In 2019, 25% of Native Americans over the age of 25 had an associate degree or higher. When compared to 42% of all those over the age of 25, the gap is evident. Coupled with challenges that many Native higher education students face — including financial instability, the need for support in more ways than one is apparent. From the research done on the matter to the strides made in tuition assistance and how institutions of higher education can go the extra mile in creating a more inclusive academic environment, here’s what you should know. With regard to Native Americans and higher education data, one Forbes article notes that “Only 36.2% of Indigenous students entering four-year institutions of higher education in 2014 completed their degrees in six years, as compared to 60% of all other undergraduate students in the U.S.” While this highlights the fact that the matter isn’t a new issue, understanding the challenges behind low enrolment or graduation can largely be found in financial matters, according to newer research.
On Thursday, September 8, students, teachers and other university workers took out a massive rally in the Constitution Square in Athens protesting the deployment of police on campuses. Activists from the Students Struggle Front (MAS) and Communist Youth of Greece (KNE) were among those who participated in the mobilization. They condemned the conservative New Democracy (ND)-led government’s bid to put the university campuses under police surveillance. The protesters in Athens denounced the deployment of ‘University Police’ at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Athens University of Economics and Business Administration and National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Protests and marches were also held in Thessaloniki against the presence of riot police at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) expressed solidarity with the students and condemned the deployment of police in universities.
Tempe, Arizona - Beneath the veneer of liberal civility at Arizona State University (ASU), located in Tempe, lies a long history of the campus welcoming white supremacists and fascists, excused by a hand-wave towards public university inclusivity. Such was the case when the Phoenix Anarchist Federation and the wider community received word that the College Republicans United (CRU), the even more grotesque sibling of the ASU College Republicans, had invited Jared Taylor to speak on campus. Taylor, a noted white supremacist who has gained notoriety as the brains behind the American Renaissance conference, which helped popularize fascist ideas to a broader and often younger audience, is not the first virulent fascist to be hosted by the CRU.
On Wednesday, August 31, I interrupted a major funding announcement at McGill to ask the head of the university about her suppression of Palestine solidarity. As she spoke from the Faculty Club’s stage I asked Principal Suzanne Fortier, “Do McGill students have the right to oppose the killing of Palestinian children? Do they have the right to oppose Israeli colonialism and apartheid?” McGill’s principal failed to respond. I then stated that her administration’s threat to cancel the student union’s funding after students voted overwhelmingly for a “Palestine Solidarity Policy” was “anti-democratic and anti-Palestinian”. I added it was “shameful” and made her “complicit in Israeli colonialism and violence”.
The University of North Dakota has started the process of returning Native American ancestors and artifacts to their tribal homes. Repatriation is required under the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, enacted by Congress in 1990. UND president Andrew Armacost said the university is still investigating why the remains were not previously returned to tribes. He said they were likely collected by university faculty from the 1940s to the 1980s, and it is unclear how the university used the remains. “How and why ancestors and sacred items remain on our campus is a mystery that we will have to answer in the course of our work,” he said. “Our intent of sharing this news today is to apologize to tribal nations across North America.”
Fifty years ago, no symbol of university complicity with the military angered more students than the on-campus presence of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). The manpower requirements of the Vietnam era could not be met by conscription, draft-driven enlistments, and the graduating classes of military service academies alone. The Department of Defense also needed commissioned officers trained in DOD-funded Military Science Departments at private and state universities. Anti-ROTC campaigning became a major focus of the campus-based movement against the Vietnam War. Critics demanded everything from stripping ROTC courses of academic credit to, more popularly, kicking the program off campus.
To a casual observer, the Black Hawk and Sikorsky S-76 helicopters may have seemed incongruous landing next to the student union on the University of Connecticut’s pastoral green campus, but this particular Thursday in September 2018 was Lockheed Martin Day, and the aircraft were the main attraction. A small group of students stood nearby, signs in hand, protesting Lockheed’s presence and informing others about a recent massacre. Weeks earlier, 40 children had been killed when a Saudi-led coalition air strike dropped a 500-pound bomb on a school bus in northern Yemen. A CNN investigation found that Lockheed — the world’s largest weapons manufacturer — had sold the precision-guided munition to Saudi Arabia a year prior in a $110 billion arms deal brokered under former President Donald Trump.
According to ABC News, during the colonial era the wealth of universities, in the form of endowments and benefactors, was inextricably tied to the slave trade, numerous university presidents owned enslaved people and famous alumni such as John C. Calhoun championed the cause of slavery. Enslaved people were owned by universities and worked on campuses until the abolition of slavery. Now, students at those institutions are organizing efforts to focus on erecting monuments, taxing endowments, PILOT programs, creating divestment campaigns and offering alternative campus tours that highlight the university’s history of slavery. Students are also pushing schools to identify and support descendants of people enslaved by the universities.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Teamsters Local 115 members at the University of Pennsylvania are celebrating a contract victory that eliminates two-tier pay for housekeepers, over the resistance of their own union officials. “In my 31 years here, this is the best contract I’ve seen,” said member Theresa Wible. “We haven’t seen raises like this since the ’80s, and I’ve never seen our union hall this packed.” The 550 campus Teamsters are mostly housekeepers, and 250 of them had been stuck on a permanent bottom tier. The five-year contract, ratified June 29, puts every Teamster at Ivy League UPenn on a progression to top pay. This year the first tier is making $25.12 an hour and the second tier is at $20.90, but by the end of the contract every housekeeper will get $28.68.
Support for unionization is at an all-time high, with 68% of all Americans and 77% of those ages 18-34 in favor of unions, according to a Gallup poll. While most recent NLRB filings are from Starbucks workers, higher education unions are on the rise as well. Since the NLRB withdrew a proposed rule that would restrict graduate student workers at private universities from unionizing in 2021, there has been an explosion of new activity among that sector, as well as among adjunct faculty. Among undergraduates, the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers won an election earlier this year to expand their bargaining unit to all hourly undergraduate workers on campus. I attended Jackson-Lewis’s webinar designed for university administrators who are worried about unionization on their own campus, to see what they had to say.
An electronic vote of all Bloomington faculty has expressed overwhelming support for efforts of the Indiana University graduate student employees to seek union recognition. Between April 13 and the end of the spring semester, graduate student employees at Indiana University Bloomington, organizing with the United Electrical Workers, struck for campus recognition. The strike was temporarily suspended on May 10th for the summer, with plans for broader and deeper participation should the strike resume in the fall. Faculty on the Bloomington campus were galvanized to support graduate employees by the anti-union response by the campus administration which refused any dialogue with representatives of the union, the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition-United Electrical Workers (IGWC-UE).
A Palestinian student protested US support for Israel during her graduation ceremony, holding a picture of slain reporter Shireen Abu Akleh and refusing to shake hands with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. Nooran A., graduating from the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., raised a Palestinian flag as she walked on stage to receive her certificate, refusing to shake hands with Blinken and telling the US' chief diplomat that the government should cut all support to Israel. Nooran wrote on her Twitter page that Blinken approached her after the commencement and told her "I hear you", as she called for an independent investigation into the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Abu Akleh and said accountability for Israel was essential.
Bill Readings, a late Université de Montréal professor noted the move towards corporatization of universities in his 1997 study, The University in Ruins. While the 1990s were certainly not the golden age of higher education, there were aspects of them that were palatable compared to the current moment. At that time, tuition was lower and more affordable. Technological incorporation in teaching and internet accessibility had just begun. Google and Wikipedia were nonexistent, and living accommodations for students on college and university campuses were modest. Universities relied on shared governance (faculty participation in the governance of an institution) for decision-making.
Speaking as a historian, I believe that the work of UFF-UF officers, delegates, volunteers, and allies during the global pandemic will be remembered as among the finest moments of unionism this nation has ever witnessed. Under duress and constantly bullying by forces outside of our campus, we continued to grow as a union. We also continued to support a plethora of causes that the membership believes are essential to sustaining a democratic society. I believe that UFF’s consistent and public support of academic freedom was a factor in the federal court’s preliminary injunction against UF’s repressive speech policies in January. Our struggles are far from finished. Members of the Florida State Legislature continued their assault on the First Amendment by passing House Bill 7, the so-called “Stop Woke Act.”