The role of government in higher ed

Steve Mintz writes a persuasive critique of Governor Jerry Brown’s attempt to shape academic priorities in the state-university system in California. What he says, however, applies just as easily in Canada:

A Governor’s Attack on Academic Freedom.”┬áSteven Mintz. The Chronicle of Higher Education (18/2/12):

Governor Brown is using the state’s woeful budget situation to exact concessions from the University of California’s chancellor and California State University’s Board of Trustees, who are content to avoid further program and salary cuts in the 2013-14 academic year.

What happens in California does not necessarily stay in California, which is why faculty and staff members across the country should sit up and take notice of our governor’s efforts to use a financial crisis to dictate academic policy.

Gotta love those austerity politics. “We’re broke”, “you have to tighten your belts”, “do more with less”, “don’t be self-interested”, “take one for the team”, “it’s a crisis”, “there is only one solution”. There is not only one solution. Budgets are large complicated things, full of choices. Numbers may seem absolute to those of us who don’t work with them, but they are as flexible as words, if not more so. Budgets are made up of choices. The real questions are: what are those choices? what are they premised on? and who makes them?