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A place to check out some of the latest headlines on how universities, faculty, workers, and students across the country are addressing current challenges

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Housekeepers and custodians, fearful as campuses reopen, demand more protection from their schools

June 30, 2020. “As campuses announce plans to reopen in the fall, service workers, many of whom are people of color, have been summoned to the front lines. Maintenance workers and custodial crews are being called back to work with little preparation, their union says. And housekeepers like Gonzalez are tasked with washing floors and sanitizing surfaces to keep the community safe even when they don’t feel safe themselves.” Read more here.

A Historic Wave of Workers’ Struggle is Sweeping the US — and It’s Speeding Up

June 22, 2020. “When bus drivers fought against helping cops transport protesters, it didn’t start with a union bureaucrat. It started with a rank-and-file driver who built a campaign from below that pushed the union to take more radical action. The Chicago Teachers Union, one of the more militant and activist-driven teacher unions in recent memory, is mobilizing to get cops out of schools, going far beyond the lukewarm ‘support’ of the uprising coming from AFT national.  And likewise, United Teachers Los Angeles recently voted to call for the disbanding of the LA public school police department. 

Seeing this power, many socialists rightly point out how important it is to struggle inside our unions to support the uprising. It’s crucial that socialists help build up the rank-and-file power we will need to create more wildcat actions in our workplaces, to push more unions into the streets for marches and demonstrations, and to force union leaders to take more committed and serious action, like kicking cops out of our organizations.” Read more here.

New York Times: A College Reality Check

June 18, 2020. “Colleges have come rushing forth to announce that they will be inviting students back to campus this fall. But as I’ve spoken to college officials over the past few weeks — usually not for quotation — I’ve been struck by the difference between their public optimism and their private uncertainty.” Read more here.

New York Times: Expecting Students to Play It Safe if Colleges Reopen Is a Fantasy

June 15, 2020. “Safety plans border on delusional and could lead to outbreaks of Covid-19 among students, faculty and staff.” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Higher Ed’s Toothless Response to the Killing of George Floyd

June 8, 2020. “What we’ve seen laid bare is the impotence and evasiveness of neoliberal rhetoric, which swings between performances of power and guilt — supplication to the former and self-flagellation in service to the latter. Neoliberal rhetoric appears most saliently in the way colleges talk about structural racism: the list of student, staff, and faculty services — most of them wholly inadequate and underfunded — that are trotted out in hyperlinks. We are asked to tackle collective problems of the public sphere through self-improvement and self-service.” Read more here.

WBUR: Hundreds of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Face Losing Their Jobs. Their Students Are Upset.

June 8, 2020. “DeLong will be a senior this fall. She’s upset that Harvard is not extending the contracts of about half its non-tenure track faculty as they face the worst job market since the Great Depression.

“‘A lot of the non-tenure track faculty are people who, in my experience, go so above and beyond to actually help us grow as people, as thinkers, as learners,” DeLong said. “And it makes me really angry, honestly, because these are people who, for the most part, have been so integral to my education.'” Read more here.

Academic Matters: The academy’s neoliberal response to COVID-19: Why faculty should be wary and how we can push back

May 29, 2020. “Over the past 40 years, there has been considerable variation in how neoliberal ideas have been harnessed by policymakers worldwide, but certain fundamental principles are clear — and a number of these shape the way that universities have responded to COVID-19. Recognizing these neoliberal assumptions will help faculty both to question the way that COVID-19 era teaching is being implemented and to imagine alternatives that do not put public research and education at risk.” Read more here.

WHYY: ‘Incredibly disposable’: Adjuncts, the ‘gig workers’ of higher-ed, fear losing livelihoods

May 26, 2020. “If and when enrollment drops, contingent faculty will likely lose jobs. And in a time when many predict financial pain for academia writ large, adjuncts know they could be on the chopping block. … All kinds of high-ed workers could lose jobs or pay — from the classroom to the mailroom.” Featuring interviews with RAFT members as well as colleagues from Temple and around Philadelphia. Read more here.

Left Voice: Hundreds of CUNY Adjuncts to be Fired and Lose Health Insurance: Interview with Laid-off Adjunct Professor of Africana Studies

May 26, 2020. “Though it is still uncertain whether the fall enrollments will be affected by the pandemic, and while Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to cut funding to CUNY in the current budget, the university has taken preemptive measures to reduce payroll budgets and several CUNY colleges, such as John Jay, have effectively fired all of their semester to semester adjunct faculty. One of those fired faculty members, Sami Disu, also happens to be a member of Rank and File Action (RAFA), a militant rank and file organization within the Professional Staff Congress Union (PSC CUNY) fighting to build a more militant union and more just university.” Read more here.

CBS 6 Albany: CUNY Faculty Urged Not To Submit Spring Grades as Layoffs Loom

May 21, 2020. “As a way to try and stop thousands of part-time professor from losing their jobs at CUNY schools, Rank and File Action (RAFA) of the Professional Staff Congress is urging all faculty to delay submission of Spring 2020 grades. It’s in preparation for a potential grade strike if the minimum sign-on threshold of 70% of CUNY faculty is obtained.” Read more here.

The Daily Pennsylvanian: Over 200 profs. sign letter demanding U. use endowment to protect grad students

May 21, 2020. “Two hundred and seven Penn faculty and staff signed an open letter urging administration to use the University’s endowment to support graduate students and non-tenured faculty during the coronavirus pandemic.” Read more here.

The Nation: If Cuomo Cuts Funding, CUNY Layoffs Will Be a ‘Bloodbath’

May 20, 2020. “Employees of New York City’s public colleges are already being hit by the governor’s proposed austerity budget.” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: University Leaders Are Failing

May 19, 2020. “The pandemic reveals ineptitude at the top. Change is needed.” Read more here.

The Guardian: Cambridge University moves all lectures online until summer 2021

May 19, 2020. “Cambridge has become the first university to set out measures for the full 2020-21 academic year, announcing that it will move all ‘face-to-face lectures’ online for the duration. The institution added that it was ‘likely’ social distancing would continue to be required.” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Commentary – Colleges Aren’t Reopening in the Fall

May 18, 2020. “Don’t be misled by presidents who say otherwise.” Read more here.

Left Voice: CUNY Administration Lays Off Hundreds of Faculty

May 16, 2020. “The City University of New York is threatening to lay off potentially thousands of faculty, but the rank and file are fighting back.” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Faculty Cuts Begin, With Warnings of More to Come

May 15, 2020. At University of Massachusetts at Boston: “This week, letters were sent to an unknown number of instructors, telling them that they won’t be reappointed for the fall, with the caveat that things could change over the summer. ‘I am very sorry for the consternation I know this will cause you,’ Emily A. McDermott, the interim provost, says in the form letter.” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: The Case Against Reopening

May 14, 2020. “We all want to be back on campus. But when it comes to plans for the fall, there’s only one right decision.” Read more here.

New York Times: Fearing a Second Wave, Cal State Will Keep Classes Online in the Fall

May 12, 2020. “The move by the nation’s largest four-year public university system comes as many other schools insist they will find a way to bring students back to campus despite the coronavirus.” Read more here.

New York Magazine: The Coming Disruption

May 11, 2020. “Scott Galloway predicts a handful of elite cyborg universities will soon monopolize higher education.” Read more here.

Inside Higher Ed: New Tactics, New Militancy

May 7, 2020. “Protest rallies are now a public health risk, but students, TAs and unions are finding new ways to get their voices heard.” Read more here.

The New Yorker: The Pandemic is the Time to Resurrect the Public University

May 7, 2020. “The coronavirus has revealed to many the geography of class in America, showing that where we live and work shapes whether we live or die. Might it offer a similar lesson about where we learn?” Read more here.

New York Times: The ‘Public’ in Public College Could Be Endangered

May 5, 2020. “Since the Great Recession, states have taken drastically different approaches to funding colleges. The pandemic poses an even bigger challenge.” Read more here.

Labor Notes: Chicago Grad Workers First to Win COVID-19 Demands

April 28, 2020. “Workers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have bargained what we believe are the first set of wins for a graduate union negotiating the effects of COVID-19. It was our winning strike last year that made our employer realize it should come to the table and give us what we demanded.” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Prominent Scholars Threaten to Boycott Colleges That Don’t Support Contingent Faculty During Pandemic

April 28, 2020. “More than 70 scholars are among the initial signatories to an academic-solidarity statement that promises not to accept invitations — for speaking engagements, conferences, and workshops — at institutions that do not ‘include non-tenure-track faculty and graduate workers in extensions of fixed-term contracts.’” Read more here.

Temple Now: Temple University Proposes a Tuition Freeze

April 26, 2020. “If approved by the trustees, this will be the second consecutive year with no increase in undergraduate base tuition at Temple for Pennsylvania residents.” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Now — Yes, Now — Is the Time for Contingent Faculty to Organize

April 24, 2020. “As we move through the viral abyss, it becomes clearer to us that collective worker action is exactly what’s needed to protect teachers and teaching as we know it.” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education Webinar: Supporting Contingent Faculty During the Outbreak

April 24, 2020. Register here to watch the recording of this webinar hosted by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

New York Magazine: Columbia Graduate Students Are Going on Strike

April 24, 2020. “A nationwide wave of worker protests now includes graduate students at Columbia University. Hundreds announced on Friday that they were going on strike; for some, it’s their second in two years.” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Distanced Learning

April 24, 2020. “The Covid-19 pandemic is revealing the breadth of education’s digital divide, separating those who have access to the internet from those who don’t. Yet in this spring of makeshift virtual instruction, many low-income students face challenges that go well beyond a lack of computers and connectivity.” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: The New Tenured Radicals

April 23, 2020. “After years of standing on the sidelines in the fight for adjuncts’ rights, more tenured professors are entering the fray. Are they too late?” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Harvard Bows to Pressure From Trump to Forgo Coronavirus Relief Money

April 22, 2020. “Endowment experts point out, however, that donors typically specify how their gifts should be used, and that it isn’t always feasible, or wise, to divert endowment funds, as Harvard’s critics are calling on it to do.” Read more here.

Forbes: Why Is Harvard Getting $9 Million In Stimulus Money When It Has A $40 Billion Endowment?

April 21, 2020. “In response to Forbes’ questions, a Harvard spokesman emailed a list of bullet points about restrictions on endowment spending. The short version: The endowment is made up of more than 13,000 separate funds. The “overwhelming majority” of those are restricted to spending designated by donors, like professorships and scholarships. Still, roughly a third of Harvard’s operating budget comes from an annual disbursement at the end of the fiscal year in late June. Last year that totaled $1.9 billion. In March, Harvard Magazine published an article that said the plunging market had brought the endowment’s value down to the mid-30-billion-dollar range. This year’s disbursement is guaranteed to be smaller than last year’s.” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Under Covid-19, University Budgets Like We’ve Never Seen Before

April 20, 2020. “Unprecedented times require unprecedented strategies and actions… As bad as it may seem right now, it is about to get worse.” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Major Cost-Cutting Begins in Response to Covid-19, With Faculty and Staff Furloughs and Pay Cuts

Updated April 20, 2020. “The long-term economic impact of the pandemic is uncertain. But colleges are taking steps now to offset deep revenue losses.” Read more here.

Washington Post: College students are rebelling against full tuition after classes move online

April 16, 2020. “In a class-action lawsuit filed last week in federal court in South Carolina, a student named Adelaide Dixon, acting on behalf of herself and classmates, demanded a refund from the University of Miami for alleged breach of contract. … The suit cites university marketing materials that extol the benefit of living on campus to meet other students, faculty and staff members: ‘It’s a special time of learning and maturing; a time to be a member of the University family.’ The suspension of in-person teaching, the suit alleges, marked a failure to deliver on that promise.” Read more here.

Billy Penn: Temple University execs take 10% pay cut, ask faculty to give up raises

April 15, 2020. “Temple has already implemented an administrative hiring freeze. Now, salaries for senior university officials — officers, deans and advisors to President Richard M. Englert — will be reduced by 10% beginning in May, according to the email. Non-unionized Temple employees earning more than $100,000 annually will see pay reductions of 5%. Steve Newman, president of the Temple Association of University Professionals, a union that represents 2,700 professors, librarians and other academic professionals, said the administration is seeking concessions from the bargaining unit to help secure costs. The ask: for full-time faculty to give up their recently negotiated 1.625% cost of living increase 1.25% merit increase for 2021 academic year. Newman said discussions remain ongoing. The union is seeking clarity on the university’s financial situation, including the $343 million in cash assets it showed at the end of the last fiscal year.” Read more here.

CNN: Universities begin considering the possibility of canceling in-person classes until 2021

April 15, 2020. “Oregon State, like most colleges in the US, moved most of its summer instruction online. As for the fall semester, OSU spokesman Steve Clark told The Oregonian, ‘Only the novel coronavirus will determine what happens. We can hope for a full return in fall 2020, but hope is not a strategy. So that is why we are going to prepare as best we can for every possible contingency.'” Read more here.

New York Times: After Coronavirus, Colleges Worry: Will Students Come Back?

April 15, 2020. “Colby College, a liberal arts school in Maine, has taken a typical blow. Its endowment, a rainy-day fund that can also serve as a proxy for a college’s financial health, dropped to $770 million this month from $900 million at the end of last year. (It has since partially rebounded to $803 million.) And like many colleges, Colby has had to refund room and board for students asked to leave campus. It has been able to balance its budget through a hiring freeze and savings on travel and events. But, said David Greene, Colby’s president, ‘in the long run, that is not a winning strategy.’” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Will the Pandemic Usher in an Era of Mass Surveillance in Higher Education?

April 14, 2020. “Some academics fear the spreading crisis will be used to justify accelerated growth in intrusive observation of faculty members and students, further eroding individual rights in the name of education and public health. … Privacy issues run deep during this period of expanded remote learning, but they might run even deeper as new protocols and technologies accompany the return to campuses, whenever that may be.” Read more here.

Forbes: Boston University Is First To Announce It May Postpone Opening Its Campus Until January 2021

April 13, 2020. “Boston University appears to be the first American college or university to announce that it may not resume live classes until January 2021. If public health officials deem it unsafe for students to congregate, the campus could remain closed until the start of next year.” Read more here.

Harvard Magazine: Harvard Announces Salary, Hiring Freezes and Other Spending Cuts

April 13, 2020. Harvard’s President, Provost, and Executive Vice President announced “an immediate salary freeze for all exempt (non-union) employees and a hiring freeze, University-wide; cancellation or deferral of discretionary spending; and review of all capital projects ‘to determine which ones should be deferred.’ The three senior University leaders are reducing their salaries by 25 percent, and ‘Other senior leadership of the University — including all School deans, vice presidents, and vice provosts — are responding by either reducing their salaries or contributing to a new fund that we are establishing in partnership with the Harvard University Employees Credit Union.’” Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: How Will the Pandemic Change Higher Education?

April 10, 2020. This is an interesting collection of 23 short essays by faculty and other employees from different universities. Here is a sample of some of the titles:

  • The Fantasy of Resistance: The managers won’t save us. No one will save us.
  • We Are All Ungraders Now: Grades are stupid. We should take this opportunity to get rid of them for good.
  • Build Something Better: Time to reconsider who the leaders and innovators in higher ed really are.
  • Things Fall Apart: Education — even online — requires ceaseless labor to keep going.
  • Freezing to Death: Pauses in hiring represent the end of higher education as we know it.
  • Beyond Survival Strategies: Our pedagogy is a form of mutual aid.
    • Choice quote: “In short, we’ve been asked to do the impossible: to maintain the university’s status quo as the world breaks apart. We are told to follow the now-familiar script of adapting to crises and new realities while confining our adaptation strategies to the prerogatives of neoliberalism.”

Read more here.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Faculty Members Fear Pandemic Will Weaken Their Ranks

April 9, 2020. “Covid-19 is being described as both a crisis and an opportunity for higher education. But how ‘opportunity’ is defined depends on where one stands in the academic hierarchy.” Read more here.

Left Voice: “Shock Doctrine” in Higher Ed: Class Struggle in the Pandemic

April 6, 2020. “With the pandemic and economic downturn, faculty are facing the threat of a ‘shock therapy’ in higher education bringing sweeping changes to their working conditions. To meet this crisis, they need to organize for worker and student control of colleges and universities. … The contingent majority of faculty, like others in the working class, are forced to continue working without health care and sick leave, and to perform additional, unpaid labor to make the shift online. While crowing about ‘continuity of instruction’ and ‘operation,’ campus bureaucrats have been far more concerned with maintaining the flow of money than with the people who make universities run.” Read more here.

New York Times: Colleges Get Billions in Coronavirus Relief, but Say Deal Falls Short of Needs

March 25, 2020. “Congress’s emergency coronavirus bill would provide colleges and universities with about $14 billion to weather shutdowns and move to distance learning. That is unlikely to be enough.” Read more here.

Commune: From Occupy Everything to COLA For All

March 13, 2020. “Hundreds of graduate students at UCSC, including many in difficult-to-organize STEM departments, have refused to accept spring appointments in solidarity with the fired strikers, and grad students at UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis, UC San Diego, and UC Berkeley have begun or announced strikes in solidarity with Santa Cruz. The struggle has already captured the attention of students, faculty, organizers, activists, and journalists across the country — Bernie Sanders even tweeted his support twice. With so much at stake, the outcome of the COLA [cost-of-living adjustment] movement could well resonate for years, shaping the University of California, academic labor, and the labor movement more broadly.” Read more here.

The File: “The Plan is to Win”: A Conversation With the UC Santa Cruz Wildcat Strikers

December 20, 2019. “A wave of militant action has gripped the campus at UC Santa Cruz, resulting in a spate of wildcat actions based in the demand for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). A contentious contract was put in place by the statewide union (UAW) in 2018 that bound all UC campuses to a no-strike clause. This contract was rejected by 83% of the unit at Santa Cruz, who are experiencing a drastic increase in cost of living primarily driven by sky-rocketing housing prices. Organizers at Santa Cruz have mobilized across a variety of groups around one key demand for a COLA. These efforts have united graduate students, undergraduates, and service workers across campus.” Read more here.

The New York Times: New Mexico Announces Plan for Free College for State Residents

September 18, 2019. “Under the plan, tuition to all state colleges would be free for students regardless of family income.” Read more here.

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