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Campaign for the Future of Higher Education

More than seventy faculty leaders from universities, four-year institutions, and community colleges in twenty-one states, including many AAUP leaders, met in Los Angeles in January at the invitation of the California Faculty Association. There were tenure-track and contingent faculty, faculty from collective bargaining units and those from settings without collective bargaining, and there were faculty from various national affiliates (AAUP, AFT, and NEA) and independents. The purpose was to hold a first-of-its-kind discussion on how to construct a positive counter- narrative in the national debate over the future of American higher education at a time when public higher education is at great risk. The mission of this grassroots campaign is twofold: to ensure that affordable quality higher education is accessible to all sectors of our society in the coming decades; and to ensure that faculty, students, and our communities, not just administrators, politicians, foundations, and think tanks, have a voice to guarantee that “reforms” to higher education are good for students, for the quality of education, and for the public good. Participants agreed on seven principles (below) that should guide the development and assessment of policy and practice in higher education. They also agreed to identify April 13 as a national day of taking class action in support of higher education, with faculty organizing various actions at the local level. A formal launch of the campaign will take place in a press conference at the National Press Club on May 17.

What Can You Do?
Although the campaign is in its early stages, we know already that its success depends on widespread participation by faculty and other constituencies (students, civil rights groups, community groups, organized labor)  who care about the future of higher education. We need to build buzz about the campaign, its principles, and its formal launch. Please help by:

  • Planning an action on April 13, and letting us know the details so that we can help publicize and promote these events nationally. This can be as big as a campus demonstration or teach-in, or as small as hanging fliers with information about the situation in your state or on your campus. For more ideas, see the California Faculty Association website. Please let us know what you have planned so we can get the word out: gbradley@aaup.org
  • Talking to your friends and neighbors about the importance of higher education. The time to take action is now. Too often, a reluctance to engage in political conversation means that people outside the academy may not be aware of the work that happens on campus or of threats to quality higher education posed by political agendas.
  • Write to your local newspapers and legislators about the value of higher education, public funding for education, and the other principles listed below.
  • Let others on your campus know about this campaign.

Campaign for the Future of Higher Education: Guiding Principles

  1. Higher education in the twenty-first century must be inclusive; it should be available to and affordable for all who can benefit from and want a college education.  
  2. The curriculum for a quality twenty-first century higher education must be broad and diverse.  
  3. Quality higher education in the twenty-first century will require a sufficient investment in excellent faculty who have the academic freedom, terms of employment, and institutional support needed to do state-of-the-art professional work.   
  4. Quality higher education in the twenty-first century should incorporate technology in ways that expand opportunity and maintain quality.
  5. Quality higher education in the twenty-first century will require the pursuit of real efficiencies and the avoidance of false economies.
  6. Quality higher education in the twenty-first century will require substantially more public investment over current levels.
  7. Quality higher education in the twenty-first century cannot be measured by a standardized, simplistic set of metrics.

What’s Next
The campaign will be launched formally May 17 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and we will keep you informed about further developments.