We stand concerned with the status quo of higher education and the implications it holds for society as a whole. As an organization that holds a powerful stake in shaping society, the public university’s structure demands our attention as we witness it welcoming an overwhelming increase of corporate influence.
This impacts not only the students affected by the education system, but all members of the greater community. What are the implications of an education dictated not by our deeper values and beliefs as people, but instead by market trends? What kind of university is created under the influence of corporations? Most importantly, should we run our schools as businesses?
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Contemporary society has left the university in a hard place. In the absence of adequate public funding, universities are adopting streamlined corporate practices that do not reflect the academic interests of students and faculty. Education should not conform to market valuations; knowledge cannot be reduced to a mere market commodity. Appropriation of funding according to the interests of private corporations stifles intellectual freedom, funneling intellectual output to meet private demands, rather than serving the greater public.
This is the “neoliberal” model of higher education. In this system, academic agency has been and continues to be stripped from students’ and faculty’s hands. Instead of focusing on academic growth, the university has become answerable to interests outside of those whom it purports to serve. This has subordinated
Education is being subordinated to market growth. Students and faculty are pitted against each other through adjunct professorships and overly saturated, competitive majors. The privatization of student-faculty interests has fragmented the learning community, and we have become increasingly vulnerable to burgeoning administrative control.
Rising student debt cripples imagination and deters aspiring individuals’ accessibility in terms of the way prospective students think about college. Compounded with stressful and rigorous admissions and enrollment practices, students’ opportunities are dwindling. If the idea of “healthy competition” exists herein, it ignores the increased anxiety and social stratification that it exacerbates. The balance of student interests—the selection of degree and major—are not representative of actual aspirations and instead reflect the constrained, abused resources that otherwise would be accessible to students.
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With this in mind, we feel that it is time for students and faculty to stand-up and make a difference. The control of university politics and practices should rest with the public citizens who define the academic mission. Not with those invested in a corporate mission. We imagine campus-wide discussion in defense of our university’s public dimension. Many have already raised their voices; underpaid and untenured faculty, exploited graduate students and concerned alumni; as students, we stand beside them. Together, we have the strength to recuperate, and reinvigorate the academic mission.
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It’s happening—let’s invest in public education. Join us in understanding and tackling this problem.