Student and AAUP speak on the tuition increase


In 2014, your organization (the Portland State chapter of the America Association of University Professors) fought hard for a package of job improvements for faculty that included nice salary increases and other things that cost money. You went so far as to take the faculty to the verge of striking. You got almost everything you wanted. In the process, you petitioned the student population for their buy-in for the professors’ demands, and even asked them to participate in rallies and not to cooperate with the administration’s plan for bringing in replacement instructors. I remember well the signs everywhere on campus.

Now, those pay increases and perks for faculty, among other costs, are coming home to roost for students, who are (very predictably) being asked to pay for them in the big balance sheet of the university. As your organization well knows, students are a largely impoverished population, with an average of something like 25 or 30 grand in student loan debt and often working jobs or other learning-harmful activities at the same time as being a student, just to get by.

So my question is, why aren’t the professors, individually and under the banner of your organization, now fighting on behalf of the students?

Why are the professors not threatening to strike now, in solidarity with the students?
Is it because it is accepted wisdom in the university community that the students wield very little power and are thus the reliable ATM every year to offset the funding increases that go to other, more powerful interests?

Jim Miller ([email protected])
PSU grad student with a PSU Bachelor of Science and $80,000 in undischargeable student loan debt, and rising.

To: Jim Miller

On the exact same day (February 12) and at the exact same time that the PSU Board of Trustees’ Finance and Administration Committee decided to bring a tuition raise to the full Board, PSU students and PSU-AAUP were at the Capitol for Lobby Day. We all had one month to prepare for the Board meeting. In solidarity with students, PSU-AAUP members attended the rally on March 12 to bring all voices to the Board that a rise in tuition would harm our current and future students. They were not listening.

Our numbers were not large enough to move the Board. In order to push back on rising tuition, students and faculty must work together on many fronts. Over the last several weeks, PSU-AAUP has been in Salem testifying for legislation to offset tuition costs and to address the indefensible costs of administrative bloat. Our statewide faculty association, AAUP-Oregon, will bring faculty from across the state to Eugene on April 25 to join forces on student-centered, educator led and debt-free higher education in our state.

We must build our movement of students, community, faculty and staff to help our policy makers and Boards to understand and to act on our collective message. The saying, “United we stand, divided we all,” rings true for us. President [Wim] Wiewel was quoted on March 12 in University Communications’ weekly faculty and staff newsletter, Currently, “If funding comes in more than the co-chairs’ (of the Joint Ways and Means Committee) budget, then we will lower the tuition increase.” We will watch this together and expect his promise to be kept. PSU-AAUP shares Mr. Miller’s anger, we respect the questions he raises, and it is imperative that we stand together in this battle. It is not going to be won quickly or easily.

Thank you,
Pam Miller
President, PSU-AAUP, Professor of Social Work
[email protected]