Calls to “reform” American higher education, “re-structure” our universities, and “re-engineer” college curricula are flooding public universities across the nation. These proposals reflect the perspectives of trustees, administrators, foundations, corporations, and politicians, and they are not new; many have been raised repeatedly for 30 years. The global economic crisis has given these ideas new life and worldwide media attention.
Yet, calls for “reform” often are based on unexamined assumptions and misconceptions about higher education. And, the perspective, experience, and expertise of faculty members is generally absent from the discussion.
The California Faculty Association’s officers are convinced that public higher education faculty must act—together and quickly—to respond, and to steer the debate in a better direction for the good of our students, our profession, our institutions, and our democracy. A nationwide coalition that participates in defining quality higher education for the 21st century could help enormously in assessing what are the valid changes needed in American higher education and what should be preserved and defended.
We must take the initiative by speaking to principles of affordable, quality higher education and measure proposals for change against those principles. The following draft statement, one we believe should ground higher education policy in the coming decade, has been shared with other faculty organizations around the country and with interested policy-oriented experts and organizations. The goal is to capture essential ideas rather than specifics, ideas that can unite the faculty across the variety of institutions in the U.S., and that can help us reach out to allies outside of the academy.
While we in CFA are appalled by what is happening to higher education, we remain confident that the faculty in our nation’s institutions of higher education can—if we work together—transform the current conversation and effect meaningful change at this historic moment.
You are invited to share your ideas with us by commenting on the draft principles or corresponding with us via email at cfa [at] calfac.org