Editor's Note

Thinking of the long term

By Barbara McKenna

As this issue of AFT On Campus came together this summer, our intention was to focus on political issues that affect higher education workers and the people we serve (students, communities, employers, the nation and the world). We had hoped our story on the Higher Education Act reauthorization would provide insights on an active process. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) oversaw hearings and the writing of a more than 700-page proposed overhaul of the act (see page 4). But alas, that bill, like so many others with this Congress, is stuck in gridlock.

The point we wanted to make seems more urgent than ever: Election season is upon us. Vote!

Every year, we see the consequences of an inattentive citizenry. Every other year, on the first Tuesday of November, local, state and national elections are held, and the outcomes determine not only what laws will be passed, but also whether our elected leaders will be able to work together at all. So, elections matter. Individuals have a voice.

Research shows many reasons why nearly half of eligible Americans don’t vote: They’re too busy. They don’t pay attention to issues. They’re turned off by political advertising. They think special interests and money rule. A California Voter Foundation survey found that nonvoters are disproportionately young. These are people we can reach. Please talk to your students—as well as friends and family—about voting, and about the issues that will affect them now and for years to come.

In the past two decades, we have seen how elections matter to higher education, when states have been disinvesting in what has been long considered a public good from which all of society benefits. Today, students and families are saddled with debt that will color their life choices into future generations. “Borrowing Against the Future,” a report the AFT released earlier this year, shows shocking levels of debt and obligations to financial institutions that are making a tiny minority of people very rich at the expense of the vast majority of us. (See infographic below.)

Speaking of long terms, after 26 years of serving as managing editor of AFT On Campus, I am stepping down. As a chronicler of higher education trends for many years, I have never lost my sense of awe at the worlds that college faculty and staff open. It’s been a pleasure to fight to preserve and expand educational opportunity with colleagues and members who inspire on a daily basis.

Borrowing against the future image from OC fall 2014

 

AFT On Campus, Fall 2014
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On Campus Fall 2014 cover image