Hi, my name is Hoai An, and I’m a fourth year undergrad in the Residential College.
I was born and raised in Ann Arbor. In true Ann Arborite fashion, I was taught to hate the students – but love the University. And so when I entered my freshmen year, as a University of Michigan freshman, I was proud to be going to such an amazing school.
The great reputation of this University was only reaffirmed through my experiences with lecturers in the Residential College. When I came to the shocking realization that not studying for my intensive French grammar exams meant that I didn’t do very well on them, it was a lecturer who opened up her office hours, to ensure that every individual student in the entire class could come and meet with her on a regular basis for as long as they needed. When I took chamber music classes so I could continue playing piano and violin through college, it was a lecturer who accommodated the schedules of over 50 people, coming in for rehearsals sometimes at 9PM, even with a husband and 3 children at home. And when I had an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder for the first few years of college, it was a lecturer who emailed me regularly to check on how I was doing, who helped me with my assignments, and who made sure that I didn’t fail.
So then imagine my shock when I learned of how lecturers are rewarded for their hard work – with a salary $10,000 below living wage for those with children in Washtenaw County, and very insecure healthcare coverage. It speaks to strength of the resilience and dedication of lecturers that they are forced to contend with taking on additional jobs to make ends meet, not be able to grow their families because they cannot afford to, and are forced to move outside of Ann Arbor and deal with the additional stressors of car insurance, increased commute time, and parking, because the cost of living is too high – and yet, they are doing incredible work for students. How much more of would lecturers be capable of if the University invested in them like lecturers invest in the University?
When you mistreat our lecturers, you are not considering us, the students who are working to pay our tuition, which has increased 90% over the past 14 years. We work long hours in addition to going to class, studying, and extracurriculars, because we have to – and that money isn’t even being used to give a fair salary to lecturers, who have only seen an 11% salary increase during that time. But it’s lecturers, teaching 33%, 51% and 56% of credit hours at UM Flint, Dearborn, and Ann Arbor, respectively, who are doing all of the hard work that leads to the successes that this University claims.
Without lecturers, our university stops. And student allies are willing to stop this university until our lecturers get paid.
In October of 2016, President Schlissel spoke of the University’s pledge “to help you provide all of our students with the best education possible, enhanced by high-impact, engaged learning experiences for undergraduates, graduate and professional students.” But when you refuse to provide for our lecturers who shape our learning experience, you are hurting us students.
I am angry because I have a right to be. You made a promise to us when we entered this university and you are not delivering. The Michigan Difference is supposed to stand for how much better our University is in comparison to others – not the millions of dollars that should be given back to lecturers versus what they are actually paid. If you give our lecturers a fair contract, it can only help the University.