I’ve been thinking a lot about my Ph.D. alma mater, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Today, as of midnight, the Administration of SIUC and the Faculty Association could not reach an agreement thereby resulting in a strike. The issue is NOT as simple as higher salaries for tenured and tenure-track faculty.
The statement by Faculty Association David Johnson President makes the issues at hand abundantly clear. The University has made their position abundantly clear also– opposition to their desires will not be tolerated or given even the simplest regard or courtesy.
SIUC has resorted to juvenile and, ultimately, disheartening silencing techniques to those that support the faculty in their strike. I am one of many who posted my support of the faculty on the SIUC facebook page. Once personnel in charge of the site came to work today, my message was deleted and I was blocked from posting any other messages to their facebook page. In the past hour I have watched comment after comment appear on the page, only to be deleted from the page minutes later. What an embarrassment!!! A public institution of higher learning blatantly censoring messages from its community of current students, faculty, staff, and alumni?
Now granted I expected the University to put its public relations team into overdrive to make the faculty look like the bad guys, especially when three out the four unions considering a strike settled yesterday. But those of us who are able to understand the situation know that this is classic spin that only contributes to the lack of transparency the faculty are fighting for, in the first place.
Perhaps what is most frustrating is to follow the strike on sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. This morning on Twitter @mattmoberly posted this: Glad to see @SIUC professors striking at 630 am. When is the last time that they got up at 630 for their students benefit? Never! #firethem
I quickly tweeted to him that he has no idea of the number of hours his professors spend on his education. He’s certainly not alone in voicing their distaste for the strike. In the comments section for the above video, on YouTube, someone offers, “This is what parents are paying for?” And on Twitter a student admitted that he had just crossed a picket line for the first time, but was excited that he got extra credit from his professor. “Thanks Dr. Ruffner,” he tweeted.
These anti-faculty comments are the same types of comments that were used against the unions in Wisconsin and Ohio. And they’re the same comments that permeate the Occupy Wall Street pushback. Unions are not evil, nor are they perfect. Unions protect those who have little to no other form of protection. Through all of these incidents I’ve had two mediated messages running through my mind. The first is the coal mining union song written in 1931 by Florence Reece of Harlan County, Kentucky.
“Which Side Are You On” was written on the back of a calendar that hung in her home when authorities invaded her home looking for her husband, a union member. Quite simply, the question “Which side are you on” is a life mantra. Which side of any issue, any problem, any solution– Which side are you on?
The second piece of media is a speech delivered by President Andrew Shepherd in the film The American President. After attacks on his personal character, all for the purpose of political gain, Shepherd finally has enough with the bureaucratic machinations of Washington D.C. and delivers an impassioned speech about those times when we ‘blame them’ for ‘our’ problems.
We do have serious problems that demand serious solutions. I believe in the faculty of SIU and their ability to educate their students. They deserve better. The students deserve better.
I stand, in solidarity, with the faculty of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. That is the side I am on.