Higher Education for Bernie Sanders is an initiative undertaken in support of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign's proposal for free public higher education. A volunteer effort, it's neither funded nor directed by the Sanders for President campaign. It is a vehicle for indicating support for the proposal and the larger commitment to higher education it reflects, as well as for the principle of public goods in general.
The proposal has been signed by Cornel West, Frances Fox Piven, Nancy Fraser, Wendy Brown, and many other friends of Verso.
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Our system of public higher education is in a state of slow-moving crisis. Decades of the fiction that it is possible to “do more with less” have supported steadily deepening cuts in state funding for higher education. State governments increasingly retrench what was not very long ago considered a vital public good and pass costs on to students and their families in the form of escalating tuition and fees and to faculty and staff in the form of income stagnation and speed-up.
In some states – e.g., Wisconsin, North Carolina, Kansas, and Louisiana – right-wing governors have gone after higher education with a vengeance that reveals motives that extend beyond even shortsighted cost-cutting and preference for upward redistribution. The likes of Scott Walker, Pat McCrory, Sam Brownback, and Bobby Jindal are militant ideologues, who oppose public education on principle. They would just as soon, to paraphrase right-wing anti-tax guru Grover Norquist, shrink their states’ public colleges and universities until they are “small enough to drown in a bathtub.”
The assault on higher education comes from several directions. Anti-secular political conservatives would replace public schools at all levels with religious institutions. Privatizers see in this public good as in many others an opportunity for great profits by looting the public’s resources. Other political reactionaries are threatened by the very idea of an educated citizenry and would rather roll back the clock to a time when access to higher education was restricted only to the children of the affluent.
The result is that pursuit of higher education is becoming more and more difficult for more and more Americans, and the existence of public colleges and universities themselves is imperiled.
It is past time to reverse this irrational and antisocial trend. Three decades of politicians from both parties have been too willing, even eager, to subordinate the aspirations, security, and opportunities of the American people on the altar of the billionaire class’s whims and greed. The assaults on public higher education stem from the same sources as attacks on public K-12 education, on the US Postal Service and other public services, the same sources that created the abomination of a health care system dominated by predatory insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and the obscenity of a ballooning, increasingly privatized carceral state.
The 2016 presidential race can be our opportunity to turn the tide. The Bernie Sanders campaign is committed to a clear and emphatic reassertion of the importance of public goods and the public sector that provides them, including public higher education in particular. His College for All Act would eliminate undergraduate tuition at 4-year public colleges and universities, thus making a powerful statement about the central importance of higher education as a public good. It would also take serious steps to relieve and reverse the crippling burden of student loan debt and the exploitation of adjunct labor. And it would strengthen faculty tenure systems, themselves under attack by conservative forces.
Bernie Sanders is the only candidate seeking the nomination from either party who has made such a serious and concrete proposal and demonstrated such resolute commitment to higher education. That is high among the reasons we as faculty, students, staff, parents and others concerned with higher education endorse and support his campaign enthusiastically and urge others who share those concerns to join with us.
Cornel West, Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice, Union Theological Seminary
Frances Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center
Walter Benn Michaels, Professor of English, University of Illinois at Chicago
RoseAnn DeMoro, Director, National Nurses United
Vivek Chibber, Professor of Sociology, New York University
Kenneth W. Warren, Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor of English, University of Chicago
Adolph Reed, Jr., Professor of Political Science, The University of Pennsylvania
Carl Hart, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, Columbia University
Michele Barry, Dean for Global Health, Stanford University
Robert W. McChesney, Gutgsell Endowed Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Doug Henwood, Editor of the Left Business Observer and Contributing Editor at The Nation
Liza Featherstone, contributing writer to The Nation, and Adjunct Professor at the School of Journalism at NYU
Heather Gautney, Associate Professor of Sociology, Fordham University
Huck Gutman, Professor of English, University of Vermont
Willie Legette, Associate Professor of Political Science, South Carolina State University
Jeffrey A. Winters, Professor of Politics and Director of the Equality Development and Globalization Studies Program, Northwestern University
Wendy Brown, Class of 1936 First Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
Steve Striffler, Doris Zemurray Stone Chair in Latin American Studies and Professor of Anthropology, University of New Orleans
Michael Hardt, Professor of Literature, Duke University
Leon Fink, UIC Distinguished Professor of History, University Illinois at Chicago
Touré F. Reed, Associate Professor of History, Illinois State University
Kathi Weeks, Associate Professor, Women’s Studies Program, Duke University
Steve Early, Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA
Rand Wilson, Adjunct Professor, Labor Studies Center, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
John Halle, Director of Studies in Music Theory and Practice, Bard College
Steve Fraser, Co-founder of the American Empire Project and Editor-at-Large of the journal New Labor Forum.
Samir Sonti, Doctoral candidate in History at the University of California at Santa Barbara
Jeffrey J. Williams, Professor of English and of Literary and Cultural Studies Carnegie Mellon University
Steven Hahn, Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History, The University of Pennsylvania
Jon Queally, Senior Editor and Staff Writer, Commondreams
Howard Botwinick, Associate Professor of Economics, SUNY-Cortland
Merlin Chowkwanyun, Assistant Professor of Public Health, Columbia University
Ted Swedenburg, Professor of Anthropology, University of Arkansas
Nancy Fraser, Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Politics and Philosophy New School for Social Research
Gordon Lafer, Associate Professor, Labor Education and Research Center & Political Science, University of Oregon
Nicholas Brown, Associate Professor, English & African American Studies University of Illinois at Chicago
Noel Kent, Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of Hawai’i at Mãnoa
Max Page, Professor of Architecture and History, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Anne Norton, Professor of Political Science, The University of Pennsylvania
Lester Spence, Associate Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins
Norman H. Edelman, Professor, Preventive and Internal Medicine Program in Public Health, Stony Brook University
Inger L. Stole, Professor of Communication, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Jennifer Ashton, Associate Professor of English, University of Illinois at Chicago and Vice President Chief Steward, UIC United Faculty
Deborah Gambs, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Department of Social Science & Human Services at BMCC
Michelle Ronda, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice, Department of Social Sciences, Human Services & Criminal Justice, Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY
Andrew Gunnoe, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Maryville College
Jamie McCallum, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Middlebury College
Joe Amato, Assistant Professor of English, Illinois State University
Susan Kang, Associate Professor of Political Science, City University of New York
David Golumbia, Associate Professor, English, Virginia Commonwealth University
Nicholas J. Kiersey, PhD, Associate Professor, Political Science, Ohio University
Stuart Shafer, Professor, Sociology, Chair, Sustainable Agriculture Johnson County Community College
Leslie Salzinger, Associate Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies University of California, Berkeley
Eric M. Fink, Associate Professor of Law, Elon University School of Law
Christine A. Kelly, Professor of Political Science, and Director of the American Democracy Project, William Paterson University
Kelly Mayhew, Professor of English, Humanities, and Gender Studies, San Diego City College
Jim Miller, Professor of English, Humanities, and Labor Studies, San Diego City College
Preston H. Smith II, Professor of Politics, Mt. Holyoke College
Daniel T. Kirsch, Associate Professor of Political Science, Valley Forge Military College
Jill Hamburg, Adjunct Professor of English, Drew University
Jessica Blatt, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Marymount Manhattan College
Lyle Jeremy Rubin, PhD Candidate in History, University of Rochester
Marc Bousquet, Associate Professor, Department of Film and Media, Emory University
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Act now! Join the campaign.