November 9, 2011

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CFHE forms plan of action


UUP statewide Secretary Eileen Landy, left, makes a point as California Faculty Association President Lillian Taiz listens during a work session on promoting unity and solidarity in the higher education community. The session was one of several held during the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education’s (CFHE) three-day conference Nov. 4-6.

Nearly 100 unionists, including UUP President Phil Smith, Landy, and academics, contingents, students and higher ed activists from 14 states, met at the University of Massachusetts’ Boston campus to take the next steps toward establishing itself as a strong, unified voice for higher education.

CFHE attendees fleshed out the role of its new Think Tank and focused on how to make the CFHE an organization that national news media will turn to for comment on higher education issues. They also agreed to hold a nationwide event in April to call attention to the group and its call for “affordable, accessible high quality education for the 99 percent.”

“I think it was a very productive meeting,” said Landy, who helped form the campaign at its organizational meeting in January. “Now we have to get out there and do the work.”

“We’re seriously concerned about the future of higher education in New York,” said Smith. “ It’s as much in jeopardy in the Empire State as it is in the Buckeye State and we support the CFHE’s goal of becoming a powerful mass movement for affordable, high quality higher education.”

More than 35 unions, student groups and black and Hispanic associations from 26 states and Canada have pledged their support for the campaign since its May launch in Washington, D.C. Those groups include UUP, the AFT, the NEA, PSC/CUNY, and the New Faculty Majority—which sent New Paltz Chapter President Peter D.G. Brown and Cortland Chapter member Anne Wiegard as representatives.

At the conference, attendees discussed ways to reach out to students, unions, higher ed organizations, community groups and others who can help the cause. Bringing those groups into the fold will strengthen the campaign, giving it more credibility to take a stand on critical higher ed issues and rebut rhetoric from wealthy non-profit organizations like the Lumina and Gates foundations.

Gary Rhoades, former general secretary for the American Association of University Professors, spoke about the Think Tank and outlined ways its research can promote the campaign’s seven principles and create change to bring about broad, positive change.

“Our goal is our original goal,” said Rhoades. “This is about changing the conversation of higher education and bring it back to the academic mission.”

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