Some Notes Toward Acknowledging Indigenous Americans This Week, In the Classroom and Elsewhere

To have a history at all is to have a problematic history, and Thanksgiving is no exception. It’s a holiday that exists in part to sanitize the murderous origins of white civilization on this continent. It’s also one of a handful of days in the American calendar when people won’t frown on you for putting family and friendship ahead of capitalist productivity. Like most social institutions, Thanksgiving has many meanings to many people. And that’s why, though we’ll be doing some Thanksgiving-related posting this week, we wanted to start by acknowledging that history.

I, personally, have always loved Thanksgiving and am likely to continue to do so. But as educators, we have to recognize that this week isn’t the same week for everybody. It’s hard to reduce that awareness to a series of “classroom tips,” but here are some notes toward, at least, increasing that awareness. Got more suggestions? Sound off in the comments, please!

1. Start by noticing that pipeline spill. This time last year, thousands of Native Americans (and others) in North Dakota were getting blasted in the face with pepper spray and cold water (in sub-freezing temperatures) to protest the construction of an oil pipeline. They were angry that the pipeline would cross through sacred Native burial grounds, but they were also worried about potential spillage and threats to clean water. The company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, claimed, as such entities always do, that the pipeline would be safe. Guess who turned out to be right?

This is just to say: the struggle for Native American rights is not a matter of settled issues and history books, and the intellectual, political, and moral contributions of Native Americans to society cannot just be reduced to sentimental bromides about respecting the land. They are ongoing, living, practical things. As Kelly Hayes puts it, “We have always been here, fighting for our lives.” She means that literally: Natives are likelier to be killed by police than any ethnic group, even African Americans.

2. Don’t assume everybody celebrates. I grew up in a small, ethnically more-or-less homogenous town, and it still feels weird to say “Any big plans over the break?” rather than “Any Thanksgiving break plans?” Not just weird: it feels bureaucratic and impersonal. But for some people, Thanksgiving is literally a National Day of Mourning. And for others, including many non-Natives, it’s just another day in the calendar; or it’s a painful reminder of absent or dead family, of the cousin or father who won’t be at the table this year, or of the fact that you don’t have a table to go to. In these circumstances, using welcoming, non-presumptuous language around your students and colleagues is just being kind and civilized. (Remember the root-word for “civilized” comes from the Latin for “city”: in cities, everybody doesn’t live the same.)

3. Remind students whose land we’re borrowing. I don’t mean this in a general sense. I mean that the original site of the land that first bore the name “University of Michigan” was given to the Rev. Gabriel Richard by members of the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Bodewadimi in 1817 via the Treaty of Fort Meigs. The school Richard intended to found, in the battle-scarred territory not yet incorporated as a state, was then still called the “Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania.”

If not for the generosity of Native Americans, none of us would have jobs.

The Treaty of Fort Meigs reads, in part, that the Natives involved granted the land “believing they may wish some of their children hereafter educated.” As of 2016, the number of Native students at U of M numbered 80. Seems like yet another broken treaty.

4. Pay attention to the Native American history and present of the state and the University. Read up on the Native history of Dearborn, Flint (it’s literally named Flint), Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Ypsi. If you’re on the Ann Arbor campus, maybe check out this talking circle or similar events. If you’re on the Flint campus, keep an eye out here.

 

Statement from the Lecturers’ Employee Organization on Richard Spencer’s Request to Speak at the University of Michigan

On behalf of LEO, we condemn Richard Spencer’s politics of hatred and we call on the University of Michigan to deny his request to speak on our campus.

Spencer’s presence at this university would be an affront to lecturer faculty as scholars, thinkers, and writers. A university platform is always, however subtly, an endorsement—not of the content of a person’s ideas, but of that person’s underlying intellectual seriousness. Universities do not typically rent space to local chapters of the Flat Earth Society, for example. Richard Spencer is of a far more intellectually disingenuous brand. He has no standing as an academic. His racist worldview is rooted in ideas that soberer minds have debunked in every conceivable way—scientifically, methodologically, historically, and philosophically. There is no scholarly conversation to which his presence on this campus can contribute.

Spencer’s presence at this university would be an affront to lecturer faculty as mentors to and advocates for our students. He directly threatens the physical safety of our staff and students. His recent appearance at University of Florida-Gainesville resulted in five reported injuries at the site of the event and an attempted murder one mile from the site of the event by out-of-town Spencer followers. In a time when Michigan’s local politics are increasingly blighted by the presence of armed white supremacist militias, and on a campus that is a known organizing site for Identity Evropa and other hate groups, Spencer’s presence could easily result in the injury or death of our students.

Spencer’s presence at this university would be an affront to lecturer faculty as workers. On this issue, we cannot put the matter better than our fellow worker Zoe Proegler, a senior at Michigan: Students of color and lower socioeconomic status are represented at a significantly higher rate amongst Union employees than the student body as a whole. We are a hard-working and dedicated group of people, but the idea that we (or our permanent staff supervisors, for that matter) would be made to help facilitate a prospective speech by Richard Spencer is seen as a personal indignity by myself and many of my coworkers. … [B]eing asked to literally amplify Nazi and white nationalist speech is not something I feel I am capable of doing in good faith to my community. It’s not something I’d like any of my colleagues to be asked to do. … [M]any of us are left questioning whether it will be safe to come to work on the day of the prospective event.

Spencer’s presence at this university would be an affront to the very idea of public education. Most fundamentally, Richard Spencer—his ideas, his methods, his career, the very person he has thus far chosen to become—are a direct insult to the values that a public university depends upon for its very existence. Every time we walk into our classrooms, we make the implicit assumption that every one of our students—including our students of color, our Muslim and Jewish students, our LGBTQ+ students—has a right to be there. Every time we conduct a class discussion, we assume that all our students have a right to contribute to it. Every time Richard Spencer opens his mouth in public, he implicitly or explicitly says otherwise.

Richard Spencer threatens our students’ safety and insults our shared enterprise as public educators. We strongly urge that the University of Michigan deny his request.

Respectfully,

Phil Christman and Shelley Manis

LEO Ann Arbor Co-Chairs

November 17th Bargaining Recap

We had another great bargaining day in Dearborn! More than 60 members showed up, as well as several allies, among them student org Dearborn Pride, student government representatives, members from our brothers and sisters local at Henry Ford College, State Senator David Knezek, and Taylor Monday and Dave Dobbie from AFT Michigan.

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It was great to see LEO President Emerita Bonnie Halloran at our lunchtime rally, where she and other allies spoke out. We were especially moved by the emphatic and emotional speeches by leaders from Dearborn Pride and Student Government. (They have also agreed to post their speeches on LEO Matters as guest bloggers, so look for those soon!)

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Members, Dearborn Pride students, and tenure track allies rallied at lunchtime.

Administration submitted a proposal changing what was formerly the Union Security article in an attempt to bring the contract into line with the Right to Work laws, which have been instituted since we signed our last contract. We’ll be submitting our own proposal next bargaining session, which is DECEMBER 1 in Ann Arbor at Palmer Commons, 9-5pm.

We submitted proposals on layoff and recall, as well as a multitude of benefits articles. Our main goals were increased stability for LI’s and part-time lecturers in general in terms of appointments and benefits. Put simply, we want more people covered by health insurance, and we want people to keep their coverage, even if they lose a class or two.

We also asked for expanded benefits for parents, including a child-care subsidy and paid time off for those unavailable for long-term sick pay–non birth parents included!

A member from Ann Arbor spoke movingly about the ways that the high cost of childcare can quickly eat up an entire Lecturer’s salary, in some cases causing lecturers to lose money in order to do their jobs.

It was an emotional day that provided management with insight into the real effects of lecturers’ salaries. The strength of our membership who showed up and the wide support of allies in our community was heartening. Let’s keep the momentum going!

 

In solidarity,

 

LEO Bargaining Team

Dearborn’s Bargaining Kickoff TOMORROW (Friday November 17th)

Hello, fellow dedicated teachers, mentors, scholars, writers, artists, etc…Hello, LEO! What follows are some thoughts about tomorrow’s bargaining and how you can support it, whether you can be in the room where it happens or not!

Tomorrow is our bargaining kickoff on the DEARBORN campus, and we hope as many of you as humanly possible will join us. Even if you can only come by for a half an hour or an hour, YOUR PRESENCE MATTERS. Admin sees us. They see who we have, and they see who we don’t.

We’re a big University, and our work lives in more places than Ann Arbor–it lives in Flint, it lives in Dearborn. (It also gloriously lives other places like Detroit, New England, Washington, etc., in the form of some of our special programs, but we don’t bargain there. :-)) We’re a big bargaining unit, with big plans, and we need to have equally BIG turnout at bargaining – and related events – to show the administration that we mean business. (More details below the break.)

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Tomorrow in Dearborn, the administration’s team will be presenting us with the first of their proposals, which we expect to be a proposal on the language around Union Security. They tell us that this part of the contract has to change due to the fact that anti-union “Right to Work” laws (truly “Right to Work for Less”) are now in effect, but the changes need not be as drastic as their proposal might reflect. Showing strength tomorrow is especially important. Any opportunity to weaken the union needs to be met with a strong showing of resistance.

We’ll also be presenting our own proposals to language on Benefits articles (expanding more consistent and stable health care benefits to more people and seeking a child care subsidy, among other things) and clarifying the scope of our duties (language changes designed to halt “service and administration creep,” if I may coin a term, and make more clear the limits of “teaching duties,” for example).

Bargaining starts at 9am, there will be a rally with allies at noon, and then bargaining resumes at 1pm. All lecturers are welcome in the bargaining room during bargaining. We encourage you to wear LEO shirts (and will have some of our new ones there for the taking), buttons, etc. Fly your LEO flags!

We should all offer a thank you to our fantastic Dearborn student allies, who have done a lot to prepare for and support the rally:

-They arranged a dedicated sign making session for our rally
-They spoke up at a chancellors’ meeting about LEO
-They decorated the chalkboard in the UMD Cafeteria to advertise 11/17

If you CAN’T be there, please do STILL wear your LEO shirts and/or buttons, make sure you have posters on your office doors, and/or Tweet/FB your support ALL. DAY. LONG. When you tweet/post about bargaining, please use any or all of the following hashtags, as those are our tags for the whole bargaining process:

#respectthelecs
#worthmore
#leounion
#faircontract4lecs
#solidarity

We hope to see you tomorrow, but if you can’t make it, please do consider showing your support in other ways so that we’re visible on all campuses and across social media. And then plan to show up on December 1st in Ann Arbor!

Turn up! Show up! It’s our chance to make noise in Dearborn!

When: Friday  Nov 17  9 am – 5 pm 
Where: University Center (UC), Kochoff Hall B, University of Michigan Dearborn

We’ve shared stories and taped fliers to our doors. And now the time has come. November 17th is our only chance this year to gather on the Dearborn campus and let the administration see our commitment to getting Lecturers a fair contract.

If you’ve been on the Dearborn campus over the last few weeks there’s a good chance you’ve spoken with me, or Alex, or both me and Alex. It’s during these conversations at the LEO luncheons and meetings, or as we walk the hallways to class, that I feel the strength of our unity.

Yesterday, we set up a table in the University Center. Students stopped by and asked what it means to be a Lecturer, others already knew the distinction in title but had not realized the difference in salary, benefits, job security. When we gave them the lowdown, one after another shook their head in dismay.

 


U of M students and their diligence and creativity in the classroom have become some of the most significant reasons why I teach here. And yesterday, by simply reading the facts, our friendly students became enthusiastic advocates.

Many asked how they can show their support. The rally on November 17th is the place to be.

Who? You! Yes, you! Me? Yes, me too! Lecturers, Students, Alumni, Tenure-Track Faculty, Staff, Campus Organizations, and members throughout the community have the chance to join in solidarity at the rally at 12pm noon in the University Center at Kochoff Hall B.

Lecturers are welcome inside the bargaining room at 9am and throughout the day.

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Speaking with students at the UC

Wow! Did You Know…

…that if you click the “Follow” button in the right sidebar of this blog page, you can subscribe to LEO MATTERS? Holy foxes! It’s so easy! Never again will you hang out by the water cooler at the academics factory, listening to everyone else discuss the latest Lecturers’ Employee Organization blog post about exciting past events, ongoing negotiations, future hopes for an equitable contract, or other topics related to higher education, wishing you had known about the post earlier so that you could have shared your own penetrating insights on the matter at hand.

WordPress’s magical kobolds will even send you an email that says something like, “Congratulations, you are now subscribed to the site LEO MATTERS (https://leounion.wordpress.com) and will receive an email notification when a new post is made. ” What a bonus!

No, but really. Just click the “Follow” button and get clued in whenever new LEO blog content arrives. The process is almost elegant.

What I Did on My Fall Flint Vacation: Presenting Article XI

This Friday was a hoot. Looking at it from another direction, it takes a proverbial village to hoist me. But in Flint, once again, we had the villagers.

My classes having been placed for the day in the capable hands of EDWP (English Department Writing Program) Lecturer Mentor James Pinto, I was able to ride up to UM-Flint with LEO President Ian Robinson and newly-elected Ann Arbor Campus Co-Chair Phil Christman, Over the course of the day, I was able to spot about forty-five LEO members, other lecturers covered by the contract, tenure-track faculty allies, students, and staff organizers stopping by the bargaining room and/or the caucus room, a show of support that, given the Flint campus’s smaller size, was consistent with what we enjoyed last week at Ann Arbor’s Pierpont Commons. Kudos to all who managed to bring themselves to Michigan Rooms C & D at Harding Mott University Center (UCEN). You mattered, you counted, and your voices made a difference!

At the bargaining table, UM-Flint Philosophy Chair Stevens Wandmacher discussed our proposed changes to Article XIX, on performance evaluation. LEO Vice-President and bargaining-team manager Kirsten Herold covered Memoranda of Understanding #1 (“Special Provisions Covering Lecturer III and IV Major Reviews in LSA”) and the even more vital #2 (about offering full-time opportunities to Lecturers), as well as Article XXVII (on posting, hiring, and notification). But frankly, largely because I was the one who introduced it and presented our revisions to it (during my first, somewhat-daunting stint at any sort of bargaining table), I worried the most about Article XI, the article on appointments, the article some have said is the spine of the contract, since it spells out just what it means to be an Lec I, Lec II, Lec III, Lec IV, Adjunct Lecturer, or Intermittent Lecturer.

So here’s some of what I said:

  • As with other articles, many of the proposed changes to Article XI corroborate that University of Michigan lecturers are not merely academic day laborers hired from bookstore parking lots. Instead, we are highly skilled, highly educated, highly dedicated professional scholars and pedagogues who deserve the respect, the commitment, and the concomitant compensation due the faculty of one of the world’s foremost universities. Some seek this respect reflected in more prestigious job titles. Some seek this respect reflected in more, quicker, or earlier communication about opportunities for advancement, notices of appointments, and the results of reviews and reappointment decisions. Some more simply seek more, quicker, or earlier such opportunities, reappointments, and reviews. All lecturers seek the same level of commitment from the administration that we, the collective heart of the University of Michigan, continue to offer its administration. Whether freshly-minted Lecturer Is or Lecturer IVs who have devoted decades to educating our students, we seek full-time, more dependable, better-paid employment in exchange for our ongoing role as the University’s chief source of tuition revenue.
  • Some academic units are having more difficulty than they might at attracting the best candidates from private industry or other schools, because these candidates don’t want to be known merely as “Lecturers.” Offering the opportunity for the unit to assign a more prestigious working title, like “Teaching Professor,” addresses this concern.
  • We’d like a ban on units deliberately underestimating the appointment efforts for Lec Is and Lec IIs in order to avoid the late-layoff penalty. For example, if an academic unit keeps giving 2-2 offer letters to a Lecturer who, semester after semester, keeps winding up with a 4-4 load, then that academic unit needs to cut out that lowballing and stop jerking this Lec around because it doesn’t want to risk paying 17% of what they would have earned for teaching that class.
  • Some effective dates were changed from 2010 to 2018. Because, duh, it’s not about to be 2010. These “expired” dates happened because during the last contract negotiations, in 2013, the teams didn’t open up Article XI for discussion, so no one had a chance to update certain clauses and provisions.
  • When LEO’s leadership surveyed us earlier this year, many people wanted to know why there was no clear track from Lec II to Lec III. So one proposed change (to XI.A.8) would help make the process of moving from Lec II to Lec III more transparent. We’d also like to remove any policies preventing internal hires, especially if the goal is to encourage and cultivate long-term educators who are already committed members of the University community and who are willing to embrace new professional challenges. In other words, maybe we can evolve from a largely two-tier system (I/II & III/IV) toward a more intuitive I-II-III-IV ladder.
  • We added “continuing renewal review” to the series of items early in XI.A.9 to address the needs of those who have passed two major reviews. The changes to the sentence after that, basically changing “will not” to “may,” are to enable a review to happen during a layoff, if the Lecturer and the department are both willing to have that happen. For if it’s a temporary layoff, why not enable the Lecturer’s ‘off-season’ to be a bit more productive? Later changes similarly would enable Lecturers to have a review while they were on leave, if it were cool with both them and their departments.
  • Since School of Business classes often meet in the Spring or Summer half-term, it makes sense to add them to the short list of academic units that count Spring/Summer teaching as semesters toward review.
  • We need to move toward making Lec Is feel less like migrant laborers and more like solidly valued members of the University community. We need to enable Lec Is to spend more energy on teaching students, less energy on hunting for more stable employment. Promoting year-long appointments for Lec Is not only reassures them, not only frees up their psychic real estate for pedagogical purposes, but sends a signal that the Admissions and Registrar’s Offices are competently doing their jobs by correctly anticipating in a timely fashion how many students, how many classes, and how much work will be available in the coming semesters.
  • It would be useful to provide a time limit for documenting such a serious decision as a termination. Both the terminated Employee and the Union want to know and deserve to learn the cause for termination, in a timely manner and without the need for continual nagging by union grievance officers.
  • Changing fall appointment decision dates from April 30 to “prior to April 1” gives Employees more time to plan their lives. For example, Ann Arbor landlords often start asking by about February if tenants, in this scenario hardworking U-M Lecturers, want to sign additional year-long, August-to-August leases. In fact, my own property manager asked my wife and me on October 18 (!) if we wanted to sign a lease for 2018-2019. I mean, yes, we’re certainly wonderful, responsible tenants that they want to keep, but that sort of early request still presumes that I have future work. If U-M doesn’t offer it to me, or to any of us Lecturers, we need to know earlier rather than later so we can start looking for alternate employment. Again, wouldn’t the administration want us spending the end of the term focusing on teaching classes and turning in final grades, not job-hunting?
  • The most necessary change to provisions like XI.B.2.d.ii.c. is to establish that after an unsuccessful major review that leads to a remediation plan during a remediation period, the later review is a remediation review, not another major review, since we primarily want to make sure the Employee has made the necessary changes. As an analogy, it wouldn’t make sense for a student to perform poorly on an exam, receive extra instruction and support, take a make-up exam, and also retake the original exam on which they had fared poorly. In short, no more requiring a remediation review and another major review after remediation! At the end of the remediation period, assess whether the previously diagnosed problems have been solved, don’t go looking for a new set of problems. (Perhaps Stevens summed up the situation best when he repeated Cardinal Richelieu’s quote — “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.” If a unit doesn’t like you, they can always find something with which to screw you. There’s no need to give the unit two swings at the target.)
  • The change in language in places like XI.B.2.f.i. and XI.B.2.f.ii.a is to help establish one and only one Continuing Renewal Review, one final flaming hoop through which to jump before a Lecturer, having worked for – what, at least twelve years by this point? – let’s say twelve years, can finally have the same negligible job security of a U-M staff member who has passed their six-month probationary period! After twelve or more years a Lecturer has been engaged in successful service to the University, the Employer should put a ring on it. The lasting commitment should be honored without future strenuous mind games to see how much the Lecturer still cares for the Employer.
  • A couple of Implementation clauses have the same rationale as the provisions listed in the last point, and are designed to fix and honor past long-term professional relationships as well as future.
  • We’d like to change the definition so that being a Lec III or Lec IV may involve any one of a variety of factors, not the whole combination of service, research, and wide-ranging instructional capabilities. Regularly being able to tackle all three legs of the tenure-track tripod is fine, but being able to teach well in addition to any one of those factors listed here or in Appendix A should suffice for an Lec III or Lec IV. No more calls for so-called “unicorns,” superhuman simultaneous supergeneralists and multiple superspecialists who do all things at all times.
  • We’d like to have the interim review earlier in Ann Arbor LSA so that the Lecturer has more time to reflect, amend the performance of their duties, and prepare for the major review. No more cases of having the major review two days after the interim review, which has actually happened before!
  • We want the major review timeline for Adjuncts to mirror that of other Lecturers so that they can get their lump-sum payout faster.
  • We want to acknowledge that Intermittent Lecturers don’t always teach exactly one semester per academic year. If an Intermittent Lecturer does a lot of teaching, they should get to their major review sooner.
  • If a unit fails to conduct someone’s review in a timely fashion, we want that person to get $500 per month missed and to be considered to have passed that particular review. This provision is intended to disincentivize not conducting an Employee’s review in a timely fashion. If people pass their reviews, they make more money. So if the unit hits an Employee in the wallet by blowing off a review, the Employee deserves some sort of financial compensation.
  • We’d like to bring the Continuing Renewal Review and remediation reviews in line with the two major reviews.
  • And finally, we’d like to delete XI.B.9.iv., an atavism left over from the first contract, from back in the days when people may not have been reviewed for twenty years. Now that performance reviews are much more regular phenomena, deleting this clause would help ensure each review prioritizes the period since the last review. For instance, if someone happened to get off to a rocky start over ten years ago, we don’t want that initial chapter in their relationship to the academic unit to haunt them in perpetuity.

The admin team had questions. I didn’t really have answers. Luckily, I didn’t need them. Especially after our team took breaks to consult and compile, Kirsten and Stevens, the respective grievance officers for the Ann Arbor and Flint campuses, were able to recall copious (anonymous) examples of Lecturers who had come to them with situations requiring the contractual solutions we’ve been offering.

A better, fairer, more equitable contract. We still want it. We’ll still fight for it. And we still need everyone’s support, whether inside or outside the bargaining unit. The admin bargaining team (the other folks) want next Friday off for a retreat. But then we’ll be at UM-Dearborn on November 17, in Kochoff Hall B. After that, it’s Thanksgiving weeeknd. But after that, on December 1, we’ll be back in Ann Arbor, this time on Central Campus, at Palmer Commons in Great Lakes North. Bring yourself! Bring your colleagues! Bring your friends! Pack a lunch! Bring some grading! We’ve all been honored by the level of visible support we’ve already displayed. But with 1660 people currently in the bargaining unit, this marathon relay-race can accommodate a lot more team members. So come on by and run with the rest of us. We are all LEO!