Mini-Conference: “Public Universities and Neoliberalism Today”–October 25, 2018

When: October 25, 12-1 pm reception; 1-6 pm program.

Where: Student Activities Center Ballroom A, Stony Brook University

Free and open to the public!   Please register here.

For travel information, click here.  For lodging possibilities, click here.

For a shareable PDF Flyer, please click here: CSISJPFlyerfor102518-5

In an American higher education system tilted toward the wealthy and privileged, public universities and colleges have through their history sought, if imperfectly, to serve as engines of equity and opportunity.   But these equalizing institutions themselves have come under increasing siege from a host of powerful pro-market and anti-public-sector forces often summed up as “neoliberalism.”  In recent years, this long-standing neoliberal assault on public higher education has intensified.  Public colleges and universities all over the country are facing in many cases existential crises as they are attacked through the interconnected austerity politics of intensifying defunding, privatization initiatives, corporatization, adjunctification and attacks on public sector unions including faculty unions.

Our mini-conference begins with a plenary by two public university scholars whose recent work assesses where these challenges now stand across public universities and colleges.   Drawing on their 2016 book “Austerity Blues:  Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education,” Stephen Brier and Michael Fabricant synthesize the key challenges facing public higher education today and articulate a call for the defense of the “soul”, the equalizing vision of public higher education that they see as under existential threat.

The plenary will be followed by a panel featuring representatives from faculty groups who have been actively organizing and fighting these attacks and in defending their universities and colleges.  Panelists from across the Northeast will share their local struggles and articulate how rank and file academics including both faculty and graduate students can organize to push back and defend public higher education.

This panel will be followed by breakout sessions designed for participants to draw out lessons for local organizing.  The conversation will also focus on identifying how local struggles at individual campuses and state systems could be better shared and connected and how to foster cross-campus and cross-system collaborations.


12-1:00 pm


1-2:30 pm

“Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education Today”

Professor Michael Fabricant, Hunter College

Professor Stephen Brier, CUNY Graduate Center

Michael Fabricant is a faculty member at Hunter College. He has served in many roles as a Professional Staff Congress (PSC, the CUNY union for faculty and staff) leader including First Vice President, Treasurer, member of the bargaining team and liaison to CUNY Rising an alliance of 35 student, community and labor organizations. He has also served as the Treasurer of the National Coalition of the Homeless and President of the Elizabeth Coalition for the Homeless. Finally, he was the Executive Officer of the Ph.D. Program in Social Welfare for 13 years at CUNY’s Graduate Center. With Steve Brier he has recently completed the book, “Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Higher Education”.  He is the author of nine other books and numerous articles.

Stephen Brier is a professor in the Urban Education PhD program and the founding coordinator of the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy certificate program at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he has worked since 1981. He also serves as a consortial faculty member at CUNY’s new School of Labor and Urban Studies where he teaches classes on labor history. A social and labor historian, Brier was the co-founder of CUNY’s American Social History Project and the co-author and co-producer of the ASHP’s multimedia curriculum Who Built America? Brier served for more than a decade as a senior academic administrator at the CUNY Graduate Center and currently is the college’s Senior Academic Technology Officer. He has published widely in a number of academic and popular journals on issues of race, class, and ethnicity in U.S. labor and education history. His most recent book (co-authored with Michael Fabricant) is Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2016).

2:45-4:15 pm

Panel and Discussion on

“Work, Unions, and Public Universities in the Northeast:

Today’s Struggles and Ways Forward”

Moderators: Chris Sellers (Center Director) and Michelle Corbin (Worcester State University)


Anne Mcleer, New Faculty Majority

Tony Menelik Van Der Meer, SAVE UMB (Africana Studies; University of Massachusetts Boston)

Anne Roschelle, Radical University Professionals (SUNY-New Paltz),

Jarrod Stranahan, CUNY Struggle (CUNY)

Michael Fabricant, CUNY rising (Hunter College)

4:30-6 pm Break-out Workshop Sessions: What to Take Back Home



Michael Fabricant                                                                                                                                                          Stephen Brier

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