Response to the announcement of the award at the AAUP annual meeting.
Response to the announcement of the award at the AAUP annual meeting.
At the AAUP’s annual meeting in mid-June, Noeleen McIlvenna was honored as the 2019 recipient of the Marilyn Sternberg Award.
At the 1981 annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors, the AAUP’s Collective Bargaining Congress passed a resolution establishing the Marilyn Sternberg Award. The award, the resolution stated, is to be given annually to the “AAUP member who best demonstrates concern for human rights, courage, persistence, political foresight, imagination, and collective bargaining skills. Such award may be in the amount of $300, to be given to the individual or chapter or the special AAUP fund of the awardee’s choice.”
The letter written by Marty Kich nominating Noeleen for the award includes these concluding paragraphs:
“Nonetheless, the most significant evidence of the impact of Noeleen’s efforts may not even be in the success of our strike. Our faculty have remained very engaged. An ad hoc committee that includes some members of our chapter leadership has been meeting to devise concrete strategies for building on the chapter solidarity and linkages with allied groups that were reinforced or created during the strike. Detailed plans are being drafted to organize other parts of our campus community and to turn the student support that we received into some sort of coordinated political activism on higher-ed issues. Likewise, a great deal of thought is going into how to remain engaged with other AAUP chapters, other labor unions, and other allied groups. Noeleen is running to succeed me as chapter president, and the slate of candidates for other offices on the ballot is the most diverse that we have ever had.
“In the end, just as our university’s financial crisis seemed suddenly to recede to being perceived as the backdrop to our extended strike, I think that the strike may end up being viewed as the backdrop to a resurgence of faculty labor activism both at our university and at other universities in Ohio. Again, Noeleen would be the first to tell you that no one person can possibly be responsible for such changes, but I think that it is every bit as true that such changes are often unimaginable without the contributions of certain individuals. Noeleen is just that sort of individual. And, perhaps most importantly, many of our students—in particular our female students—have recognized that Noeleen is just that sort of inspiring individual.”
26 April 2019
Dear Marty and Noeleen:
February 14, 2019
Wright State University AAUP-WSU
113 Medical Sciences
Dayton, OH 45435-0001
Dear Wright State AAUP Chapter,
As the Chairperson of the National AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress I want to thank all of you for the effort you put into your recent strike. All of you must know that this action was not only about the issues at Wright State. You represented every member of the AAUP, and likely symbolized every college educator across this nation. Your fight was everyone’s fight.
I know that the last several weeks and probably the last several months have been extraordinarily difficult, but you stood proud. The passion and fortitude you have shown us is beyond inspiring. When I look back at my time in this office one of the moments that I will remember most will be watching, and even a few times walking with you. The enthusiasm you maintained during your strike, especially in the weather elements you endured was beyond belief.
If you need to know if you were successful read the lyrics of “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. During the time you were not in the classroom many will argue that you were not doing your job and were hurting your students. By carrying out your strike for the principles you – and all AAUP CBC members—fight for, you taught them an important life lesson. You stood strong for the quality of instruction and higher education as a common good. As the strong student support throughout the strike made clear, your principles are ultimately their principles too.
Sincerely, Paul Davis
This article was written by John McNay, President of the Ohio Conference of AAUP, for Plunderbund [plunderbund.com/2019/02/21/wright-state-faculty-successfully-defend-ohio-higher-ed].
Now that the dust is clearing from the faculty strike at Wright State University in Dayton, let’s to take a look at what happened. A tentative agreement was reached on Feb. 10.
Faculty at WSU went on strike on Jan. 22 and finally settled three weeks later. It was the longest academic strike in Ohio history and apparently the second longest in the country. The faculty union at Wright State is a chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). As the Wright State faculty continually, and correctly repeated, this strike was not about money. It was about quality of education that would be endangered by allowing a corporate-style administration to have unilateral control over such things as teaching loads and class sizes.
The Wright State administration seemed to think that they had the upper hand going into this struggle. “The actions of one-sixth of our employees will not alter our mission as an institution of higher learning,” WSU President Cheryl Schrader told the Dayton Daily News. She could not have been more wrong. Even though the administration advertised nationally for strike breakers, the fact is that they could not operate the university without the faculty. Schrader’s comment shows the problem with too many of our administrations. Engaged in so many other activities, they lose track of the reason that we have our universities – education. It isn’t building office palaces or playing games or rubbing elbows with the corporate big wigs. It is education.
What precipitated such a struggle? Primarily, it was gross mismanagement on behalf of the Wright State board of trustees and its administration. This crisis has statewide importance because of the actions of the Wright State administration and its board of trustees. Like others in charge of our public institutions of higher education in the state, the WSU leaders have spent more taxpayer money and student tuition on administrative bloat, grandiose construction projects (and in WSU’s context off-campus real estate purchases, including $26 million in Greene County alone), athletic department deficits, and, generally, non-academic initiatives. At WSU, these non-academic initiatives were supposed to produce additional revenue but instead have cost tens of millions.
The Wright State faculty drew a line in the sand and won.
Hopefully, it sends a message to our other corporate-style administrations. The actual timing of the strike was triggered by the board of trustees’ decision to unilaterally impose its contract offer. The vote that came suddenly on Jan. 7 was a surprise but the union was determined. “We can’t trust these folks to be good managers. They have shown themselves incompetent,” Noeleen McIlvenna, a History professor and union contract administrator, said. “I do hope that the community understands that this is a final straw.”
Certainly, what happened at Wright State seems to have been a perfect storm of incompetence. Some of the mismanagement has even been illegal. The ongoing FBI investigation into whether WSU violated work visa laws has so far cost the school more than $2 million. Other boondoggles have included spending more than $4 million (including updates to the Nutter Center) attempting to host the first presidential debate in 2016: Wright State spent more on the debate – that it didn’t host – than Hofstra University spent to host it.
Hard as it is to believe, the former president of Wright State, David Hopkins, under whom most of these blunders were made, had a contract that was certainly irresponsible. For the last years that Hopkins was employed, he was listed among the top 10 highest paid university presidents in the country and for four of those years his taxable compensation was over $1 million. Even today, the president who has overseen the failed negotiations that led to this strike, Cheryl Schrader, is pulling in more than $680,000 in taxable compensation (more than my entire eight-person department at UC Blue Ash).
And, as reported in the Dayton Daily News, there is more:
Notice that none of these actions involved actually spending funds directly on the university’s primary mission – instruction and research.
So, it is clear to see how the university created its own financial crisis and that the faculty had nothing to do with this. Shockingly, faculty salaries and benefits make up only 17 percent of Wright State’s budget. Nevertheless, two years ago, when negotiations first began, faculty accepted they were going to have to take a financial hit to help correct the administration’s mistakes. But as negotiations unfolded, it became clear that the administration was not intending to let the budget crisis go to waste. Instead, they aimed to gut the faculty’s contract in what now seems a determined attempt to break the union.
Over the two years of negotiations, the administration agreed to meet only about 10 times. They were reluctant to put anything in writing, and stood by extreme demands. Faculty members had been targeted to make up for these mistakes since 92 full-time faculty positions already had been eliminated. As we often tell our students across the state: “You should ask where your money is going, because it is not going for your education.”
Salary had not been a sticking point because the union agreed early on to no pay increases in this contract given the financial hole the administration had dug. Instead, two other issues have been at the heart of the WSU dispute: workloads and health insurance. Faculty workloads typically are determined by departments based on the academic need for the students. But the WSU administration has proposed to eliminate workload agreements and impose a top-down approach that would have the accountants making decisions in engineering, biology, English, medicine and other disciplines. Wright State faculty insisted on defending quality higher education and research by having expert faculty in the disciplines involved in making these decisions.
Of great importance, the administration wanted to eliminate health insurance as a negotiation topic. The objective in any such proposal is to be able to bar the union from negotiating for compensation. If one cannot negotiate for healthcare, any pay raise one receives can be taken back with a premium increase. This is a union-busting tactic, one that was part of the infamous Senate Bill 5 attack on public employees in 2011, which Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected and repealed, including the people of Dayton and the surrounding counties.
For those who joined the picket line with the Wright State faculty, one was immediately struck by the sense that they must have done this before. It was impressive that so many people stood up and took hands- on leadership roles to make the strike work. It appeared to be a smoothly-running well-oiled machine as picketers braved snow, rain, and bitterly-cold temperatures. And yet, this was a first for everyone involved.
Some things they did very well that helped with the victory:
In the end, after finally agreeing to the use of a federal mediator, the administration gave up on a series of bad proposals, including unilateral control of workload and merit pay and unlimited furloughs. About insurance, the new contract will include a clause guaranteeing the faculty’s right to negotiate over healthcare although the union did agree to go into the same insurance plan as the other employees at Wright State. Because they negotiated for two years, they have essentially agreed to two contracts, one will complete the year left on this term, and then another three-year contract which provides for small raises in 2022 and 2023, the last two years of the second contract – at that point faculty will have gone five years without an overall pay increase.
There are going to be a lot of wounds to heal going forward. We agree with the sentiments of Chancellor Gardner: “The first people I thought about last night when I heard the news of the agreement were the students I met with Friday at the Statehouse,” Gardner said. “I’m hopeful that their plans and goals for the future – and those of thousands of others as well – are restored.”
You can be sure that the Wright State faculty will be working to restore those futures. As WSU-AAUP Chapter President Marty Kich said “I am sure all our members are glad to be going back to the classroom where we hope things will return to normal for our students as soon as possible.”
John McNay is a professor of history at the University of Cincinnati, and author of Collective Bargaining and the Battle of Ohio: The Defeat of Senate Bill 5 and the Struggle to Defend the Middle Class.
February 8, 2019
Dear Dr. Kich,
At its meeting on February 3, the Board of Directors of the Maine Education Association unanimously approved a motion in support of the Wright State University faculty in the labor dispute with the WSU administration. The MEA represents nearly 24,000 members including pre-K-12 teachers and staff as well as the faculty and staff in the University of Maine System and our community colleges and retired educators.
We stand in solidarity with you and your members and are hopeful that the WSU President returns to the bargaining table and that a settlement that is fair to the hardworking faculty is reached.
President, Maine Education Association
We, present and past officers of the Higher Education Chapter of Services Employees International Union Local 509, which includes adjuncts, full-time non-tenure track faculty, and graduate student workers at six universities in the Boston area, are too distant to join you on the picket line, but we are sending warm support as you strike to gain a fair contract from Wright State University.
A strike decision is never taken lightly. We applaud your courage and resolve because your working conditions truly are the learning conditions of your students. Thank you for fighting for current and future students of Wright State University and for the future of Higher Education in Ohio and across the nation.
Steve Benson (Lesley University)
Norah Dooley (Lesley University)
Diana Filar (Brandeis University)
Drew Flanagan (Brandeis University)
Nina Kammerer (Brandeis University)
Laurie LaPorte (Boston University)
Elizabeth Lemons (Tufts University)
William Marx (Boston University)
John Maslanka (Boston University)
Celia Morris (Lesley University)
Eleanor Roffman (Lesley University)
Seven Siegel (Northeastern University)
Sarah Slavick (Lesley University)
Sheriden Thomas (Tufts University)
Jaime Wilson (Lesley University)