The Appalachian State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors hosted an open forum Monday titled “Whose University is This?” The forum educated attendees about the corporate model in American higher education. One of the goals was to gather faculty and students to discuss common grievances.
The overall theme, however, was the over-bureaucratization of public universities to the point that faculty and students have a difficult time effecting change. Since the university supposedly exists for the faculty and students, they ought to be able to have their concerns met without having to go through layers of bureaucracy. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Each of the panel members had specific elements of the bureaucratic model that they wanted to address and criticize. However, it is overarchingly evident that the myriad of issues that haunt this campus can only be solved through a cooperative effort.
One issue discussed was while Appalachian is losing a significant amount of its public funding, there has been an increase in administrative oversight, not only from within the university, but also from outside forces such as the Board of Trustees.
One of the panel members, Louis Gallien, a professor in the Department of Leadership and Educational Studies, spoke on the state of comprehensive public universities and Appalachian’s place within the UNC system.
To deal with budget cuts, Appalachian has had to raise tuition and fees, as Zach Kopkin, a senior anthropology major and member of the panel, pointed out. This has led to an increase in student loans, which heightens the idea that students need to pursue practical majors in order to get well paying jobs and pay off their loans.
The tight budget has also led to stagnation in faculty salaries and an increased reliance on non-tenure-track faculty, who work on yearly contracts. This is only one way the administration has managed to undercut the authority of the faculty.
Gregory Reck, vice president of the Appalachian chapter of AAUP, gave several examples of situations in which the administration had ignored the advice or protest of the Faculty Senate. Since the existing ways of communicating grievances are being ignored, it is clearly time for more drastic action.
Neither faculty nor students alone can take on the administration and create real change. It is sadly ironic that faculty and students have little impact and such a small voice on how the university is run. Since Appalachian is not independently governed, true change requires a cooperative effort. With a new chancellor and new provost on the way, the time could not be better for such changes to take place.
If Appalachian’s students educate themselves and join forces with faculty, there is a good chance that we can take back our university and make the changes that we want.
Malcolm, a junior history major from Walkertown, is an opinion writer.