On January 1, Louisiana political blogger and LSU faculty member Bob Mann suggested “a New Year’s resolution for the leaders of Louisiana’s colleges and universities… to raise our voices in boisterous, sustained opposition to the deep budget cuts that Gov. Bobby Jindal will undoubtedly propose to address the anticipated $1.4 billion budget shortfall for fiscal year 2016.”
These voices would include not only presidents and provosts, but also deans, associate deans and senior faculty members.
I’m not one of those. I am an administrative (functional) department head. So while I’m further up the food chain than an adjunct or rank-and-file employee, it also means I don’t have tenure. I’m not in civil service. I’m unclassifed. My campus head could decide tomorrow I’m gone and I will be. Or someone above my campus head. Or my immediate supervisor. This means that to speak out could not only mean my job but also any chance I have of a career in this state or indeed anywhere.
A career I’ve worked a long time to build, slowly, solidly, and brick by brick… one in which I had an action plan in place to finally break through the glass ceiling through both experience and a (soon to be) long-worked toward terminal degree. I did it the right way, not by who I knew but what I knew and what I could, and most times did, accomplish. All this slowed my career trajectory down a lot but I have no regrets.
But it is probably going in the trash can with each word I write and publish.
Because I can be silent no more, at least not publicly. I’m pretty well known among those who know me for being outspoken and having to be told to be quiet and let politics and public policy run their course. But not that many people know me that well… yet.
I’ve for the most part complied. But what I predicted five years ago when GRAD Act was first announced has for the most part become reality. There are short term winners and losers (by design) but ALL of us have lost.
GRAD Act is evil, folks. The upcoming round of higher ed budget cuts (whether it is the full $380 million being thrown around or not) is just the latest in a five year long assault that we’ve taken and taken and taken. By agreement. Because we supposedly “agreed” to GRAD Act.
There are things going on in the world of Louisiana higher education that I have seen and I will write about from an insider’s perspective for as long as I can until I’m not an insider anymore.
It involves the wholesale, large scale disenfranchisement of our African American students and students in poverty. In potentially a bigger way than the state that higher education was in before the Desegregation Agreement that former Gov. Edwin Edwards brokered back in the 1990s. I know that is a bold statement. But this is what I see every day. The Desegregation Agreement, however flawed it may have been, has been systematically dismantled since it expired and it was largely assisted by GRAD Act.
This is a civil rights issue and I am going to do and say what I believe is right. I will not shut up this time. I may be fired (or told to be fired) and blackballed from every institution in the state or even in the country.
It won’t be the first time that I lost a career because I stood up and said, no more. It might be the last because I’m no longer an early career professional in my 20s who has time for a new career like I was last time. And then there wasn’t nearly as much at stake. I’ll probably get into that eventually because it is relevant, but the stakes are much higher now because others’ lives are on the line. And I don’t mean lives metaphorically but very literally. This may be it for my career. But it will be worth it.