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Debt and Servitude

Academe brings faculty the latest news and thought-provoking commentary.

Student loan debt is approaching $1 trillion. Tuition is skyrocketing. Americans owe more on student loans than on their credit cards. It is a disaster that will get only worse under the “reforms” and state and federal funding cutbacks being proposed.

In the January–February issue of Academe, Jeffrey Williams compares student debt to indentured servitude. It’s a ball and chain not just around students, but also for the ideal of higher education: “One of the goals of the planners of the American university system after World War II was to displace what they saw as an aristocracy; instead they promoted equal opportunity in order to build America through its best talent. The new tide of student debt reinforces rather than dissolves the discriminations of class.”

Student debt is not the only financial issue looming in higher education. AAUP president Cary Nelson explains why the humanities may have more to lose in the current budget wars than either the sciences or a number of technical fields. “Who will bankroll poetry?”

This wide-ranging issue includes Matthew Woessner’s provocative piece that rethinks the plight of conservatives in academe; David Siegel’s challenge to faculty thinking that corporate intercourse is an inherently nasty business; and a translation of a white paper funded by a German corporate foundation that calls for more scientific research purity and commitment to “science for humanity.” Research articles examine the differences among faculty communities and the pressing need to ensure the success of Latino and Latina faculty and students.

The book review section, under the editorship of Amy Lang, highlights work that challenges the sacred cows of higher education—from affirmative action for the rich to the increasing unpaid servitude of student interns.

Would you like to help shape the future of Academe magazine? If so, be sure not to miss the announcement in the January–February issue about the search for the next faculty editor. Applications for the editor position are due by March 15, 2012, with appointment to begin this summer.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about the recently launched Academe Blog as well as this issue of Academe. If you are interested in contributing to the blog or see something in the news that deserves the blog's attention, send an e-mail to academeblog@aaup.org. Comments about Academe articles, as always, can be sent to academe@aaup.org.

The AAUP Online is an electronic newsletter of the American Association of University Professors. The mission of the AAUP is to advance academic freedom and shared governance, to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education, and to ensure higher education's contribution to the common good. By joining, faculty members, academic professionals, and graduate students help to shape the future of the profession and proclaim their dedication to the education community. Visit the AAUP website and Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.