Rebuilding Higher Ed. in the USA, because we have to.

6 years after completing my Ph.D., COVID-19 did the impossible. It forced me back into the classroom. I will be teaching at the University of Cincinnati, but on my terms… Pro bono.

The University system in the USA is broken. It has been broken for a very long time. Over 70 percent of teaching faculty here make less than minimum wage. These individuals do not receive health insurance or retirement benefits.

25 days of 25 pushups for suicide is great and all, but can we do something to raise awareness of the higher education crisis in this country? My contribution will be pro bono instruction to help students graduate. I will not have them buy a text for the course. I will provide all materials. No need to pay ridiculous amounts of money to publishing companies, God knows authors don’t receive their fair cut.

On that note, you might be wondering why college is so expensive? Why do you feel like you need to start an education fund before your child is even born? Where does your money go to if it doesn’t go towards education?

Great question!

Bottom line is, education is not profitable. Free elementary school, free junior high school, free high school. Notice a trend? Free college is possible if you stick to the function of a college, education. The high cost comes when you throw in all the bells and whistles, literally. Your money is diverted to support things that make money. Many institutions have head coaches who make more than University presidents. Somehow coaching students on how to play with their balls is nobler than educating them on quantum physics or pandemic responses. Your money goes to new parking facilities to support larger stadium capacities, posh rec centers, high end living halls, all the things shown in those campus tours to attract buyers, but we rarely are shown the dusty basement classrooms where the real work happens. Why don’t we see the classrooms, the grad assistants, the adjuncts… the ones in the trenches actually teaching your kids?

The same reason why I hid who I was for so long. I was ashamed and embarrassed. Ashamed that I hid my education to land a job, of all places, in higher education. After hired, my supervisor confirmed that if I put my extra degrees on my resume I would have instantly been disqualified from consideration for the position I now hold.

Discrimination in higher ed. for having higher education qualifications is very real, and for this I am ashamed. I am ashamed that we have a food pantry on campus open to students but not professors. Trust me there are homeless and/or struggling professors living out of a car teaching at your child’s university.

COVID 19 is and will continue to terrorize college campuses across the USA because we are a business. We are not the ivory tower on the hill. We are not even able to afford a parking spot at the base of the hill. Our higher education system depends on selling our facilities, our sports venues, teams, our space, and our brand; a vicious cycle dependent on keeping up with the Jones's down the street.

Higher ed. as we knew it, is gone. Thank God! Praise Allah! Hail to the Universe! It must be remade into what it was originally intended for, education. Unfortunately, mass morbidity and mortality seem to be the only thing working to drive this message forward. Let us never return to the way we once were.

Climate activist, author, and visiting professor at the University of Cincinnati