This week is Campus Equity Week (CEW), a week of education and activism that draws attention to three of the biggest problems in today’s higher education system:
1) Massive Student Debt. National student debt has reached more than $1.4 trillion. Ohio is one of the worst states in the country for student debt, with graduates owing, on average, $28,000 in loans. Student loans cannot be discharged by bankruptcy. The prohibitive cost of higher education is leading to lower enrollment at Ohio’s colleges and universities, as well as lower graduation rates.
2) Decreasing State Support for Higher Education. State support for higher education in Ohio has been on the decline since the 1980s. If the Ohio Legislature continues to chip away at its support for higher ed at the current rate, there will be no state support at all by 2039. Instead of choosing to fund necessary public goods and services like public higher education, state government leaders have pursued irresponsible tax cuts, which disproportionately favor the wealthiest Ohioans and provide little relief for middle class and poor Ohioans. Decreasing state subsidies coupled with “administrative bloat” have caused tuition to skyrocket.
3) The Exploitation of Campus Labor. Approximately 75 percent of higher education faculty are working under contingent contracts. Whereas part-time faculty used to teach very few courses, today adjuncts teach over 40 percent of undergraduate classes, yet are paid far less than their full-time counterparts and receive little to no institutional support. In Ohio, adjunct faculty are not recognized as public employees and therefore do not have the same rights and protections that are afforded to full-time faculty under Ohio’s collective bargaining law. Even though a college or university is not obligated under law to bargain with part-time faculty, it is perfectly legal for part-timers to organize and have a collective voice, which the AAUP encourages them to do. This Wednesday, October 30, people all over the country will be wearing red to show their solidarity with and support of part-time faculty. Wear red on Wednesday!There are other small things that you can do to help make a big difference in bringing attention to these issues. For instance, consider changing your social media profile pictures/avatars to the CEW logo below (right-click and save it to your computer). You can also post some of the aforementioned statistics and use the hashtag: #campusequity.
Finally, you can read more about CEW and its history on the AAUP’s Academe Blog: http://academeblog.org/.