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ERIC Number: EJ985149
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jun-4
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1938-5978
Higher Education Needs a Dialogue with the 99%
Langley, Wayne M.
New England Journal of Higher Education, Jun 2012
Higher education is at a crossroads, not only in the U.S. but also globally. This challenge is prompting an immigrant union to once again take up the labor movement's historic role of speaking for the common good and the broad interests of working people. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 615 represents 18,000 property service workers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, 5,000 of whom are employed in 48 colleges and universities as janitors, trades people, food service and security workers. (Nationally, SEIU represents 75,000 members in both public and private nonprofit higher education institutions, 10,000 of whom are adjunct faculty.) Why in the world does a custodial union care about higher education policy? Until now, labor associations representing academics, like the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), have been the most prominent labor voices addressing national educational policy. So why is a blue-collar union speaking up--what are its goals in addressing issues such as financial transparency, endowment investment, executive compensation and board conflicts of interest? The answer to this question has two parts. First, the union cares because higher education is one of the few remaining paths for working people to secure a decent future for their children. It never has been an absolute guarantee of economic success, as most recent graduates have learned--but it is a chance. Second, the union cares because colleges and universities, at least in New England, have historically been some of the last outposts for good jobs and a hedge against recession. Colleges and universities remain critically important to a free society and to the health of the communities in which they reside. But, increasingly, the nation is losing faith in the "direction" of higher education. Once seen as the best way to realize the American dream of upward mobility--a mission willingly supported by taxpayers--a college education now appears to be out of the economic reach of many Americans, and is growing more so every year. Colleges and universities need to refocus on their public mission and the common good. To do this, they must start talking to the 99%. A wide range of stakeholders--faculty, staff, administration, labor, students, alumni, parents, community--must join together in an honest but hard dialogue to forge an invigorated social compact. This dialogue will be meaningless without genuine transparency and accountability for "all" stakeholders. They must engage with each other to discern what it would take to restore trust in higher education institutions and to rebuild a shared vision for their joint future. (Contains 1 note.)
New England Board of Higher Education. 45 Temple Place, Boston, MA 02111. Tel: 617-357-9620; Fax: 617-338-1577; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Massachusetts; Rhode Island; United States