A Challenge to Louisiana Faculty
By Dayne ShermanColumn
4/14/13 - Words: 800
Published in several newspapers.
I am a tenured associate professor at an unnamed
do not speak for the institution now or in the hundreds of published stories, articles,
essays, op-eds, and letters that I have written. Louisiana
Though I love universities, I am often saddened by the apathy and lack of civic engagement by faculty in
. It seems quite clear that the
average professor is uninformed, apathetically unengaged, or fear-bound. Louisiana
Some critics of
education say our students are equally lethargic. I do not believe this. But
one thing is certain: Louisiana ’s
college degree attainment is abysmal, 21 percent as compared to 28 percent nationally.
The ranking does not bode well for the future of the state. Louisiana
Perhaps the answer to
low college graduation rate and alleged student lethargy is a more engaged
faculty. I think students will be inspired and strive for excellence when their
professors become examples of authentic leadership—community members willing to
defend their institutions from debilitating budget cuts that threaten the
viability of higher education across the state. Louisiana
However, four commonly held myths hamper faculty engagement. These false assumptions strengthen Governor Jindal’s malevolent stranglehold on college funding.
Myth No.1: Nothing can be done to stop the governor from gutting higher education. This is a foundational myth in
. If nothing can be done, then there
is no reason to risk rocking the boat with an op-ed or letter to the editor, a
visit to a local legislator’s office, or publicly criticizing Jindal’s insane
and backward status quo policies. Louisiana
The legislative session began on April 8. Legislators will protect higher education if and when they understand that they will not be reelected if they fail to do so. They will act only after we act. But fatalism prevents faculty from fighting, and with Jindal’s 38 percent approval rate, now is the time to speak out. Make no mistake, the governor “parked” his tax swap swindle because citizens pushed back en masse.
Myth No. 2: It is all going to get better soon. We have already witnessed
higher education budgets falling by $625 million, mass layoffs, student tuition
and fees being raised by 50 percent or more since 2008, and no end in sight for
the destruction of colleges and universities. Louisiana is facing a budget abyss of 1-2
billion dollars next fiscal year, and higher education will be Jindal’s
whipping boy if he is not stopped. Louisiana
It is not going to get better until we demand that things change.
Myth No. 3: A new state constitution will solve higher education funding problems. Some legislators would have you believe that holding a constitutional convention to rewrite the 1974 document will somehow magically protect universities.
No, this will not fix the problem. On the contrary, what we need are legislators willing to set priorities within the framework of our current revenue stream and current constitution. Blaming the constitution is nothing more than a parlor game played by Jindal and the legislators to claim their hands are tied.
Myth No. 4: Raising tuition and giving universities control over tuition increases will solve the funding crisis. This is like putting a Band-Aid on severed arm. Do not believe legislators or college “leaders” when they call for increasing tuition on the backs of
students and their families. Remember the LA GRAD Act scam? It raised tuition
but did nothing to stop the funding calamity. Louisiana
Each time tuition is raised, Jindal cuts state college funding by an equal or greater amount, a phenomenon I like to call “The Forgotston Equilibrium,” an economic principle brought to my attention by
civic activist C.B. Forgotston. Hammond
Professors must fight for higher education funding and for justice. Their students deserve as much. Many are doing this already. Several examples of great courage are LSU’s Bob Mann, Kevin Cope, Mike Russo, Southern University’s Sudhir Trivedi, and Southeastern’s Barbara Forrest, Stephen Rushing, and James Kirylo.
As Professor Mann opined, we only have “
tenure.” In other words, tenure
means just so much in this fallen paradise of ours. Louisiana
But I believe a tenured professor has far more responsibility to speak out than an untenured or part-time instructor. Jesus said, “To whom much was given, of him much will be required.”
I do not lose any sleep worrying about being terminated or retaliated against for speaking out about the governor and his malicious policies. Instead, I worry about waking up one, two, or three years from now and realizing I slept through the destruction of my native state by a delusional politician with his eyes fixed on the White House.
Too much is at stake for professors to nap through the destruction of higher education in
Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcometo the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website is daynesherman.com.
==========================Dayne Sherman, Writer, Speaker, Scholar
Web & Social Media: http://daynesherman.com/
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