DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 467
Not surprisingly, students at SIUC are eager to have a voice in the ongoing labor disputes. While both the Administration and all four unions have tried not to involve students directly in these negotiations, these are clearly issues that impact and therefore concern students. Below is a statement from a group of students organizing a rally to show their feelings about the operation of SIUC generally and the ongoing labor disputes specifically.
Let’s be perfectly clear, though: this is a student effort. It is perhaps welcomed by each union, possibly supported by them, but not instigated by them.
The contents of the open letter are included below, but I also wanted to share the layout of the original flyer. The creative energy and brainpower as well as the social engagement of our students are qualities to be cultivated and praised. What a missed opportunity it was not to involve these kinds of students more directly in, for example, the re-branding efforts of the university. There is a hunger at all levels of this university to be heard, to be respected, and to be an important part of determining who we are and how we do things. Where our leaders have failed to hear their various employees, let us hope they hear the students.
Pro-union students are not pawns: An open letter to the SIU community
In multiple e-mails sent to students, student workers and graduate students on October 7, Chancellor Rita Cheng repeated two important falsehoods (among many other half-truths):
1) Pro-union students are essentially being used as pawns by faculty and other campus workers.
2) Students are not (and should not be) involved in the labor situation at SIUC.
By calling us pawns, Cheng has insulted every student at SIUC by asserting that we do not have the ability to think for ourselves, make our own decisions, and on our own come to the conclusion that campus unions deserve our support.
What Rita Cheng seems unable to understand is that education is not merely a commodity and students are not merely consumers.
By supporting the instructors and campus workers we are supporting our own personal interests—to insure that the quality of education at SIU is not undermined.
Many of us come from working-class families and know that many of the rights and resources we have enjoyed came from people organizing and defending unions.
We have not been threatened or coerced in any way by our instructors—contrary to the Chancellor’s repeated assertions—however the tone of Rita Cheng’s almost daily e-mails seem increasingly threatening.
As a group of students we came together independently to counter administration propaganda and organize solidarity with our instructors and campus workers. We copied and handed out factsheets and have called for a student demonstration. We did this of our own accord—regardless of what the Chancellor might say.
It is not the unions that have potentially forced us to choose between “participating in a strike” and our “continuing work/education,” it is the Chancellor’s hard-line position.
Her commitment to bring in scabs to teach courses in the event of a strike shows the contempt she has for both our teachers and for the quality of our education.
Cheng’s pleas of poverty are belied by official university reports that show SIU had surplus revenue in both FY 2009 and FY 2010.
All we can conclude is that our Chancellor sees our university as first and foremost a matter of profit mongering.
It is, in no small part, up to us as students to take a stand against the administration’s attempt to remake SIU into a for-profit corporate entity.
Join us on Wednesday, October 12 at 4:30pm outside Anthony Hall to peacefully protest the administration’s attack on our teachers, our fellow students, on campus workers, and on the quality and value of our education.
SIU Students Against University Cuts
And of course, if you can’t be there but you want your voice to be heard, you can always contact these folks:
Ms. Misty Whittington
Executive Secretary of the Board
Office of the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees
Rita Cheng: email@example.com
Glenn Poshard: firstname.lastname@example.org