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June 2016


Higher ed turmoil
Kevin Peterman


higher ed in trouble
(graphic by Cynthia Eaton)

The news last week was shocking; Newsday announced Dowling is "closing its doors." That, on top of the May announcement that Nassau Community College (NCC) had just appointed a new president—its sixth—W. Hubert Keen, outgoing president of Farmingdale State College, after several failed searches.

Then in an online New York Times op-ed piece on June 3, Amy Hassinger wrote "Higher Education in Illinois Is Dying." Illinois’ budget issues have led to a deadlock in the funding of its public colleges. Many students could lose scholarships and many faculty are fearing pink slips this fall.

We’ve talked about the underfunding of higher education and how it has been an issue for years. But now the issues seem to be escalating. Our last issue’s cover story talked about member mobilization and the need for higher education to be properly funded. Now the crisis is growing from not enough funding (Illinois) to loss of Middle States accreditation (NCC) to closing (Dowling).

Dowling has two NYSUT locals: Dowling College Chapter led by Marcus Tye and the Association of Dowling Adjuncts led by our own Russ David (Russ is an adjunct rep for math on the FA’s Executive Council). NYSUT President Karen Magee has said, "NYSUT is providing guidance, free legal services and counseling. The statewide union prepared a detailed briefing for the members to help them navigate the immediate steps to apply for unemployment insurance benefits and to restore health insurance for their families." The FA is prepared to help our brothers and sisters any way we can.

SCCC is hosting a transfer fair on Thursday, June 9, from 3 to 7 p.m. at its Ammerman Campus. Representatives from colleges across Long Island will be available to speak with students. This is what needs to be done—all of us working together to help with the tragic situation at Dowling College.

Our colleagues at NCC, while not threatened with closure, are facing a real threat of losing accreditation. Again, we’ve been discussing strategy with Frank Frisenda, president of the NCC Federation of Teachers (NCCFT). At last month’s community college meeting at NYSUT’s headquarters just north of Albany, Frank briefed us on his local’s willingness to work with NCC’s stakeholders to get the college back on track.

Illinois is scary! Is the defunding of higher education a worsening trend? We cannot let this happen. We need to begin member mobilization locally, in Albany and in the nation’s capital. Again, as I mentioned last month, we need to be active this fall. There are state and national elections that we can no longer afford to ignore.

Some might say, "It’s not our issue." After all, we have a contract, we have our accreditation and we have a supportive administration and Board of Trustees, not to mention support from the county executive and Suffolk County Legislature.

If this trend of underfunding higher education gets traction, it could be us!

Brothers and sisters, rest up. We all need to fight for the future of higher education. Activism works!