Sunday, February 25, 2018

Shaken, Not Stirred

For some reason, this semester seems especially taxing.  Personally, I feel happy and physically healthy.

I'm upset about Fie's being denied tenure.  People posting have talked about legal possibilities, but not being an employment law attorney, I know nothing about that.  I have a bad feeling that the school has all the power here.


Over the past year, the university has, like so many others, made noises about supporting social justice.  We've made noises for years with few results.  About 10 or so years ago, we had some anti-racism training that our then Dean paid for out of college funds.  I posted about my responses here and here.  Then that Dean left and then next Dean didn't put money there, nor did the next, nor the next, and here we are.  One of my frustrations since has been a feeling that we reach people "anti-racism 101," but never really get beyond that.

This past year, responding to whatever pressures they're responding to, the Powers that Be here decided to do more education towards social justice.  First, they mandated that everyone do an on-line course (along with an on-line course in computer security: did you know you shouldn't send someone your bank information just because they say that you won a lottery you never entered?).  It was as bad and useless a waste of time as you'd predict.

But along the at, they announced that there would be other levels of learning/activity opportunities.  Then they said those would be available to administrators, pretty much.  And then, magically, they decided that these would be more open.

Here's how it seems to work.  For now, at least, they're running a bunch of 1-2 hour (or more) programs.  Someone can sign up for 10 of these, and do some sort of project (not clear on that, since the meeting was at a time I couldn't attend), and then they'd get a third level certification.  So the programs are all second level, and then the third level is about doing 10 of them and doing a project of some sort.  And anyone can participate, including students, so that's really good.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a program before they're quite rolled out the whole thing publicly, but it counted.  So I took a look at the programs and signed up for some based on my interest and time slots.

While I'm somewhat cynical, I'm also somewhat hopeful, and really interested in some of the programs.  There will be programs on disability issues.  I know little about disability issues, but I know that there's a lot to learn, and it's complex.  Alas, those are all at times when I can't participate.  (But I emailed the leader expressing interest and my hope that they'd schedule them again.)

This week, I went to one, a screening of the movie 13th with a discussion afterwards.  I didn't really learn new stuff at the movie, but it did a good job putting all the pieces together.  The discussion afterwards was shallow mostly, though my small group included a colleague who's disabled, and they were really knowledgeable about some issues, and a student nurse who was also interesting and helpful.

I've signed up for a couple more, one on American Indian issues, which should be really interesting.  

If all goes to plan, I should finish 5 of these this year.  

The film thing was tiring.  I can't pretend that watching a film that's depressing and infuriating is anything like being oppressed by the issues in the film.  Still, it was tiring in a way that didn't leave me feeling like there's anything meaningful I can do.


Once again, Friday was a day of meetings, and left me feeling drained.  We had a lovely personnel meeting, one of those meetings where you talk about how tenure-track colleagues are progressing to decide if you want to vote for their reappointment.  Our tenure-track colleagues are stellar, so it's actually quite pleasant talking about them and trying to make our committee letter provide the best support for our decision to go up the line that we can.

But then we had a union exec council meeting, and that was frustrating.  The president is a good guy, but not especially good at running a meeting, so things just wander all over the place, and I don't keep focused well.  We're prepping for working on a membership drive.  It's necessary, but, well, frustrating.  Last year, before I joined the exec council, they decided to have a "friends" category of people who were interested, but who didn't want to pay the nearly $50 a month membership dues, most of which go to the state and national union offices, and which don't seem to benefit us locally.  (It may be worth reminding readers that state law means that unions for state employees--except for police and firefighters--aren't allowed to do much collective action.)

Me, I think we should really encourage people to join as friends.  It puts them on our email list and could help with getting out the vote sorts of actions.  And that's really what I think the local focus should be.  We could work with the local union temple to contribute to phone banks and so forth.

I think there are a lot of people locally who are frustrated by what's happening, who'd like to feel like they're contributing to something bigger, but who don't have/want to spend $50 a month out of their already slim paycheck.

Anyway, the president put together an interest sheet, basically a piece of paper with some categories that people could check if they're interested in that aspect of the union, and then put their name and contact info, and we'll get back to them.

Political activity wasn't on the list.  And the president wanted to put "union solidarity" instead, but I don't think most people would think of that as political activity.

And then someone said they didn't think it was the union's job to get out the vote, and I said that's traditionally been a big part of union activities in the US.

So, I got them to put a political activity check thing on the paper.

The president wanted to put together a folder thing, with the logo and such, so that we could hand it out to people.  The problem is, what we do with folders is stick them somewhere and forget about them, or throw them out.  And they're really expensive.  So we could spend a lot of money to produce future recycling paper stuffs.  Ugh.

And everything has the university branding thing, which the university paid lots of money for a few years ago, and which has been pretty much universally mocked by everyone across campus.  Using the branding makes us look 1) co-opted, and 2) naïve,  It would also take one person who didn't like the things we're saying/doing to get the university to have its lawyer send us a letter to get us to stop using the logo.  So far, the university administration has been pretty reasonable about the union, but one loud complaint could easily change that.

I really need something that feels like my actions matter in a positive way.  But for now, I need to go push snow around and then grade.


  1. Wow. I didn't know that Fie had been denied tenure. (She's taken down her blog at this point.) That's terrible news.

    1. What Now - I had to take it down. I’d been threatened a few times recently, saying people were going to out who I was. Feel free to add me on FB or Twitter if you know who I am. Or if you want to email me, my fie email still works. fieuponthisquietlife at gmail.