Faculty members at Eastern Michigan University voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to go on strike when classes start next week if they have not reached a new deal by the time their contract expires at midnight tonight.
(a bit later…)
Starting Friday, EMU faculty members will set up informational picket lines at selected locations throughout campus, with some spots being staffed around the clock.
I think this is flat-out wrong for a couple of reasons.
First off, the contract runs out at midnight on August 31. As part of the strike vote the other day, the collective decision seemed to be that the faculty have never worked without a contract before and we were not about to start now.
Second, and I guess this is what offends me more than anything else about this, faculty like me have been working already– in some cases, for several weeks. My department had its annual retreat today and all but a handful of faculty members were there. I have done little but work on school stuff since returning from vacation– doing stuff at school, sitting in on meetings, answering email inquiries from students and faculty, etc., etc. Any number of faculty will be working or not working during student orientation this weekend– more on that in a second. Not to mention the work that faculty traditionally do over the summer and most other times when they aren’t teaching or going to meetings, scholarship.
In other words, as anyone who is vaguely familiar with the way universities work (and you’d think that the guy who reports on EMU would know this), the work faculty do goes way beyond showing up and teaching classes. Just because I’m not in my office or performing in my classroom doesn’t mean I’m not working. Quite frankly, I sometimes wish that’s all it was.
So the pickets that will begin this evening (tomorrow morning for me) are not “informational.” They are the real thing. And if it comes to that (and I still think that’s an “if,” though I grow increasingly worried about my perhaps irrational optimism about all this), faculty know where to go and when to be there. Actually, the plans for the possible strike are surprisingly well organized.
Furthermore– and this is the real kicker here– faculty will be on strike during student move-in and during freshman orientation. This is a subject of some controversy, as I mentioned in my previous post, because there are some faculty who will be on strike during classes but who feel nonetheless to compelled to show up for the orientation events. I think this is a huge mistake, but at a minimum, I think it’s important that the administration and incoming students (and their parents) realize that the strike they are witnessing is not just “informational.”
But like I said, I still hope we settle.