The Strike of 2006: Day 9 (sort of)

I’m actually writing this post a bit earlier than when it will be posted; in fact, I’ll probably be playing golf when this gets posted. You can’t be on the picket line everday, and the union has called for a break from picketing today anyway. Is that enough of a break to restart talks? Maybe?

Anyway, I just wanted to post about three things.

First, don’t forget about being at the university house on Sunday at 1 pm. I know that will be the photo-op to beat all photo-ops of this strike so far. To me, faculty picketing around that house, the most expensive piece of property in Washtenaw county and the nexus of all that is wrong with this administration, wraps a rather pretty bow around the differences between the two sides. And I also think it lays blame where it belongs, which is on the doorstep of the guy who lives in this house, John Fallon.

But it would figure that the one rally/picket that I think should have happened a while ago and that I really wanted to see (well, before I witnessed that infamous and bizarre Tuesday night walkout by the administration) is scheduled at the EXACT same time as my son’s birthday party. Despite what some of my colleagues have said, I’m not going to miss my son’s ninth birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese and go picketing instead, and I hope the reasons for that are obvious. But please, if you know you’re going to go and you are going to bring a camera, let me know. I’d really like to know what happens at this event.

Second, if you haven’t done so already, please please please write to Fallon, Valvo, and the rest of the Board of Regents. We need to urge them to get back to the table and we need to do that before this stupid-assed pissing match starts doing permanent damage to the institution. Check out this EMU-AAUP web site that lists email addresses and such of Fallon, Valvo, and other members of the board of regents. I will be happy to add the names people have sent me about my letter and forward those to the powers that be. But my sense is that the best way to get the upper administration’s attention– especially Fallon’s attention– is to send him oodles of email. I think it’s probably quanity versus quality. In fact, what I’d really like to see is Fallon get so much email about all of this that his account closes down. That might give him a clue what’s going on with ICT, too.

Third, and this might seem sort of out of place with everything else that’s happened this week, but I really like working for EMU. Seriously. I know it might not look like that with all this crazy strike/contract shit going on. But I have to tell everyone that I’ve found this a great place to be. Why? Well, because….

  • I have FANTASTIC (and, no kidding around here, I cannot emphasize this enough) great students here at EMU. I’m not going to pretend that they’re all excellent/fabulous/whatever. But the ones that are good are very good, and the ones that you help, you feel like you really help. And hey, do you think the U of M students would support their faculty on a strike like this?
  • I have GREAT colleagues in the Department of English Language and Literature in general and the Writing program in particular. English departments have a reputation for being mean mean places– the politics are so ugly because the stakes are so low, as they say. But for all kinds of reasons I won’t rehash now, I honestly think our department gets along better than just about any other English department in the country. Really.
  • There’s a tremendous amount of flexibility here for faculty to pursue different scholarly and creative outlets. I guess what I mean is EMU’s English department is a place where faculty members can do pretty much what they want and get rewarded for it. Very cool indeed.
  • Except for this contract negotiation bullshit every few years, you pretty much don’t have to deal with the upper administration of the place.
  • And I like living in this area– right next to Ann Arbor, within close proximity to Detroit and its many ‘burbs, close to Chicago, etc.

So, if you do apply for one of the jobs in writing that I hope we post this year, please apply. Really. Don’t let this contract stuff scare you off too much.

8 thoughts on “The Strike of 2006: Day 9 (sort of)”

  1. I have been following the strike for days. After reading information from both sides of the debate, I have lost a lot of respect for my profs. I work on campus and we have had to let two people go in the last couple of months due to budget cuts. However, I haven’t heard of any faculty members being cut, actually I believe that several new faculty members were hired this year. Also, I believe that the faculty should review some of the facts that are included on thier handouts. One handout said that tutition isn’t affected by the faculty’s salary. How is this possiable? If the faculty get a raise, then tutition will continue to rise. I realize that faculty members deserve to make a lot of money because they spent years getting thier educations. However, I think that the EMU faculty needs to realize that school dosen’t have enough money right now. If state funding increases, then I believe that faculty pay should also increase. However, state funding has decreased. Cuts are being made everywhere in Michigan, especially in educational institutions. If you want to keep the respect of you students, please return to the classroom and stop fighting over money that’s simply not available.

  2. Right on, Steve — everything you say is true. I wrote to Fallon this morning – from our webmail system and forgot to cc: myself, so of course I don’t have a copy — basically saying that as a faculty member in comp/rhet, this kind of non-talking was anethema to our work; that this place is great *because* we all work together, and to please come back and talk.

    And to gradstudent: Understand that faculty members do *not* make a lot of money. Public school teachers make more money than we in English do, in fact. Overall, the number of faculty at EMU has dropped precipitously in the last six years (although our current provost is very supportive and is advocating for more faculty hires). This standoff isn’t about money – it’s about turning EMU into the educational equivalent of McDonald’s. You can have a university where classes are taught by people – not just faculty, but faculty, lecturers, adjuncts – who care about learning and education and all work together in some challenging but acceptable working conditions to do an AMAZING job… or you can have a university where people are hired off the street, stuck into a classroom with no support and not much idea of what they’re doing, and have that be called “college.” Right now, we have the former. If we lose this strike, we’re headed toward the latter.

  3. Seriously, get over yourself. You want people to feel for your economic strife as underpaid university employees while you have the time and money to go golfing?! The “last best offer” was more than fair unlike the propoganda you and your cronies keep spouting to students. Enjoy your golf game!

  4. Given that academics generally wear the white hats, I would expect that a more patrician complement such as tennis or cricket might have been in order, HOWEVER, for goodness sakes, it’s Saturday. Let the guy have his due!

    Wearing plaid and proud of it, I say, fore!! And excelsior!

    Randal Baier
    A Genuine EMU Associate Professor

  5. Gee, get over yourself– I guess you’re saying that as a university professor I shouldn’t be allowed to take a Saturday off and go and do something fun on my own time? How silly of me! I should be working, of course!

    Look, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t very well say “you don’t deserve the money because you don’t do any work” and simultaneously say “you don’t deserve to not work because of all the money you get.” Please make up your mind.

    Incidentially, my friends and I tend to play rather cheap golf courses. Today’s round was $35, a but more than we usually play because it was the weekend. To put that in perspective: as I understand it, tickets to the big NASCAR event at the Michigan Speedway, the classic working man’s/blue collar sport, ran $75 a pop. So, who is really throwing their money around here?

    And I did have fun, and I did not wear plaid.

  6. gradstudent, the number of faculty actually teaching at EMU– expressed in terms of credit hour production and student/teacher ratio– has been in steady decline here for 20 years, as it has in most places. The numbers that the adminstration give on the number of tenure-track faculty hired and such is true; but again, think about the increasing number of students we have here, not to mention the very steep rise in administrative work being pushed on to faculty.

    And I’d love to return to the classroom. The problem is the administration walked away from the table. They are, in effect, locking us out. If the administration hadn’t walked away from negotiations last Tuesday, none of this stuff would have happened and we’d be teaching today. Simple as that.

  7. You have a CHOICE regarding returning to the classroom. If you really loved it that much, and cared about your students education – you would be there!

  8. There is a larger issue here, Jen, and it comes down to the basics of how labor (and labor laws) work. I love what I do and I love my students, but it isn’t volunteer work; at the end of the day, this is a job. I do this to make a living. I’m a worker. And the reasons why workers of all sorts (baseball players, pilots, school teachers of all sorts, steel workers, truck drivers, factory workers, etc.) form unions is to get a fair deal and to protect their rights.

    When management does something to try to damage their rights, labor tends to do something. Since we were negotiating a contract and we failed to agree on a new contract before the end of our old contract, we went on strike. SInce the administration walked out of the talks (and again, it is becoming clear that they did this to break the union, which is accomplished by both getting people in the union to divide and also to get folks like you to say “hey union workers, get back to work!”)

    So that’s where this all came from.

    You could argue I have a “choice,” but only if I basically decided to give up on the union entirely. And while I don’t agree with everything the union says– I don’t agree with a lot of what the union says, actually– I do believe that a union is necessary here at EMU.

    Besides, at this point, for me to cross the picket line would label me as a “scab,” which would really hurt my abilities to work with my colleagues.

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