Northern New Mexico signs petition in protest of Northern New Mexico College budget

The Northern Issue

Hi everyone, this is the only article the Rio Grande Sun published this week about Northern. Enjoy!

Ralph Chapoco

Rio Grande Sun

July 17, 2014

Former Northern New Mexico College employees have been circulating a petition and urging fellow community members to support it. The petition is asking the New Mexico Higher Education Department to reject Northern’s proposed 2014/2015 budget because of academic program cuts.

The Board of Regents dedicated the majority of its April 24 meeting to discuss the proposed budget. The budget called for cutting three programs: automotive, construction and radiology. It also proposed eliminating nine employees as well as the day care center. The budget was unanimously approved with two people abstaining, Board Member Donald Martinez and Board President Rosario Garcia, and was then sent to the state’s higher education department for final approval.

Emotions were charged at that meeting. Several students, faculty and staff publicly opposed…

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That Petition You’ve Been Hearing So Much About

Can we convince David Weil of the US Department of Labor to investigate working conditions, adjunct (mis)treatment, and student learning conditions in higher ed? So far, 1,705 (and counting) people hope so. Remember, anyone can sign it. Anyone.

The petition I cowrote with nine fellow activists is going strong. This time last week, we’d just starting getting signatures. Now, we’re approaching 2,000 signatures faster than any of us thought possible a week ago. A big, big thanks to such tireless retweeters as Victoria Scott, New Faculty Majority, Citizen Academic, and Fabián Banga.

Reporter Justin Peligri just wrote a great piece for USA TODAY College, as did a reporter for Inside Higher Ed. We’ve also gotten some nice write-ups from fellow activists (say, here and here), as well as a short piece on Daily Nous.  We’re hoping for more media attention in the next few weeks–including, we hope, some photo ops when some of us hand-deliver the letter to Labor. The more attention, the better.

What’s next? Why do all these signatures and news stories matter?

Ultimately, we want the petition to initiate an investigation into what many of us know: American higher education is broken, and students are being hurt by it. We don’t need another overpaid provost or deanlet to talk about a “strategic plan,” “vision for the 21st century,” or “flipped classrooms.” We need fairly paid, fairly treated professors for our college students. We need equitable, stable working conditions for university faculty and staff. We need strong, stable learning conditions for university students.

In the shorter term, our plan is to hand-deliver the petition to David Weil, as well as try to get the attention of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. (Know a staffer for someone on that committee? Let me know.) We need the might and resources of a government department on our side. University administrations need to know that all is not well in their kingdoms, and that a lot of smart, engaged, and energetic people are unhappy.

We don’t want this petition to be one of those things you sign, share, and forget about. We want it to be the start of something great. A lot of you have helped us so far; keep doing what you can for the petition, our goals, adjunct professors, and–ultimately–our students.

Quiet Plebs, a Provost Is Talking

Why read the work of a real provost when you can read the work of a “provost” who’ll make you laugh?


Inside Higher Ed has a recurring column called Provost Prose. Today’s is about a tropical cruise a provost took his daughter on for her sixteenth birthday (obviously), and the many important direct parallels between that cruise and the modern university customer experience.

Some of my friends did not like this post, and made this known to me. As a result, I put out a call through my high-class back channels until I located a provost of my own, who was also highly offended by this column. He found it “tonedeaf,” he says, to the “real issues provosts face–which, as we know, is the number-one issue of higher education today.” So I asked him if he’d mind writing a short guest post for me–unpaid, of course, because the prestige of appearing on this august blog should be enough. He readily agreed. So here, without further ado, is:


by T…

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Another #ArticleRemix

For the record, let me say–again–how big a fan I am of the #ArticleRemix concept Katie Pryal wrote about on her blog a week or so ago. (Short version: revise & remix a #fancy smartypants piece to make it accessible & engaging for a wider audience.) “So much academic writing is hidden behind paywalls,” Katie tells us. “And then, when you finally can download an article, the knowledge it contains is hidden behind field-specific jargon (some of which is completely unnecessary for the making of meaning).”

I’d love to see more writers–whether current, academics, former ones, or something else–remix their work and share it with a broader audience. If what we’re writing about is so worthwhile and good, why not share it with others, spread our knowledge, and gain new readers? Or, as Katie asks, “And if we experts can’t share our expertise, then what’s the point of being experts?”

In early 2012, I published a book, Faulkner and Hemingway: Biography of a Literary Rivalry, with Ohio State UP. At the time, I hoped it was my “in” for a tenure-track job in some university English Department. Yet the rules of Calvinball academia kept changing, and the book wasn’t the magic ticket I expected it to be. ‘Tis no matter, though. I loved writing the book, discussing it, and giving presentations on it. It was definitely labor (worth a whopping $3.62 in royalties so far), but one of love & some fun.

An editor at the New England Review approached me not long after the book was published to ask about running an excerpt in an upcoming issue. I had to make some revisions, take out most of the scholarly backbone of the excerpt, and smooth out some parts. New England Review has a solid print and web readership, and they were great to work with.

For those with institutional login info, it should be archived here. For those without such access, I’m sharing the PDF. I hope this encourages you to remix & share some of your own work.

33.1.fruscione NER

Making It Up As I Go

In this new Consulting Editor persona I’m trying out, I circulate freely among different academic and activist groups–part writer, part editor, part activist, part social butterfly. I’ve always been deft at moving between different social and professional circles, and sometimes folks come to me to ask for help, guidance, advice for leaving academia, and so on.

I’m making this up as I go, so I do what I can. Sometimes, it means helping friends and former grad school colleagues get published; other times, it means being a sounding board or sympathetic ear while a struggling adjunct vents.

While working on what I hope is a useful, long-term project, I did a Twitter & Facebook crowd source for thoughts about what’s most wrong with the American university. Not surprisingly, I got some great material that I’m weaving in to this current project; I’d also like to share some of it here. Students and parents especially should know more about how the colleges they’re attending or paying for their child(ren) to attend really work. There are many voices in many different movements around education, labor, academic freedom, and related issues that need to be heard. As loudly and widely as possible.

When asked for a short, focused answer to “What’s most wrong with higher ed?” many in the academic blogosphere had something rich to say:

Robert Oprisko: Elitism and structural inequality are parading around as meritocracy.

Greg Semenza: We are socialized by our culture to think about what’s wrong with higher ed rather than about what’s right.

Chuck Pearson: We have an educational culture issue in the US—diminished expectations at every level of engagement.

HelloGreedo: US advancing way over the inflation rate, tuition has increased…creating an even larger economic divide.

Art historian Victoria Scott provided several short, focused answers. Here are a few:

It needs to be about merit not money.

There needs to be a vigorous fearless discussion about what academic freedom means in America, and around the world.

And we need an independent organization that is responsible for gathering statistics about the state of higher education (statistics are key).

The number of adjuncts is the crucial issue. And then, how many of them are women.

In short professors, grad students, scholars, and students have to take back colleges and universities in all respects.

There’s a lot for teachers, parents, students, and university administrators to think about here. Claims of “meritocracy” are hollow; the systemic “diminished expectations” have eroded critical thinking and threatened to turn students into test-taking automatons. Greg Semenza usefully reminds us to remember the positives—i.e., what is working in higher ed (such as its dedicated, engaged teacher-activists). “Tak[ing] back colleges and universities in all respects” means criticizing the negatives and highlighting the positives.

Fellow writer-activist Mary Grace Gainer draws an interesting parallel: “Higher education in the US has a late-night infomercial type of problem: it uses a very large, vague set of terms to make claims buyers will like while at the same time, hiding the actuality of the product.” I can almost hear, But wait, there’s more—if you call in the next five minutes, you’ll receive a waiver for that boring course you don’t want to take AND the Easy A professor of your choice ABSOLUTELY FREE. (Just pay separate tuition and processing.) For Gainer,

Since many incoming students and parents are not well versed in higher ed lingo, what seems like a great selling point obscures the exploitation of adjunct faculty, which directly affects students’ educational experience. The generic term “professor” often is used in glossy print phrases like “90% of our professors have their terminal degrees” or “you will be taught by professors who are doctors, not graduate assistants,” to paraphrase a few standard claims.

But wait, there’s more:

While these statements may indeed be the truth, they conceal the actual status of those educators in many developmental, first-year, and core curriculum classes. The “professor” may indeed have an MFA or PhD (both considered terminal degrees in certain fields), but that individual may also be teaching at multiple schools because all the work is part time. The “professor” may have completed their graduate education and even published in the field, but may not be making a living wage or have health care.

And here’s this special gift, absolutely free:

This does not even begin to explicate the layers of ranking—assistant, associate, full—that full-time permanent academics, their salaries, and status are attached to. As an undergrad I was unaware of those categories, and they had no bearing on my education that I could see, but I did know that every person in front of my classes was a full-time employee. This is not the case for the many adjuncts shuttling between schools, and the glossy surface of higher education needs to reflect this precarious reality due to its inherent effects on both teachers and their students.

Social media feeds, personal blogs, and such major outlets as Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle regularly feature former and current teachers taking on a number of pertinent issues: cuts to educational funding coupled with spikes in senior admins’ salaries; the corporate model of education seemingly infecting our campuses; unconscionable (and untenable) lending practices for student loans; frightening (perhaps unconstitutional) policies from upper-level administrators and boards of regents curbing professors’ speech on social media; and the increasingly sharp divide between have and have not, among other issues. The current system cannot—and should not—hold. Period.

We’re not talking about issues affecting a relatively small, privileged, and “low stress” class of professors; we’re talking about a pattern of mistreatment affecting well over a million university faculty (and many more students) on campuses across the country. Let’s not forget that the university labor problem, ultimately, will determine our students’ and our nation’s educational future. We—former and current professors, undergraduate and graduate students, parents, and all university workers—need to be proactive and vocal on our campuses and social media.

Silence, as one of my favorite bands reminds us, is a dangerous sound.