Volume 45, Number 1 - November/December 2009
Vows to fight dismantling of higher ed by state
New NEA Director Gilda Bloom has wasted no time in adjusting to her new position representing California's higher education faculty. With California's public college system facing imminent disaster, she hasn't had the luxury to ease into her new role.
Instead, Bloom's thoughts are dominated by such issues as skyrocketing tuition costs, limiting student enrollment, faculty salary cuts and forced furloughs.
"The biggest challenge for faculty and students, whether we're in the CSU system or our California community colleges is the dismantling of higher education itself," said Bloom, a professor of education at San Francisco State University.
Bloom knows the power of education. Of Puerto Rican and Cuban ancestry, Bloom attended New York City public schools before moving with her family to Ohio, where she completed high school and her bachelor's degree at Bowling Green State College. She later earned a master's degree in Mexican American Studies at San Jose State University as well as a master's degree from Stanford University in curriculum and instruction. She completed her Ph.D in sociolinguistics and cultural anthropology from Stanford and obtained five teaching credentials from three states.
As an educator, Bloom has taught middle school, high school, community college before joining the faculty at San Francisco State where she trains individuals to become teachers.
A member of the California Faculty Association which represents 23,000 California State University faculty, Bloom was elected at CTA's March State Council to a three-year term on the NEA board to represent both CFA and CCA. A longtime political and social justice activist, Bloom said she chose to become involved with CTA because she sees it as an effective union.
"CTA cares about its members and protects its members," she said. "When leaders care about you, you want to get involved."
As alarming as the state of higher education was in the spring, California's public schools and colleges have since endured further cuts.
"If we don't turn this around, higher education will be out of reach for all but the wealthiest. Shutting out students will have the greatest impact on ethnic minority students and those in a lower socio-economic status, but it will also shut out the middle class as well," Bloom said. "That would be a complete betrayal of the California's Masterplan for Higher Education."
That plan, set out in 1960, was designed to provide every student with access to some form of higher education – through UC, CSU and community colleges – regardless of his or her ability to pay. While that promise hasn't been fully realized, California's students have never been further from it.
"We've got to mobilize students and parents to tell the state Legislature and Congress that they will not put up with this. It may be that we need to get everyone to participate in a statewide protest," she said.
Already, many CSU and community college students joined University of California faculty and students in a one-day walk-out on September 24 to protest massive budget cuts.
Bloom has already seen the erosion of higher education taking place on her own campus at San Francisco State University. There, due to over-enrollment and a shortage of class offerings, the average length of time to complete a bachelor's degree is eight years. And, San Francisco State, like the rest of the CSU campuses, will not be accepting students for spring admission – an unprecedented action.
"How are students going to survive if colleges keep cutting classes and raising tuition?" Bloom asked.