Margaret Power on Necessary Tactical Alliances

The higher education system in the United States is in crisis. Neoliberalism, the current phase of capitalism, has led to privatization, the decrease and/or cutting of state funds, with the resulting skyrocketing costs of education and student debt. The pandemic has both exposed and intensified the weaknesses of the public as well as the private higher education systems.

Yes, university administrations are encouraging or forcing faculty to teach in person because they know that students and parents want to have in-class instruction and relationships with their teachers and other students that online classes simply do not deliver. This policy wrongly increases teachers, students, and staff’s likelihood of contracting and spreading Covid 19. It must and has been resisted. But if faculty pose the conflict as being between themselves and the administration, I think we are missing the bigger picture. Certainly, given the current economic realities, university administrations are between a rock and a hard place. If students don’t return to the campus, sign up for classes, live in dorms, and eat in the cafeteria, where will the money needed to sustain the university come from? Nowhere! It is highly possible that a number of universities and colleges will simply go under. That is why I think that posing the conflict as one between faculty and the administration is short sighted and will ultimately prove futile.

Instead, we need to work together with the administration, however challenging, even far-fetched that may seem to demand that the state, both local and national, fund higher education in the United States. We need to develop a clear statement that explains why a good higher education system is vital to this country, as is an educated population. We need to blame those who are not only responsible for the current debacle but have the power to change and improve it: our local and national governments.