is the cornerstone of this nation, a belief that is more widely held now than ever.

It is obvious today that the American higher education system has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as the majority of its faculty is concerned, not to mention the millions of students whose educations are indirectly compromised.   College and university faculty spend decades preparing for and engaging in a profession that does not make good on its promise to provide commensurate, equitable economic and social status.  Instead of honoring its obligation, the University of the United States has given the majority of college and university faculty a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’

But we refuse to believe that the bank of higher education is bankrupt.  We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of academic freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to Washington to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the ghetto of contingency “to the sunlit path” of equality.  It would be fatal to overlook the urgency of the moment. Our legitimate discontent will not pass until there is change. The NFM Summit is not an end, but a beginning.

But there is something that I must say to all of you who stand on this threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place in the university we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for equity by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into counterproductive antagonism. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the contingent community must not lead us to a distrust of all administrators and tenured faculty, who, as evidenced by their presence here this weekend, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. We cannot walk alone.  Let us join hands with anyone who wishes to ensure that all of our children and grandchildren will develop the advanced knowledge and skills they will need to meet the challenges of the 21st century, for such higher education cannot be achieved without empowering teachers  to reach their full potential as well.

As we talk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.  We can never be satisfied as long as our colleagues are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Tenure-track Only.”  I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have fought for decades at great cost to yourself and your families. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for equity has left you battered by the storms of persecution or benign neglect. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.   We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Go back to your campus in Chicago, go back to your campus in Colorado, go back to your campuses in Georgia and Michigan, go back to your campus in New Jersey, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.   Together, we shall overcome.

Posted with permission of the New Faculty Majority  3/10/12

Editor’s note:  This well attended event —”Reclaiming Academic Democracy: Facing the Consequences of Contingent Employment in Higher Education”—had  comprehensive coverage in Inside Higher Ed:

1. Lee Bessette “New Faculty Majority Summit:  Can We Bridge the Trust Gap?

2. Lee Bessette “The Time is Now: Report from the New Faculty Majority Summit”

3. Lee Bessette “Among the Majority”

4. Brian Croxall “Reporting from the New Faculty Majority Summit”


Higher Education at the Crossroads in New Jersey

Adjunct Professor William Lipkin has been adjuncting in History and Political Science for fifty years (right out of grad school), mainly while working as a controller in private industry. For the past 12 years, he has been a professional adjunct in several colleges and universities in New Jersey. He is the immediate past president of American Federation of Teachers New Jersey (AFTNJ), consisting of 30,000 education workers in NJ, and current Secretary/Treasurer (and co-founder) of United Adjunct Faculty of NJ. Lipkin is also co-chair and treasurer of the Union County College Chapter of UAFNJ and Treasurer of New Faculty Majority and NFM Foundation. He is a dedicated supporter of equity and respect for adjuncts in the United States.

Higher Education at the Crossroads in New Jersey

New Jersey, the former long-time home of the Miss America pageant, now has to deal with a governor who thinks he is Mr. America.  In eighteen months Governor Chris Christie has orchestrated legislation that changed the health care and pension program for New Jersey educators and support
staff, forcing all public employees to pay a much larger share for their benefits while getting a lesser coverage plan. All he has done for Higher Ed is change the state from 'The Garden State' to 'The Poop State'.

The major reason that the NJ Pension Fund is on the verge of bankruptcy is that over the past 20 years the state made minimal (or no) contributions of its share into the fund, while we all paid our share from every single paycheck. The Republican governor had been held back by a Democrat legislature for over a year; but deals were cut with Democrat leaders, and they gave the governor the votes he needed to pass this legislation that increases the employees' contributions to health care and pension. This has caused a split in the legislature and between public employee unions and the trades. Earlier this month when the state AFL-CIO refused to endorse any state legislator who supported this bill, for re-election this November,  over 100 members of trade unions walked out and blamed the teachers for the split. The governor has also launched an attack on collective bargaining and his supporters have introduced legislation to make NJ a 'right to work' state. There also has been a change in tenure for public institutions of Higher Ed in the state adding at least one year to the process.


As an adjunct in NJ I am part of a large group of long-suffering, exploited, at-will employees in higher education. This is especially apparent in community colleges. In NJ there are 19 community (county) colleges, each of which negotiates pay scales with its employees (union shops) or sets the
scale on their own. Nine of these colleges have recently federated under the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to become the 3,100 member United Adjunct Faculty of NJ (UAFNJ). The per credit pay scale among these colleges ranges from $500.00 to $880.00; no health care is provided, and we all contribute into the state pension plan.

Most of us use our cars as our offices and float between three or four schools to try to make a living. We call ourselves 'roads scholars'.  We get very little support at the schools, have little or no role in college governance, and can have a course taken away from us up to the first day of
class. Scheduling is a major problem and many of us turn down classes at one school only to be bumped from a class at another. We are used as an economic expediency by the schools. A big issue we have at present is that some of the colleges are blaming adjunct faculty for the lack of student success mainly due to the circumstances they themselves have created. Pay rates at public four-year colleges and universities are higher but the other problems exist there as well. Private colleges and universities in NJ make their own scale and usually freeze the rate. For example, I have been adjuncting at Seton Hall University for six years and am still making the same $700.00 rate per credit I started with.


College and university presidents in NJ are earning over $200,000 with many perks, and bloated administrations pay several vice presidents, deans and provosts six figure incomes while full time faculty have their salaries frozen and pay more into the benefit systems, adjuncts have to eke out a
living or go on food stamps, and students have to pay continually rising tuition rates. There is truly no equity in higher education in NJ.