I just want to point out to all of the folks who have come across this page through a google search of some sort: I have several other entries about the strike, so you might want to visit my blog homepage for the most current news on the strike.
If you do a search for “EMU strike” or “EMU-AAUP” or “EMU Faculty Strike” or something like that, this is one of the pages that comes up highest in the search. So, given that lots of people are doing that sort of search right now, I thought I’d post something this morning– something quick since I need to get ready for the annual English department retreat, which starts in about an hour and a half.
Anyway, there was a rally at noon yesterday that I thought was one of the more organized one of these affairs that I’ve participated in. Oh sure, it’s theater, mostly a photo-op for the media, but we did a pretty organized march around Welch Hall, there were some decent (although somewhat hard to hear) pep talks, and I think we were able to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish: Channel 4 and Channel 7 were both there (though I don’t know if that means we were on TV), and the area newspapers were there, too. So some decent coverage.
I marched around the building a couple of times; my wife Annette, with her not great knee situation, opted out and eventually went on to her physical therapy appointment. My son Will walked with me though. While practicing for the picket, I noticed Tom Venner standing off on the side and watching us. Venner is the chair of the Art department and is on the bargaining team for the administration.
Just as a slight tangent here: I really am at a loss as to why the administration is being the way that they are here, at least based on what I’ve heard. There was a guy from the national office for the AAUP at the rally, and he said there (and again on WEMU radio this morning) that the administration here has been a lot more difficult to deal with than any of the other universities in Michigan that have been negotiating contracts lately. What I don’t get about all this is I know some of the administrators at the table right now, and my experience has been that they are good people. I mean, Hartmut Hoft is a really good dean; Venner was the chair of the search for a new department head in English, and he did a great job with that. So as far as I can tell, some combination of things must be going on here. Maybe folks like Hoft and Venner are just tools for other administrators, which begs the question of why John Fallon and members fo the Board of Regents seem to be getting a “pass” by the media and the union on all this stuff. Maybe it’s just the lawyer, Jim Greene, who doesn’t exactly have a reputation of being a warm ‘n fuzzy guy interested in a fair compromise. Maybe Hoft and Venner aren’t such good guys after all. I don’t know. But if being an administrator means you either have to be tool or a jerk to the faculty, then that’s a job I’m not interested in.
The guy from the national AAUP said something else worth mentioning here: the faculty is not asking for anything more than what all of these other schools in Michigan have received in recent negotiations.
Anyway, the rally was a fine event, and then there was the actual meeting/discussion/vote on a strike. There was really no talk at all about whether or not we ought to go on strike, and this is kind of interesting to me. As far as I can recall, this has always been a topic of discussion before; there was a lot more division about whether or not we ought to walk out during the last contract negotiation.
The only real issue talked about was when to strike and how a strike would work. There was some concern about what it would look like for us to strike during the student orientation that starts this weekend. The argument went that if we didn’t go to the orientation sessions, then students would only hear about EMU from administrators and it wouldn’t look good for parents and incoming students to see faculty marching around with picket signs. Well, from my point of view, you’re either on strike or you’re not, and quite frankly, I want parents and incoming students to see faculty with picket signs. We’re not going on strike to make the administration and the institution look good; we’re going on strike to bring attention to the fact that the administration and institution are treating the faculty poorly. Maybe faculty picketing will make us look bad; but I happen to think it will make the administration look worse.
As I type this, EMU-AAUP President Howard Bunsis is actually on the radio talking about this stuff right now, actually. He’s talking about a number of the things I’ve already mentioned, so I don’t have a lot to add. One of the thing that I think Howard has learned well over the last couple of years is how to talk to the media. He stressed what I think is actually true fundamentally, that faculty want to be back to work and want to be teaching, and, simultaneously, he minimized what I see as the reality, which is there’s no way faculty are going to work without a contract and it sure looks like the administration isn’t willing to make a deal until they see if we really will strike.
So we’ll see what happens here. I guess I’ll find out at about midnight or so….