There is no alternative has been the refrain of austerity politics since Margaret Thatcher first uttered the phrase in the 1980s. In U.S. public higher education this has meant the withdrawal of state funding, skyrocketing tuition and student debt burdens, the adjunctification of faculty and increasing precarity of labor, and bond-financed prestige construction projects.
Today, COVID-19 saps more money from privatized university budgets: canceled housing and dining contracts, normally lucrative medical centers on pause for all but emergencies. And so, the refrain comes back. There is no alternative to drastic budget cuts, massive firing, furloughing, and hiring freezes.
But COVID-19 does not merely reproduce the rhetoric and fact of a budget crisis. From rent strikes to student debt moratoria, from decarceration to free healthcare, the pandemic shows us that there are, and always have been, immanent alternatives. What are these alternatives for the financing of public higher education, both during and after the COVID-19 crisis?
Join us to discuss salary caste systems and university endowments, student debt and institutional debt service payments, federal funding, Modern Monetary theory, and beyond. Let’s organize to refuse austerity now, and enact other worlds together.
This online discussion will be co-presented by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy and the UCI School of Social Sciences. Hosted by Bill Maurer and moderated by Hannah Appel, with panelists Raúl Carrillo, Alexis Goldstein, Nick Mitchell and Christopher Newfield.