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Stand Up For Students, Stand Up to Privatization

Over the past decade, steady drops in state funding have created the need for new revenue streams at public colleges and universities. Similarly, private nonprofit institutions have felt the impact of the great recession on their budgets. As a result, many institutions are building out their online offerings to bring in more students and revenue by contracting with for-profit online education companies, who do much of the technical work and some of the core academic work.

To keep instructional costs low and maximize revenue, many new online offerings create low-paid, at-will instructor positions with no job security or opportunity for advancement, and require the teaching of information that has been preassembled into canned courses by contracted consultants. The savings on instruction are directed to marketing and recruitment programs to bring as many students as possible into virtual classrooms run by an under-resourced instructor.

As we know, these online education contracts often result in big losses for students and faculty. Faculty are experiencing a loss of academic freedom in their teaching, a loss of intellectual property rights over their original research and course materials, and the loss of the protections of tenure. When faculty lose the latitude to freely teach and research within their expertise, students lose access to high-quality coursework, lectures, and discussion. Furthermore, in a crowded and under-resourced online format, students lose access to substantive interaction and dialogue with their instructors.

Your AAUP chapter or faculty governance bodies can help regain what is being lost and ensure quality online education for students. Start by downloading the AAUP’s Education Not Privatization toolkit from our One Faculty, One Resistance site. The toolkit contains a primer on privatization, a list of ten actions chapters can take to help shape quality online education for students, and important questions to ask administrators about your institution’s development of online offerings with a private, external company.

Now is the time to act. Recently released deregulation proposals reveal that the DeVos Department of Education is aiming to further enable the privatization of higher education. The proposals water down requirements for establishing new accrediting agencies, limit accreditor oversight and give universities the latitude to contract full programs to unaccredited education companies that can market and recruit students using the brand of the institution. These proposals expand and normalize scenarios like Purdue’s recent acquisition of Kaplan University, wherein Kaplan, operating under the name Purdue University Global, benefits from the Purdue brand without the rigorous standards and quality.

Help make sure online education is quality education. Download our Education Not Privatization toolkit to take action, and stay tuned for upcoming actions.

In Solidarity,

Monica Owens
Political Organizer

P.S. For more on DeVos’ deregulation proposals, read New America’s “DeVos Deregulation Will Leave College Students in the Lurch” and Inside Higher Ed’s “Roiled Over Rules on Regional Accreditors.”

No to NDAs for Faculty

In just one semester, Purdue University Global has trampled on transparency, shared governance, and academic freedom—foundational tenets of American higher education.

As a faculty member at Purdue University, I am deeply troubled by the recent revelation that Purdue Global, an “online branch campus” of our university system, is requiring instructional faculty to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA).

The NDA states that any work product, including course materials “or other intellectual property that arises in any part in the course of … employment at Purdue Global, is commissioned and owned by Purdue Global as a work-for-hire and may not be used, duplicated or distributed outside of Purdue Global.”

The agreement also contains a sweeping gag clause that prohibits faculty members from disclosing “to anyone who is not specifically authorized to receive it,” even other Purdue Global employees, virtually any information received during the course of their employment.

Stand with me and my colleagues at Purdue. Let Purdue’s administration know that faculty will not be intimidated or silenced by NDAs.

Asserting ownership over the faculty’s teaching-related materials undermines standard academic practice, takes away our right to our own intellectual property, and violates our academic freedom. The gag order also violates academic freedom by seeking to bar faculty from speaking out about academic policies, curriculum, and budgetary matters.

The Century Foundation revealed today that, in addition to requiring faculty to sign nondisclosure agreements, Purdue Global also requires students to sign forced arbitration agreements as a condition of enrollment, a tactic used in the for-profit college industry to restrict students’ rights to join a class action when seeking restitution for injury by the institution.

Such agreements are unprecedented for a public university system like Purdue and speak to a larger trend of limiting faculty and student voices. Purdue Global was formed last spring when Purdue purchased the for-profit, online Kaplan University despite the strenuous objections of faculty and others who opposed merging a public land-grant university with the troubled Kaplan.

Join us in supporting the faculty and students of Purdue Global by saying no to NDAs and forced arbitration. Sign on now.

David Nalbone, PhD
Purdue University Northwest
Vice President, Indiana Conference of the AAUP

P.S. Want  further background on the story? Check out the Inside Higher Ed article Who Owns Faculty Work at Purdue Global? and The Century Foundation’s Protected: Purdue University Global Is a For-Profit College Masquerading as a Public University