Stephanie Gelderloos Rally Speech, March 23rd in Flint

At bargaining in Flint on March 23, Flint chair Stephanie Gelderloos gave this rousing speech, which we hope will remind people on ALL campuses why it’s SO IMPORTANT to come to our GMMs and find other ways to actively support LEO’s contract demands AND to come to the extra bargaining sessions added this week (Tuesday the 3rd at 4:30 and Wednesday the 4th at 4:30) as well as our final OPEN BARGAINING session on Friday the 6th.

Transcript of speech following the video.

Today I’m going to talk about Equality and Equity.

It’s likely that many of you have seen the depiction of the difference between EQUALITY and EQUITY that has been going around social media lately.

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It’s a cartoon image with three kids who are trying to watch a baseball game by peeking over a tall fence. Each one of the kids is standing on a crate to help them see. One of the kids is very tall and can see over the fence, even without the crate, the other is shorter but can see over the fence with the crate, while the third kid is so short that he can’t see over at all. This is the EQUALITY image because they each have one crate to stand on. However, clearly, equality is not working very well for the shortest kid. The EQUITY image has the shortest kid standing on two crates, the middle kid standing on one, and the tallest standing on the ground. In this way, all three can see over the fence and enjoy the game together.

Now let’s explore these concepts of EQUALITY AND EQUITY here at the University of Michigan

The median annual family income for students who attend UM in AA is $154,000. While the median family income of UM Flint students is roughly half of that.

  • Here in Flint, about half of our students qualify for the Federal Pell Grant, which is given out to families who make roughly $50,000 a year or less. That number in AA is 19%.
  • Here in Flint, 10% of our students come from homes whose total income is $20K or less, while in AA 10% of students come from homes that earn $630K or more

However, the lack of financial resources is not the only issue that our Flint students struggle with.

Many of our students in Flint are the first in their family to go to college.

In Flint we have more than double the percentage of marginalized minority students as in AA:

  • African-American Students in A2:    4.5%
  • African-American Students in Flint: 13%
  • And 33% of students here at UM Flint are non-traditional students, students over the age of 25 who are working to balance school and work and often, kids.

Also, here in Flint, our DACA students, our Dreamers, have no access to financial support. Zero. While dreamers in AA are provided generous tuition support (as they should be).

So why am I talking about income disparities?

Sadly, in this country, student achievement is linked to income.

This correlation is all too well exemplified by the situation in our K-12 schools across Michigan. Just consider the disgraceful contrast between school districts like Detroit and Flint and those in Bloomfield Hills or Ann Arbor. Our current funding system here at the University of Michigan, where Flint it on its own, and Dearborn is on its own, and AA money stays in Ann Arbor, is an appalling recreation of these immoral disparities.

Our graduation rates here at UM Flint reflect the struggles our students face:

  • The 4 year graduation rate for AA students is 76% while in Flint it is 14%
  • The 6 year graduation rate for AA students is 89%, while in Flint it is 44%

The students in Flint need more than one crate to be able to see over that fence. And Flint students should not have to make do with that one crate when this university, remember we are one university, under one president, and one board of regents, is sitting on a surplus of unused crates.

Now when it comes to teaching these amazing, yet challenging students, Flint faculty are also striving to do more with less.

  • In AA, the full time faculty median salary is $148k while in Flint, its $82K
  • In AA the median FT LEO salary is $54K while in Flint it’s $38K

However, it’s not only salary where we are we are struggling. Here in Flint, support services are being cut, programs are being cut, and budgets are being slashed.

This system of three separate pots of money, with no revenue sharing across all three campuses – is, in effect, a policy of strategic disinvestment in our Flint community.

As Jonathon Kozol said in his book Savage Inequalites, “Equity, after all, does not mean simply equal funding. Equal funding for unequal needs is not equality.”

I would like to add to that by saying that less money for greater needs is unjust and abusive. Where there is MORE need, there must be MORE money.

Therefore, I call on President Schissel and the University of Michigan administration to end the practice of strategic disinvestment in our Flint community. To stop segregating University of Michigan finances to the detriment of our Flint students. The status quo is indefensible.

Now is the time to begin a new commitment towards justice and equity at the University of Michigan.