About this site

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


§ 4 Responses to About this site

  • George Jennings says:

    Resisting change isn’t enough. We also need to propose solutions to higher ed’s challenges.

    1) Higher ed should be available for all but it should not be *required* for all. A good high school education should be enough for most jobs. We need to do more to make sure students get a good high school education by working harder with schools to make sure their students are learning. We should also send students who need remediation to community colleges which are
    less expensive and just as effective for providing remedial instruction.

    2) The curriculum should be broad and diverse but that does not mean that every college and university needs to offer courses in
    every every field and subfield of knowledge. We have to be willing to make choices to offer this and not that or others will choose for us.

    4) In some cases higher ed could save money by using *less*
    electronic technology. For example, for most purposes a good chalkboard is really much more versatile than an expensive computer projection system, far easier to maintain, lasts longer and costs only a tiny fraction as much. Campuses should spend their money on lab equipment, support for art, music and theater, and should be very skeptical when salesmen try to sell the newest gee-whiz computer equipment to people who use it mainly for typing and email.

    7) Obviously higher ed cannot be “identified with a simplistic set of metrics” but to improve it we need to invent some real metrics that can help distinguish things that work from things that don’t. We should collect data that tell what our graduates are doing a few years after their graduation and what they think about the education they received, has it been valuable to them?
    How? What would they like to see changed? Also some professors
    are more effective than others. Student records will give some indication who they are. Who are they and what do they
    do that others can emulate?

  • Ann Robertson, SFSU says:

    The document made many excellent points, and the invitation to members to make comments is wonderful. In my opinion, the analysis should go further in three respects:

    (1) Provide more statistics. For example, our workload has been on a constant rise since the 1980s. The number of students each full-time equivalent faculty person teaches has increased by 31 percent between 1985 and 2004. Student tuition has skyrocketed, increasing by over 200 percent since 2002. We need statistics on the number of students who are not attending for financial reasons.

    (2) The analysis should be placed in the context of trends within the greater society that are negatively impacting public education. For example, there has been a steady decline in corporate taxes and taxes on the rich. NEA has pointed out in its publication: “The richest Americans pay about $5 for every $100 of their income in state and local taxes. The poorest pay about $11.” The tax cuts recently extended by the Obama government overwhelmingly favor the rich. Meanwhile, the inequalities in wealth have been skyrocketing, as New York Times columnists such as Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert, and Nicholas Kristof have been repeatedly emphasizing, as well as former Secretary of Labor under Clinton, Robert Reich. These trends directly relate to the lack of revenue available for public education. So we need a full analysis of the reasons why public education is currently grossly underfunded.

    (3) The analysis needs to be linked to an action plan. The White Paper, previously produced by CFA, was truly excellent. But it was not tied to a set of demands, and so nothing ever came of it. After conducting a thorough analysis of the causes of the underfunding of public education, we need to formulate a set of demands that can serve as a rallying point for both faculty and students so that we can begin to mount a big campaign to defend public education.

  • […] An article in today’s Chronicle reported on the reaction to the university reform movement articulated by the California Faculty Association.  Here’s the link to the CFA site:  https://qualityhighered.wordpress.com/about/ […]

  • I really want to know 1) who were these 70 people who are claimed here to “collectively represent hundreds of thousands of faculty members who teach millions of students in colleges and universities throughout the country,” and 2) why the exploitation of adjunct and contingent faculty, in the view of many the greatest threat to “faculty” in higher ed today, was given such short shrift—2% of the whole document?

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