Western Courier

Letter to the Editor

The Editorial Board

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Dear Editor,

Like all WIU students, I received an email from Kathy Neumann, Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs, to offer the University’s spin to the news that faculty have voted to authorize a strike. In this email, she mentioned the University’s supposed goal of “reaching a sustainable and fiscally responsible agreement” with the UPI Local 4100 Chapter. By extension, she apparently feels that faculty demands are irresponsible and unsustainable.

Coming on the heels of years and years of flat faculty wages and pay cuts, I fail to see how faculty are being unreasonable in resisting yet more wage cuts. What, you didn’t know administration is demanding another round of wage cuts? I didn’t either until I read the sordid details in the University-provided negotiation update.

Sustainable and fiscally responsible are words thrown out to shield from the public eye that university officials are asking faculty to give and give, with no end in sight.

What kind of sacrifice have university officials made? Have university administrators taken real wage cuts, as in a contractual reduction in total compensation that, in terms of real dollars or as a percentage of income, compares to the financial Armageddon faculty members have endured?

I get the sense in educating myself about this issue that WIU administration feel like faculty are trying to take the money and run and are somehow not as invested in WIU students and this institution as they are.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many faculty members have built homes and lives in Macomb, care deeply about their students, and in some cases, are so connected to Illinois and WIU through their respective disciplines that leaving at this point would be impractical.

These investments of time, talent and treasure matter, and should be worth something at the bargaining table. Instead, I get the sense that university administration is upset because faculty won’t accept a bigger pay cut than administration wants them to accept.

WIU administration has a ready platform at its disposal to share a one-sided perspective of what is billed as an epic battle of good versus evil. Obviously, I’m overdramatizing administration’s point of view with somewhat bombastic language. My point is still just as valid: administration is using WIU systems to share its perspective. Faculty have essentially remained silent throughout this process (other than the recent no-confidence vote and Wednesday’s strike authorization vote).

As a taxpayer and as a student, I feel somewhat caught in the middle of a herculean battle between two sides who truly care about students. Based on what I’ve seen thus far, my allegiances lie with faculty. They’ll still be here in the fall, probably far into the future.

What does it say about administration’s allegiances, especially those of the university president, when I read that he is a finalist for a new job at Boise State University? Nothing says dedication like trying on a Boise State lifejacket while clinging to the edge of WIU’s ship.

What I find most interesting as a WIU student is that administration has done an incredible job of saying, “It is our expectation that learning continues and you receive the quality education for which you have paid” but administration has utterly failed to guarantee that current students will receive academic credit for classes for which they have paid regardless of what happens with the current labor dispute.

My message to university officials is simple: resolve this labor dispute quickly without continuing to disrupt the financial lives and job satisfaction of faculty – or by jeopardizing the academic records of students.

The very least you can do is minimize the pain our dedicated faculty members will be forced to endure. Exacerbating this pain by hurting students is irresponsible, cruel, and sends a message to students that a win at all cost attitude is one they should embrace,

Ken Speegle

Student, English

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Letter to the Editor