On June 26, 2018, Joey Carter was heard on WUGA News, briefly discussing our Parking Forum, which was held later that day, from 4-6 PM, at the Miller Learning Center.
Bekah Ward's speech at the Rally for Science
Dr. Bekah Ward is a microbiologist who is an Assistant Professor at Georgia Gwinnett College, and a United Campus Workers of Georgia Member. She is also an activist who has participated in other social movements. She has written on science and society for publications like the International Socialist Review. On April 14, 2018, Dr. Ward spoke at the 2018 March for Science rally in Atlanta, Georgia. Please take a moment to read her speech.
There is a context to the current attack on science, and science education specifically. The first year Congress actually made specific appropriations for science education was 1958, one year after sputnik was launched. What’s of note here is that it took the cold war to motivate our government to take science education seriously. Previously, and historically, science had been the domain of the few and privileged. But that began to change during the 60’s and 70’s as quality science education became much more accessible and new fields opened up prospects of quality jobs. Then in the 90’s the US responded to changes in the global economy by moving towards neoliberalism. Briefly defined, this is a structural readjustment in funding that moves towards privatization of public services in order to bolster the free market. Here’s where you begin to see the push to change the nature of education. In K-12 funding was cut and charters and vouchers were incentivized. In the academy, fewer secure well-paying tenure track positions were available. The academy moved toward adjuncts to bear the teaching load and post-doctoral fellows to crank out data. This data was then used to get grants that could pay for the staff that was needed to get more grants. Fast forward to the 2008 crisis. Governments of the world bailed out the banks and the source of that money came from the social safety net. Funding for things like unemployment, infrastructure and education were all cut. This was austerity, and it only accelerated the attacks on quality public education. According to the American Association of University Professors, the share of adjuncts teaching across Higher Ed has increased 66 percent in the past four decades. Adjuncts now make up 40 percent of the academic labor force at institutions surveyed, more than all other types of faculty combined. This majority of the academic labor force makes an average of around 20K a year. This is one of the ways that universities have coped with historic decreases in funding - a supplementary low wage labor force. And K-12 is even worse. The teacher pay penalty is bigger than ever. In 1994, public school teachers’ weekly wages were 1.8 percent lower than those of comparable workers; now it is approaching 20% lower than other workers. Education, including most types of science education, has been systematically devalued. Locally, we see this play out in the University System of Georgia in several ways. State funding for public two- and four-year colleges is nearly $9 billion below its 2008 level, after adjusting for inflation. These kinds of cuts increase tuition, cuts to HOPE, increase the adjunct to tenure track ratio and decrease the support staff for students. This trend underlies the recent mergers between campuses. Georgia Perimeter and Georgia State University, along with many other physically proximal colleges and universities in the state, were combined into a single institution. Part of the stated purpose was to “reduce redundancy”. Why have two Human resources departments, two financial aid departments, when you could have one which works twice as hard? Also, there are examples of science faculty in particular, who have been subject to paying for the underfunding of the USG. At one local college, faculty who teach labs have recently been informed that they must teach an additional class next year for no additional pay. This amounts to around a 20% wage cut. In the labor movement, it’s sometimes called a speed up. This allows the institution to hire fewer adjuncts without reducing incoming tuition. The trend is clear, education in general, and science education, with its equipment and reagents costs, in particular, are a target for the ongoing budget cuts. But teachers, from first grade to AP to 4000 level undergraduate, are no longer quietly submitting to these conditions.