Nine members of INFAS—the Inter-Institutional Network for Food, Agriculture, and Sustainability—were among the 66 people across eight working groups invited to help co-author a report about how public universities in North America should contribute to global food security. When the groups began writing in early fall 2016, convened by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the report was provisionally titled The Challenge of Change: US Universities Feeding the World. One of the intended audiences, aside from universities themselves, was the incoming executive administration in the United States (US).
The ruination of higher education has taken about a generation. Will we be able to undo this damage? Can we force refunding of our public educational system? Can we professionalize faculty, drive out the administrative glut and corporate hijackers? Can we provide free or low-cost tuition and high-quality education to our students in a way that does not focus only on job training, but on high-level personal and intellectual development? I believe we can. But only if we understand this as a big-picture issue, and refuse to allow those in government, or those corporate-owned media mouthpieces to divide and conquer us further. This ruinous rampage is part of the much larger attack on progressive values, on the institutions of social good.
Last week, students at the University of Virginia protested during a campus event featuring a group of Israeli soldiers. The soldiers were part of Reservists on Duty, an organization that aims to counter the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights on US college campuses. They were brought to campus by Israel-aligned groups in order to “humanize the conflict” – in other words, to distract from Israel’s human rights abuses and help brand the Israeli military as “the most moral army in the world.” Protesters held signs and chanted slogans including, “Fight the power, turn the tide, end Israeli apartheid.” Following their action in solidarity with Palestinians living under Israeli military rule, the University of Virginia’s dean of students Allen Groves accused the protesters of violating univerisity rules and hampering free speech.
By Rob Hopkins for Transition Network - The projects of a Transition University tend to focus on positive, practical action, such as building community gardens, local bike or car sharing schemes, re-use and upcycling projects, awareness raising on climate change, peak oil, and malfunctioning economic systems, reducing personal and institutional carbon footprints. The advantage of running practical projects is that they do not require participants to selfidentify as “greens”, “environmentalists”, “engaged citizens”, “socially aware” or anything at all. Practical activities are an open, inclusive way to engage with a broad segment of the university community. Over time, engaging in activities that allow them to live a more sustainable lifestyle can empower participants to develop stronger pro-environmental attitudes
By Sammy Feldblum for Scalawag - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill claims the title of oldest public university in the United States, having graduated its first class in 1795. In the centuries since, the state has added sixteen more campuses to the UNC system, including five historically black colleges and universities. The system, especially its flagship school, is the pride of the state: journalist John Gunther called it “a kind of intellectual capital for the whole South” in 1947
By Mark Joseph Stern for Slate - On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that graduate students employed by private universities are permitted to unionize under federal law. The 3–1 decision reversed a previous NLRB ruling that barred these students from unionizing in 2004. Every Ivy League school opposed the decision, which was spurred by Columbia University’s efforts to shut down a union drive on campus. The critical question at issue in this litigation was whether students employed by a private university are “employees” as defined by the National Labor Relations Act.
By David Swanson for Let's Try Democracy - The University of California is seeking to ban criticism of Israel. This is a widespread phenomenon in the United States, as attested by two new reports and cases like that of Steven Salaita, author of Uncivil Rights: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom. Salaita was fired by the University of Illinois for criticizing Israel on Twitter. Norman Finkelstein had been denied tenure by DePaul University for criticizing Israel. William Robinson was almost driven out at UC Santa Barbara for refusing to "repent" after criticizing Israel. Joseph Massad at Columbia had a similar experience. Why, in a country that stretches "freedom of speech" to the point of covering the bribery of politicians, should it be acceptable to criticize the United States but not a tiny, distant country only just created in 1948? And why should such censorship reach even into institutions that usually pile "academic freedom" on top of "freedom of speech" as an argument against censorship?
By Danny Feingold in Capital and Main - When California Governor Pat Brown helped create the modern University of California system in the early 1960s, he envisioned many things: a world-class structure of higher education, universal access to students from every background, a gateway to middle-class careers, cutting-edge research centers. All of that has come to pass, making UC an enduring part of Brown’s legacy. One thing Brown did not foresee, however, was UC becoming embroiled in an emblematic fight over economic inequality, with critics charging that one of the nation’s most prestigious public institutions is perpetuating poverty. The controversy over UC’s use of thousands of contract workers who earn low wages with few, if any, benefits has taken center stage in Sacramento, where legislation that would end such practices cleared the Legislature last week.
By Dan Wright in Shadow Proof - A new report [PDF] by the Brookings Institution claims the recent increases in student loan defaults are tied to an increased use of for-profit colleges. Through researching information from the Treasury Department and other sources, Brookings found that “most of the increase in default is because of an upsurge in the number of borrowers attending for-profit schools and, to a lesser-extent, community colleges and other non-selective institutions whose students had historically composed only a small share of student borrowing.” During the Great Recession brought on by Wall Street’s fraudulent activity in the mortgage market, many Americans went back to school in hopes of gaining skills to improve their financial position.
By Maya Dukmasova in Truthout - On the first Wednesday in June, nine Chicago activists were arrested for occupying an administration building at the University of Chicago during an annual alumni reunion. They demanded to meet with Rob Zimmer, the president of the university, to discuss the lack of a Level 1 trauma center on the South Side, as hundreds of big donors were poised to arrive on campus. Two and a half hours later, firefighters cut a hole through the wall and the nine were detained by university police. In the previous month, nine other demonstrators for a South Side trauma center had been arrested during a march on Michigan Avenue. Currently, all four of Chicago's adult trauma centers are located on the North and West sides of the city, leaving almost a fifth of city residents and large swaths of the South Side without a trauma center within a 5-mile radius.
By Ned Blackhawk in Yes Magazine - November 29, 2014, was the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, one of the most violent days in American Indian history. On that fateful morning, a force of American cavalry officers, led by Colonel John Chivington, and settler militia forces mounted an attack in southeastern Colorado. Through the day, into the night, and again the next morning, nearly 700 soldiers raped, mutilated, and killed peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians allied under the leadership of Black Kettle. In the lead-up to the 150th anniversary, both Northwestern University and the University of Denver issued detailed reports on Sand Creek. Those investigations were inspired by the demands of students and community members that the universities examine the role of John Evans, Colorado’s second governor. Evans helped found Northwestern before moving to Colorado, where he subsequently founded the University of Denver.
Quad Partners, a New York private equity firm that is invested heavily in the for-profit college industry, and whose founder has aggressively opposed regulation of that troubled industry, has acquired a controlling stake in the respected trade publication Inside Higher Ed (IHE), which often reports on for-profit colleges and the policy disputes surrounding them. There has been no public announcement, but the Quad Partners website now listsInside Higher Ed as one of its investments, among a range of education-related companies, including for-profit trade schools Beckfield College, Blue Cliff College, Dorsey Schools, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and Marinello Schools of Beauty. Doug Lederman, one of IHE‘s two top editors, confirmed to me that Quad purchased a majority interest in IHE in November.
The national problem of campus sexual assault has in recent days been jolted into the spotlight as the Charlottesville campus of the University of Virginia grapples with demonstrations and outrage after being exposed for its pervasive rape culture. The protests are spurred by a Rolling Stone investigation, published last week, which revealed the patriarchal university culture that has perpetuated a "cycle of sexual violence and institutional indifference," illustrated through the particular example of a 2012 brutal gang rape of an 18-year-old female student by seven members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. The article states: "At UVA, rapes are kept quiet, both by students—who brush off sexual assaults as regrettable but inevitable casualties of their cherished party culture—and by an administration that critics say is less concerned with protecting students than it is with protecting its own reputation from scandal."
As universities turn toward corporate management models, they increasingly use and exploit cheap faculty labor while expanding the ranks of their managerial class. Modeled after a savage neoliberal value system in which wealth and power are redistributed upward, a market-oriented class of managers largely has taken over the governing structures of most institutions of higher education in the United States. As Debra Leigh Scott points out, "administrators now outnumber faculty on every campus across the country."1 There is more at stake here than metrics. Benjamin Ginsberg views this shift in governance as the rise of what he calls ominously the "the all administrative university," noting that it does not bode well for any notion of higher education as a democratic public sphere.