The Strike of 2006: What is Fallon Saying to Students, Anyway?

One of the things I’ve been curious about in this whole thing is just how is Fallon et al responding to students and other folks about the strike? I haven’t received a response to my letters to the administration, and I don’t expect to hear anything, either.

With this in mind, you can imagine how I was interested in receiving a completely unsolicited email from a student about his/her exchange with Fallon. Here’s the letter that he/she wrote (and I should point out that this person said it was okay for me to put it up on my web site):

Dr. Fallon,

I have been following the negotiations closely as the school year approaches. The more I watch, the more disappointed I become with the actions of the University. Outside of the strikeitselfand the motivations of each side to pursue said strike, the University is not acting appropriately with respect to the students. EMU’s website has subtly demonized the faculty by emphasizing that the strike is illegal, by calling the strike a “work stoppage,� and by stating that “EMU staff are committed…� implying that the faculty are not.

What the University has ostensibly failed to take into consideration is the fact that many students are close with their professors. As a senior, I spend a lot of time with my professors, working with them both in and out of class. I have been reading not just EMU’s take on the strike, but also the AAUP’s position, as well as the positions of individual faculty who have been keeping students updated. It’s not what they say that has swayed me to their side, it’s how they are saying it. Instead of attempting to make the University look bad, or even themselves look good, they stress the tension and difficulties on both sides of the strike without casting any direct barbs at the administration. The administration has not had the decorum to do likewise, and as a result, are insulting my professors, men and women with whom I have worked closely for years.

The actions of the University also insult me, because they assume that I am uninformed (by stressing that the strike is illegal – it’s Michigan, all strikes by teachers are illegal); already on their side (Why should I be? Most of my contact at the University is with faculty, not staff); and opposed to the strike and/or the reasons behind it (I agree completely with the faculty. The University’s offer is a pay cut, not a pay raise, full time faculty should be teaching more of the classes, and the conditions of many of the classrooms are not conducive to learning).

Villainizing the faculty will not make the administration and staff look any better, instead vice versa; and the University’s actions are an insult to the faculty and to the students.

Sincerely,

(student’s name here)

That’s pretty good, don’t you think? You can’t complain about this student not being able to write a sentence or anything like that, and he/she certainly focused in on an apsect of the discourse here, the problems of “villianizing” of faculty, why this person identifies with the faculty and not the administration, etc., etc. Good job.

Okie-dokie; so what did Fallon say? Well, according to the student who sent me this email, this:

Thanks so much studentnamehere. I appreciate the benefit of your perspectives and your willingness to share them.

Of course, I see things a little differently. Rather than argue with your contentions, I would simply say this: I have confidence in the systems and processes that are being deployed to resolve this matter and the people who are engaged in them. I have said here on this campus, and behaved to back this up with behavior on countless occasions, that our core business is teaching learning and students and faculty are the most important people who work here. I do not demonize of villainize our faculty, subtly or otherwise; rather, I feel the high privilege of working in their support…every day.

Again, thank you.

With appreciation,

John Fallon
President

I think this is probably a mix between “real writing” and “boilerplate” letter, but it does have a feel of actually being written by DA MAN.

In any event, I’m kind of biased, but I like the student’s email a whole lot better. Besides the complete bullshit about “supporting faculty” in Fallon’s letter, he doesn’t have an iota of support for his point.

What that means for me then is that the score is students 1, administration 0.

If anyone has anything else to send me along these lines, feel free.

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4 Responses to The Strike of 2006: What is Fallon Saying to Students, Anyway?

  1. Mathilde says:

    My daughter is a student at EMU, her father was a NWA mechanic. She says “Mom, dad stuck over jobs, these faculty are just striking because they aren’t getting enough money…that is just wrong.” In this tough economy and her dad out of work and she works a fulltime job so she can go to school she thinks the faculty should be happy they are getting a raise. She says there are other students that think the same way.

    For clairification; the AMFA was asked to take, literally, a 20% pay CUT (and also pay for bennies) and lose 50% of their jobs. AMFA had a strong reason to strike. — unfortunately, it had bad outcomes.

    So, your students see their parents struggling without jobs or with pay cuts, and they see you all striking because your increase isn’t enough to cover the cost of living?

    My daughter is a senior, and has been there many years, her view on the faculty is not the best…as she has had faculty take an hour telling them about a new car they purchased, instead of teaching. To me, I don’t think that is deserving of top dollar pay.

    As an educated parent, I believe in unions, but I also believe that unions can get too greedy. I ask that you think about the economy, what your student’s families are going through, and then do the right thing.

  2. Steven D. Krause says:

    Well, I agree wtih a lot of what you are saying here, Mathilde. But I guess I’d say a couple of things about this:

    * Look at Fallon’s letter: does it sound like he has any respect for the concept of negotiating with faculty? Does it seem like he recognizes the connections between students and faculty here? Does he seem to understand the idea that EMU is not a “for profit business” but a public education enterprise? I obviously don’t think so, and I don’t think the student who allowed me to publish this thinks so either.

    * Remember, the union is still at the bargaining table. We’re still wanting to talk. The administration left, I suppose in an effort to break the union. The actual effect of that walkout has been the exact opposite, firing up faculty who never cared about this union stuff before. So really, I think the ball is in their court on this; at this stage, I think they either have to come back to the table or take us to court.

    * What the administration is offering us is not a raise, certainly not a pay raise of 16%. As I’ve said before in other posts, I think figuring out the cost of living and inflation stuff is hard. But for my own situation, my best guess is that the deal the administration is offering is about at the “break even” point for me. And I would agree, that breaking even is not that bad of a deal in the current Michigan economy. But it’s hard to make a deal with someone who isn’t negotiating.

    * There are two big BIG differences between Northwest and EMU. First, EMU isn’t bankrupt. We might not be rolling in dough, but we are more than solvent. Second, EMU isn’t a publicly traded company. We are a state-supported, public institution. Ultimately, I am a government employee, and, as I am sure you are aware, there are different goals in this kind of work than in for profit companies. Or at least their should be.

    * If the union gives up on the strike at this point, then we will certainly be screwed at the bargaining table on this contract and we will be really REALLY screwed on future contracts. So it isn’t just this contract; it’s a much bigger picture.

    * And speaking of the bigger picture, you’ve got to remember that most of our students are coming here to get a degree to become an elementary or secondary school teacher. Most of those places are unionized too.

    I really hope there is some kind of solution here. As I’ve said a number of times, I personally very much feel caught in the middle of this mess, I’m extremely angry at the leaders of EMU for forcing this crisis by walking away from the table, and I’m frustrated in the feelings that there’s not much I can do about this stuff. I know I’m not alone, and I know that there are a lot of people working in the background to get us back into the classroom. All we can do right now is anxiously watch.

  3. Jenny says:

    I emailed John Fallon, and CC’d all of the listed Regents. I’m not an English major, but I hope I made my point.

    Dr. Fallon,
    I will have to keep this short because I am currently sitting and working at the Circulation Desk at Bruce T. Halle Library. I’m fulfilling my obligation to the university, you might say, and in fact, did say, at the orientation ceremony at the Convocation Center last weekend. I sat there with my parents and my sister, an incoming freshman, and watched your recorded message. You told the freshman that they had an obligation to their University community. I quite agree. It was only days later, of course, that you and other administrators walked away from negotiations with the EMU-AAUP. Perhaps you need to be reminded of your obligation to Eastern’s community. I am your obligation. My sister is your obligation. Our cancelled classes are your obligation. Even if the faculty are striking illegally, even if you think they have little regard for their students, you still owe it to us to negotiate with them.

    Sincerely,
    ****
    Eastern Senior

  4. Charles Stuart says:

    Mathilde,

    Please consider a few thoughts from another EMU student’s perspective:

    (1) Like any school, the quality of the faculty at EMU varies. I’m sure your daughter has indeed had bad professors. However, it’s been my experience — and the experience of every student I’ve spoken to during the strike — that full-time, tenure-track faculty are superior to lecturers and part-time professors, most of the time. This isn’t necessarily because those lecturers aren’t good teachers; they’re often overloaded with work, or driving back and forth between two or three different institutions, trying to make a living. The point is, full-time, tenured faculty are better for students. They not only have more time to devote to preparation for classroom teaching — they also have more time to devote to sudents outside the classroom. This is what we’re paying for when we hire them.

    (2) From my perspective, the two main issues in this strike from a student’s perspective should be the ability of EMU to attract and retain high-quality faculty, and the desire of the administration to lower the ratio of full-time tenured faculty to lecturers and part-timers. The question isn’t whether or not EMU professors are greedy because they’re doing better than airline mechanics. The question is whether or not students at EMU in the future will get a quality education if the administration wins this fight. Our faculty aren’t just fighting for good pay and health care. They’re fighting for the prestige of our school, for its ability to recruit talent, and for the quality of our educations.

    (3) Please see this strike in the wider context of the administration’s recent history. EMU’s administration has been horrendously irresponsible with money over the past several years. We’re still paying severance to our thief of a former president. We have many highly-paid administrators. We’ve built a large presidential mansion. We’re building a fancy new student union which, while it may attract students, will do nothing for the quality of our education. It’s in this context that the administration is saying it can’t afford to pay the people who actually make our education happen.

    This is why I and more than 1200 other students send our signatures to Fallon this past Friday. We know that this isn’t about faculty greed, but about the strength of EMU as a place of learning, which derives primarily from our professors.

    –Charles

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