The Strike of 2006: Day 11 (Things Brewing)

I will post more here later, but something quick for now: there’s some kind of administrative meeting going on right now (it started at 3 pm, I think) in Welch Hall. Many suits go in… none come out…. I don’t know what this is about, though the rumor was it was an “emergency” meeting. Check your local media….

Also, a shout-out for the Eastern Echo, which had a story on the strike in today’s paper. As far as I can tell, it was the only print media there (though I haven’t looked at the AA News yet today).

Now it’s later…

First, a few headlines/bits of news (besides the Eastern Echo) while I write the rest of this entry:

  • “EMU faculty sticks to pickets” in the Ann Arbor News. Some decent summary of events, including some stuff about picketing at the house. Bunsis is quoted as saying “It’s about much more than money.” They tried to impose their ‘last, best offer.’ We will not accept an imposed contract. … They walked away from the table. That is what united the faculty more than anything.” This is all true, but I think we need to turn it down a notch and start doing some stuff to build an “exit strategy” here.
  • I think WEMU interviewed Bunsis this afternoon, but that link isn’t up on their web site yet. Maybe by the time I go to bed….
  • Besides the other Eastern Echo article, there’s this editioral piece, “Put students first.” The writer, Melissa Lemoire, covers both the administration’s and the union’s side of things, though she is definitely on the side of the faculty in the end. I thought this was a particularly good quote: “The financial burdens of this university should not be placed on the backs of the faculty. It simply isn’t justifiable. And while subsequent offers by the university during the recently-arrested negotiations began to offer more adequate compensation, the administration’s contract proposals still failed to address the other issues the AAUP brought to the table. Finally, the university administration walking out of negotiations nearly 10 hours before the start of classes, while there was still time to reach an agreement, is absolutely inexcusable, and calls into question whose interests they really are representing.”
  • There’s this Detroit Free Press article, “Students benefit from strike,” which is really about students being able to get drop classes and get full refunds later than they normally would. A rumor I heard today: at least 200 students have taken full withdrawals from the university, presumably taking their ball elsewhere.

Today was another day on the picket line, and I have to say it was a lot like the weather: partly cloudy, a bit of sun, a bit of rain, wind, signs of bad weather to come. I walked to campus, ran into some colleagues of mine who were sort of on a “wandering picket” around campus. From there, we headed toward Pray-Harrold, and outside of Marshall and Porter, we saw this:

This is kind of a bad picture (my cell phone), but basically, the Teacher’s Education folks set up a tent and grill and were handing out free hot dogs (which I am sure they bought out of their own pockets) to students, faculty, and anyone else. I wish we had thought about doing this sort of thing a week ago. One of my colleagues and I thought it might be kind of cool to do something sort of “English themed:” maybe some protest poetry and/or labor theater performed while serving students coffee and such. But there’s two problems with that. First, I think there’s a general weariness, one that is not so much about crossing picket lines as it is with getting this over-with. Second, doing something like this would just take more organization than it seems likely to pull off easily.

Anyway, there was more picketing, leafleting, etc. There were notably fewer students on campus today than there were on Wednesday, and I have to think that a big part of that is because of the strike. Presumably, students on a MW or MWF schedule who figured out on Wednesday that their classes would not be happening until this strike mess was done stayed home.

I talked with any number of colleagues today, of course. One common feeling I saw was a resolve to stay on strike combined with growing discomfort with the whole strike mess and also the growing helplessness of feeling caught in the middle. Now, I say this not to suggest that there is division between the faculty ranks on this. When it comes to the basic principle here, that it was the administration who walked out and forced the stupid place we are in, faculty are still united. No one wants to be a part of a union that is in the process of being broken by management, and that includes folks who aren’t all that crazy about the union in the first place.

And faculty, while tired, are still rabid rabid mad. I cannot tell you how many of my colleagues have said or have heard others say that they are “done” with any service work to this university. The general sentiment seems to be that we as faculty do all of these things that are above and beyond the call of duty, especially at the University level (that is, beyond our own departments and majors), and this is the thanks we get. I think we’ll settle, and I think we’ll settle soon, perhaps because we have no choice but to give in. But if that happens, well, it’s gonna be a different place around here.

Still there are a lot of questions for the union too, questions about their strategy (or lack thereof), questions about getting the PR machine up and running, questions about when we should have called the strike, what we should have done about this administrative walk-out, and questions about “loyalty.” I was talking with a colleague of mine who was pretty annoyed with my letter, mainly because I said I didn’t trust the union. “We need to be united,” this person said (basically). “Yeah, but I still don’t really trust the union,” I said. “Not that I mean that bad– I don’t trust the administration on this, either.” Again, I was told we needed to stick together and be loyal and all that.

Well, I guess I’ve got three thoughts on that:

  • I’ve been on strike here three times. In 2000, I was one of the folks who first did the union web site when it was seen by the union folks as a novelty at best. I was on the union Executive Committee and deeply involved with the “Professors for a Democratic Union” that essentially threw out the bad guys and put in the current group. I went back and helped the union do the web site before the last strike (until I was asked to not to do it anymore). And I haven’t crossed a picket line yet. In short, I think my actions for the union speak pretty loudly here.
  • At the same time, just because I am a member and a supporter of the union doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion (one that sometimes differs with the union leadership) and it doesn’t mean I am a member of the Soviet. I didn’t sign a loyalty oath.
  • And third, I am quite capable of having multiple and contradictory ideas in my head at the same time. I do have a Ph.D., after all.

Besides hanging out with colleagues and talking to students, the other event(s) of the day included many various rumors. One with the students now that I think is totally false: that the administration is getting ready to refund students and close the school down for the semester. There are a variety of problems with this for me, but the short answer is I don’t understand how the university cancels classses taught by lecturers, part-timers, grad-students, etc.– classes that are underway– along with all of the classes faculty are not teaching. So, in my opinion, this is unlikely to happen.

Rumor #2: the administration too is mixed about all this. I’ve heard rumors of very high placed adminstrators saying to faculty that they shouldn’t back down; I’ve heard other rumors where administrators are ready to lower the boom on us; I’ve heard rumors of the majority of the deans urging the regents et. al. to resolve this; and I’ve heard that everyone is a “puppet” of the Board of Regents. And I also heard that today’s meeting was no “emergency;” it was just more of the same the progress (or lack of it) on the strike.

The final rumor of the day: there is a lot of “back channel” talk, maybe even much more than we might think between the administration and faculty. Some sort of face-saving move is being sought. But you know what? at the end of the day, someone is going to have to be the “grown up” here, and I have a suspicion that that someone is going to be the faculty and the faculty union.

Anyway, the day ended for me with a gathering that I suppose is a taboo: I invited the grad students I am teaching/working with this year over to my house. I wasn’t teaching a class– actually, it was a lot different from what I would have done had I been teaching a class– but it was an optional meeting/gathering that all of my students attended. But like I said, there wasn’t much “teaching.” We talked a lot about the strike, of course– and by the way, I thought this was a great experience because even these graduate teaching assistants have been around the halls since the beginning of the strike, they still had a lot of questions about just what the hell was going on. We talked about their teaching, and we dreamed of a day when this strike was over.

And we ate pizza and talked about the adventures of teaching first year composition and the dog ran about. A good time was had by one and all, and it was especially nice for me to be in a situation that was sort of like a classroom instead of a picket line.

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One Response to The Strike of 2006: Day 11 (Things Brewing)

  1. cheryl says:

    I called WUOM today to complain about their lack of coverage. They ‘claimed’ that hadn’t gotten any press releases from the AAUP. I responded by exclaiming that I thought they were a NEWS organization and I thought their job was to go out and report/uncover news. “Tracy” at WUOM seemed mystified at this, and intimated that the news was supposed to come to WUOM. I emailed Howard Bunsis who responded that he had released 11-12 press releases. WUOM has given virtually NO coverage to us.

    So much for any donations in the future to WUOM.

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