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