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Making a Difference

By Michael Harkins, IL AAUP president

Our national organization as well as the Illinois Conference have been very active these past months meeting the challenges of higher education 2010. Daily, the officers and board of our state conference work on your behalf to defend and support Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Shared Governance. The Illinois Conference is dedicated to serving our members and all engaged in higher education.
As a state conference, our goals are to increase the number of chapters, add new members, and provide the necessary support and funding to enable existing chapters to meet the issues of 2010. Each year this conference sponsors workshops and programs that inform our members on the issues and provides a forum to discuss responses to challenges facing higher education. This spring our conference will address the corporatization of higher education, contingent labor, and future trends in public higher education.

I urge all members and interested educators to attend and become more informed of these issues and the responses put forward by our national office. Together we can and will have our voices heard and make a difference in our profession. Several weeks ago, I received a call to action statement – “March and Beyond” from Gary Rhoades, our AAUP General Secretary.


I can think of no better way to state our case than this call. Please share his thoughts with others.
Together, we can make a difference.

This is a time of and for action. A time for faculty, students, and professionals in the academy to form common cause and to take the lead in reversing current patterns of policy and practice. A time to rebalance the academy and to refocus on the broad public purposes of higher education.

California faculty and higher education supporters have declared March 4 – tomorrow – a day of action for higher education. Around the country, AAUP chapters and members are engaging in activities to support California colleagues and extend the day of action to their own states. Our members – faculty, academic professionals, and graduate students – are forming coalitions with other groups to convey a clear message about the public value of higher education. The American Association of University Professors endorses those actions and encourages our members and their colleagues to make the coming weeks and months a time of action and education. We must take the lead in charting the future.

First, our challenge is to reverse public policies that are further privatizing higher education. Costs are being shifted to students and families in what amounts to an excise tax on education. Colleges and universities are increasingly focused on serving an ever-narrower band of private interests. Too many universities and colleges are focusing more on organizational self-interest in the form of aspired-to rankings and revenues, and less on serving broad academic, educational, social, and cultural purposes.

Second, our challenge is to reverse patterns of resource allocation within institutions. Over several decades, institutions have increased their relative investment in administrative positions and expenditures, and decreased their relative investment in educational positions and expenditures. At the heart of that shift has been a restructuring of the academic workforce from a largely full-time tenure-track faculty to one that is overwhelmingly contingent on managerial discretion and whim. We are depleting our intellectual capital, the faculty and professionals who serve our students. We are charging students more for less even as more prospective students have fewer economic resources. And our investment in serving our communities is diminished.

The AAUP strongly supports the right of faculty to exercise an independent voice, in shared governance, without fear of discipline or punishment by the institution. Academic freedom in teaching, research punishment by the institution. Academic freedom in teaching, research,
extramural speech, and speech about institutional matters is at the core of higher education's quality, of sound governance, and of engagement with the external world. It is at the core of the public mission and dimensions of higher education.

It is time to rebalance and recognize that higher education is a public good worthy of investment and is essential to our nation's future. We salute our colleagues in California who have undertaken this day of action to raise awareness about the crisis in public education and the need to fully fund our schools, colleges and universities, as well as colleagues nationally who are undertaking their own coordinated actions. We salute the students who have most aggressively taken the lead in establishing and coordinating these state and nationwide activities. We hope that the California day of action, and its corollaries nationally serve as a clarion call to all who care about the not-for-profit, public missions and functions of higher education and to all who are concerned about the academy's current direction. It is time for us to take the lead to define a more promising set of possibilities for the future.

Gary Rhoades
General Secretary