What’s Earned

DISCLAIMER: The opinions represented in this post are my own as an alumna of Central Michigan University. I do not claim to speak for current students, faculty, or other alumni unless otherwise state

The Faculty Association at Central Michigan University (my Alma Mater) began a strike this morning after being without a contract since the end of June. Bargaining between the union and the university’s administration failed to result in a new contract, and here we are. The FA is made up of tenured and tenure-track professors who do far more than teach classes and hold office hours. These men and women also serve on committees that make the colleges within the university run, advise undergraduate and graduate students, grade papers and tests, and do research and/or get published as part of their job at the university. All of this amounts to many more hours of work each week than those spent in the classroom teaching classes. Is a livable wage really a lot to ask for all this work?

Outside of the Friends of CMU Faculty group on Facebook, I’ve been seeing a lot of students bashing the FACULTY for their “greediness” in seeking to maintain a livable wage. They may seek a raise now because the administration rejected their offer to take no pay increase if tuition remained at the same rates as during the 2010-2011 school year, but they did make that offer so that STUDENTS would not have to pay more. The administration’s offer is basically a 20% DECREASE in pay because the faculty will have to pay more into their health care.

Now, a lot of comments have been made about how districts all over the state and country are requiring employees to pay more of their health care costs. Believe me, I know. My mom is a teacher consultant and my dad is a retired teacher. I am well aware of what goes on in education. I am also well aware that cuts are most commonly made among teachers and other employees rather than among administration. My mom is dealing with figuring out how to support her family without knowing what her take home pay will look like this year, but knowing she’s paying more into health care. It’s a legitimate concern – it’s not a small amount of money, and the cost of living keeps rising. These circumstances affect CMU’s faculty as well.

The vast majority of complaints I’ve seen are about the lack of classes due to the strike. People are worried about graduating and feeling like they’re paying a lot of money for classes that aren’t happening. While I can understand these views, I’d like to point out that people don’t complain when classes are cancelled because of a teacher’s illness, snow, a power outage, etc. Most rejoice at the day off. Now, this is a slightly different circumstance. It’s on a bigger scale than illness and is a choice made by the faculty. However, it’s a choice that the faculty has made in order to stand up for what they – and I – believe is right. I don’t think it’s fair for students or community members to expect the faculty¬† to let the administration walk all over them simply because classes were supposed to start today. Those voicing a wish for the faculty to go back to work before a fair contract is even being negotiated should take a look in a mirror. While they’re busy spouting off nonsense about greedy faculty, who’s really being selfish? I sincerely hope these students are simply flinging these accusations about as a result of misinformation rather than voicing an educated opinion.

 

Want to help? Email or call President George Ross, Provost Gary Shapiro, and the CMU Board of Trustees. Contact info can be found in the Facebook group Friends of CMU Faculty

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No Choice Without Access

When I was twenty, after years of ridiculously unpredictable periods, painful and debilitating cramps that left me curled up in a ball around a heating pad, and mood swings that scared me and everyone else I interacted with (all of which had started out as almost nothing and gotten worse as I got older), I realized I didn’t have to deal with these issues that sometimes forced me to skip classes so and stay in bed for a day or two at least.¬† While I was home for a weekend, I visited the local Planned Parenthood and left with a prescription for the Pill. I had never had sex – I didn’t even actually have a boyfriend. Now, a little over two years later, that’s not the case. You know what is? I have a Bachelor’s degree, will be starting grad school in August, and I couldn’t have done either one if I had wound up with a kid I didn’t want and couldn’t care for.

The Institute of Medicine recently recommended to the Department of Health and Human Services that insurance companies be required to cover contraception – with no co-pay. My instantaneous reaction to this discovery was an overwhelming sense of relief, but as I considered the actual implications of this recommendation and the opposition to it, my optimism began to fade.

That’s not to say I don’t support this method of increasing access to birth control. I do. All women should have access to understandable and accurate information about any form of birth control they are interested in. That’s the thing about birth control – while hormonal birth control might work for one woman, it may cause side effects that another can’t or doesn’t want to deal with. Another woman may choose to avoid any chemical form of birth control based on personal beliefs. All three of these women deserve ACCESS to fact-based information regarding all the options available to them. Without access to accurate information, these women are already being denied a choice.

The IOM’s recommendation is by no means a guarantee that no-cost birth control will happen. If it does, there will be logistics to figure out – including what counts as “birth control” that is covered. Does this include information about natural forms of birth control? When it comes to reproductive health, the key is choice. Control of a woman’s choices must be hers alone, but without access to information or to birth control, those choices are limited. I sincerely hope HHS will take the IOM’s recommendation seriously and make no-cost birth control a reality. Even a $5 co-pay can prevent some women from being able to make that choice – higher co-pays make it even harder for women to be able to make that choice.

I was and am incredibly lucky. I can easily afford my $5 co-pay, though my insurance coverage is lacking for actual appointments in my area. Many women aren’t so lucky. I will not take my good fortune for granted, and I will fight to make sure all women have the same options I have. Without access, there is no choice. Without choice, there is no freedom. Denying freedom to at least half the population is unacceptable.

Support no-cost birth control? Sign the petition here

See the other posts in the “We’ve Got You Covered” Birth Control Blog Carnival here