Growing up in a rural town in Wisconsin, I spent my weekends and summers with a pitchfork and straw bedding down calves on a local farm. I went on to study political science and Afro-American studies at the UW-Madison only a few miles from the hospital where I was born.
Now, as the Vice President of the United States Student Association—the nation’s oldest, largest, and incredibly diverse national student association—I find myself wondering what I am doing in DC attending meetings at the Department of Education or on the Hill. What I don’t find here in DC is a real regard for the struggle of working class students, students of color, or hard-working contingent faculty and staff on our campuses—the people on campus who are simply trying to make this country a more educated and better place for our families. The 66-year legacy of our organization may have gotten us to the table, but, oftentimes, we are the only group who represents students consulted on important policy decisions.
Coming from the Midwest to DC, I find it easy to spot the contradictions in our nation’s capital. With public approval of Congress at an all-time low, chances that the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act will mean anything tangible for accessibility and affordability of getting an education are slim to none.
Even the President’s proposal is too watered-down to hold institutions and states accountable for the massive disinvestment in higher education. Its attempt at promoting innovation will only bolster the hollowing-out of an in-person education in favor of MOOCs. When one considers these trends, it is no wonder that tuition is the first thing on the rise and the salaries of faculty are the first to be cut. The devil is in administrative creep. A recent New Yorker profile on New York University President John Sexton documents the 16 administrators who receive a total of $12 million in compensation, with Sexton making $1.5 million annually!
Like they say, “Talk is cheap.” It will take more than petty negotiations to re-create our system of higher education, which treats students like the gum on a lobbyist’s shoe and faculty no better. We have to build a massive social movement that communicates the value of education for all: “We all do better, when we all do better.”
To that effect, members of the United States Student Association are hosting teach-ins on campuses across the country to educate students on tuition hikes and the defunding of instruction. These teach-ins began on October 15th and will continue through the fall semester. Special attention will be paid to the plight of contingent faculty. Visit our website http://usstudents.org, “like” our page on Facebook, or tweet @USStudents for more information.
Author Bio: Maxwell John Love was uprooted from rural Wisconsin, struggling and story-telling for truth and justice with the United States Student Association. He graduated from UW-Madison in 2013 with a degree in Political Science, Afro-American studies, and Chicana/Latina studies.