The latest on the EMU faculty strike: The calm before the storm

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….

24 thoughts on “The latest on the EMU faculty strike: The calm before the storm”

  1. Get over it and get back to work. whine whine whine, I’ll give you some cheese. Nothing looks worse than the faculty getting all pissy over a contract, especially while the economy is at its worst and unions are falling left and right for non-union contractors… Yes, your job is expendable.

  2. Wow, thanks for those constructive comments, JMO. Very helpful.

    I’m not going to try to rehash all of posts I’ve made here about my mixed feelings about the strike, about how we’re not willing to take a pay cut, etc., etc., etc. But if you want to take a look at other things I’ve written, if you want to learn more about what’s at stake, let me know.

    As for the “your job is expendable” bit: I don’t think that’s true. I’m obviously biased, but at a time in Michigan where jobs that don’t require a college degree (e.g., manufacturing) are drying up quickly, it seems to me that the kind of work me and my colleagues do is pretty valuable indeed.

  3. Continue to fight the fight. I’m stuck at EMU based on the degree i’m almost finished with. The place is a hole and the faculty are WAY underpaid. The JMO participant probably has never needed a real job to actually exist in our society and has no real clue the sacrifices our professors make on a daily basis to teach at the college level. I know that when this is finally rectified and we can get back to the classes, those of us that are student will have to tow the rope a little harder to make up for what will be lost during the strike.
    DO NOT STOP FIGHTING for your rights as a teacher, employe and union member. If you allow the university to push the group around and win, what will be lost now will grow ten fold in the future!
    EMU is nothing more that a business. The faculty is the product and the customer will always be the student. The company (EMU) is underpaying their workers and pulling benefits from them that they need to live a reasonable, middle class life. The working conditions are horrible in some building and this needs to be addressed. I am and will continue to be a supporter of this strike and hope that the faculty teams up to do battle with EMU based on these issues.

  4. While I understand and side fully with the Professors on this strike I must say that I am saddened that it has come to this. I apologize for my lack of political stance on this as I am not well versed in politics but i have just spent over three hours reading the contract between EMU and its professors and read numerous News articls, blogs, etc.. I find it sad that being I am a senior heere at EMU hearing the the freshmen coming into this school have so much to contend with. Attending college is a very scary experience in and of itself let alone walking in on something you might not fully understand. Secondly, for the seniors, Its frustrating knowing that you are so close to graduation and are stuck to the news like glue wondering if you are going to have class or not. Lastly, I do not blame the teachers for striking, its about time you did. Me as well as my parents, are frustrated with the overall conditions of the school. I was enraged when i found out that the student center was being constructed. While yes it will be and is beautiful what about pray-harold? What about the lack of parking spaces, tolet paper in the bathrooms, heat in the winter, conditioning in the summer? This summer i attended a class in Traverse city on the Northwestern campus and i was stunned. I walked into digital clocks freshly painted walls, carpeted/clean floors and air conditioning. I immediately thought, “Is this what a college is supposed to look like”? I have always received a wonderful education from the Staff at EMU and that is what kept me here and i am confident that these freshmen coming in will receive the same education as i.

  5. Professor,

    Keep on fighting! As a student at EMU, I see you and your colleages as the most valuable asset the school has. You guys are the only reason for us to be at EMU — you guys *are* the education.

    Best wishes from a student who won’t be crossing this picket line.

  6. Wow, binker, elequent. And convincing! What was I thinking?

    Just for the “well-paid” part: I have a PhD, an MFA, and an undergraduate degree. I’m a tenured professor, which means I’ve put in my time and paid my dues. I’ve been teaching college now as a professor for 10 years, and really, if you count my time as a graduate student instructor, I’ve been teaching now for 18 years.

    My base salary is considerably less than the $68,000 that is the “average” salary at EMU, which is about $7,000 less than the salary of the average Ann Arbor teacher.

    Am I still well-paid? Especially given my experience and level of education?

  7. As a former lecturer, and as a member of the lecturer negotiating team last year, I can attest to the brute force tactics of Jim Greene which quickly did away with any notion of a “civil” discussion to better both the conditions of lecturers, who are also grossly underpaid on average in the MAC at EMU as well, and the University. I have since moved on and find that the political culture at EMU between the administration and faculty is not representative of colleges and universities in general (not to mention that I no longer have to truck multimedia carts all over Pray Harrold!). Keep up the fight! You have a supporter in California!

  8. Being a union member (not of yours) and also in the teaching program at EMU, it seemed hypocritical of me to attend classes today. But I have to be honest, I am confused and irritated at the lack of information available to me as a student. What am I supposed to do? Where do I go for an unbiased information? I support your fight but hope it’s all over before next weeks classes for your and my sake.

  9. While I understand why this strike is occuring, I am finding myself quite upset about the way some of the faculty are handling the situation. Whilst i do support their efforts im getting angry about many teachers not emailing students to let them know there will be no class. Today i drove over an hour to get to school for what i originally thought would be three classes and had none. I sat on campus for about 6 hours only to wait for all teachers who never showed. I could have been at work. I understand that some faculty are contacting their students but if the staff want us to be behind them and respect them i think we should get the same respect in return.

  10. Up until right now, I had no position on the strike. I didn’t support the University and I didn’t support the Faculty. It was cozy hanging out on the fence.

    I was, honestly, leaning towards the University’s position. This became especially true after the VP of Student Affairs sent an especially convincing piece of propoganda mass-emailed. Further, the lack of Faculty members sending *some* notice that class is cancelled is not just annoying, but quite disruptive. Then I decided to do my homework and it becomes quite apparent what a bastard the Administration truly is…

    I encourage you to go to, read the mass-email, listen to WEMU (89.1) and make up your own mind. You’ll be surprised, and, I believe, far more supportive of the Faculty’s grievances.

    What was my tipping point? After paying for expensive text books, dealing with rising tuition, I had deal with one more cost… I had to pay $5 for a transcript (yes, even to go pick it up). Fantastic — another ridiculous addition to my educational costs. Sure, a transcript may cost EMU money, but $5? I can recall just *last year* when I could go get an official transcript for free. I could even have it mailed for free, granted it wasn’t overnight.

    The Administration is sitting on money, hell bent on screwing students like myself and the Faculty. I say best of luck to the Faculty.

  11. Finalyasenior, sorry to hear about your lack of email from your professor. It could have been all kinds of different things of course, But I did hear that there were all kinds of problems with the EMU email system (surprise, surprise!) on Tuesday and Wednesday. So it might have been that.

    Anyway, hopefully this will end soon….

  12. has an electronic telephone directory where you can search for your professor by name. anyone who answers the phone will know whether or not your professor/s are holding classes that day. i thought to try this when only 2 porfessors sent emails, and the other 3 wouldn’t respond to mine. it’s one thing to stop working for the administration, but these professors should show some respect for the students they want to pay for their salary increase.

    as much as i would love to support emu-aaup, as a student i make a whole lot less than any of the professors striking right now, and none of my 5 professors are attending classes. currently, ive wasted about $225, and this is with out books or art supplies.

  13. It’s time the striking professors start paying attention to what’s going on in this country. Health care has strangled our corporations and the work force is now contributing to the cost – the days of a free ride are over.

    Regarding thier pay increase – most workers in the real world would love to see a 3% increase in pay over last year or many would be happy just to have a job.

    It’s time the EMU-AAUP professors wake up and get back to work

  14. Lee, there is nothing I would like to do more than go back to work. No lie. The problem is the university walked away from the table; essentially, this is a lock-out.

    I don’t think any of the faculty are intersted in a free ride, and believe me, a “free ride” is not what we have now as it is. All we want– and all the students want and so forth– is to get the parties back together so we can get a deal.

  15. Lee,I completely understand what you mean. So close to graduation with an empty plaque for my degree with a picture of the watertower just hanging stagnate on my wall. I was so sure this summer that when May came around it would no longer remain that way. But now i find myself searching for a new school to attend if EMU does not start functioning soon. Our lives are sitting stagnate and thats not why we are going to college. What the admin. and the faculty are failing to see is that they are affecting not just our education but our lives. IF they truly understood that we would not be in this situation.

  16. Do not think for a minute that this is not impacting my life or anyone else’s life who teaches at EMU. Do not think for a minute that faculty do not want to be back in the classroom. DO remember that it was the ADMINISTRATION who walked away from the table.

    So, when you you say “If they truly understood…,” understand that “they” you are referring to is the ADMINISTRATION. If they hadn’t left the table, I and all of my colleagues would be teaching right now.

    All we want is for them to come back so we can make a deal.

  17. I am an out of state grad student, which means I am paying out the nose to be here. Only, my professors are not teaching me. I was excited for classes this semester. They were going to be really interesting and enriching. Now I only feel anger. What am I paying for?

    I don’t have healthcare, and I support myself on 600$ a month. So people who make over 60K a year don’t have my support when they’re arguing over 3 or 4% raises. My parents don’t even make that much combined!

    I want to learn.

  18. Yes, OoSGS, I agree. That’s why it’s really a shame that the administration walked away from the table when we were really very close to a deal.

  19. Judging from OoSG’s ME, ME, ME attitude it surprising his parents don’t have a higher combined salaries, as they have obviously raised a young republican.

    I received a combined BBA-MSA at EMU. Spent 5 years on campus, and the only academic resource I’ve seen on campus is the professors. Most of the academic buildings are left in deplorable condition yet; the administration has the audacity to divert resources to their pet project, a new student union.

    Under no circumstances should the faculty completely compromise. During every contract negotiation EMU forces a strike, and then wage a smear campaign against the faculty.

  20. Ddean,

    First of all, I am a female. Yes, females go to grad school, maybe you’ve seen us around.

    Second, I am a very liberal democrat. I support unions and strikes. However, there is a time and place for everything. This is not the time, and definatley not the place. The difference between the offers of the Administration and faculty is so miniscule, the fact there is a strike is completely surprising. I put the blame on facutly and administration equally. No one lacks blame in this. Reading through the EMU-AAUP blog, there was a sense of hostility from the begining of negotiations.

    I want what I payed for. I don’t think that’s selfish, considering I pay almost 700$ a credit. I also don’t think it’s selfish to have an opinion that I am entitled to have.

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