Evolution or Revolution

In 25 or 50 years, when someone or other, most likely a graduate student, writes a history of U.S. Higher Education in our time, the New Faculty Majority “Program for Change: 2010-2030” will have to play a key role. I don’t think it matters if the particulars of the program are achieved or not; its historical importance is its attempt to imagine a new employment system in U.S. higher education using a model developed largely in California and Canada. I think that it’s broad enough to be useful to almost anyone interested in reforming higher education. It’s our, “What is to be Done.”

OK, maybe it’s only our “Port Huron Statement.” Hopefully, in articulating this vision, the NFM has signaled the nadir of the current system. I think the proposed system makes a lot of sense; it touches on all of the key problems. I also think that the comments are as interesting as the document itself, particularly in the way they reflect the left’s current impasse over pragmatism. Obama is the example: is he doing what he can, given current politics, or he is too cowardly or inept to challenge the far right? I think it would be a mistake to let this document fall down that rabbit hole, as many of the comments seem to do.

I don’t have much faith in gradualist reform myself’; if you give administrations enough rope, they will hang you. It’s hard to imagine change without a union movement. Once change is achieved, we need unions to protect it. Still, if there were a union movement then I think this document could easily become a blueprint for contracts that address current inequities. All contract are local, of course, so details would differ. Meanwhile, there’s nothing to stop traditional faculty organizations– Senates, or other associations– from attempting to institutionalize these principals in their own reformish ways.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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