Looking Back: Detroit Newspaper employees picket against hiring of professor

Bridget Janis, Managing Editor

In October 1998, Detroit Newspaper workers disagreed with Oakland University’s staff picks and believed they were harming students’ education.

About 40 Detroit Newspaper workers picketed outside out South Foundation Hall (SFH) to protest a journalism class taught by former Detroit Free Press Publisher Neal Shine.

Five to six Detroit Newspaper workers’ picket signs expressed their feelings, saying Shine was a hypocrite. They barged into the classroom and started yelling. The students were arguing back, and a protester and a student even got into a fist fight.

Shine was one of the 88 Free Press executives who warned strikers they would be replaced if they did not return to their duties in August 1995. In 1997, the National Labor Relations Board ruled the warning as a threat and was under appeal at that time. This was one of the main reasons the pickets were claiming Shine had violated federal law.

The organizer of the protest was the Metro Council of Newspaper Workers Justice committee. The point was to show OU they were in the wrong for having Shine as a professor and to inform the students.

According to the OU Administrative Policies and Procedures handbook, “No person shall assemble with others on the campus in any matter which causes or contributes a disturbance, noise, riot, obstruction or disruption (of) the free, normal and uninterrupted use of the campus for educational programs, business activities, related residential food service, and recreational activities.”

This section of the handbook was brought up when discussing the protest and its actions.

Some Oakland University Police Department (OUPD) members believe there was a confusion between the rights of students and the assembly rights of pickets, according to then Lt. Mel Gilroy. The only thing police found that was against the handbook was the protesters’ use of bullhorns, which they did stop using after being notified. Throughout the protest, police were also carefully watching from a parking lot located across from SFH.

“This man should not be teaching media ethics,” Chris Manolas, one of the picketers and former editorial assistant at the Free Press said.

Many newspaper workers felt Shine and his actions during the long-lasting and controversial strike of the Detroit Newspaper Works years prior should have led to him not being able to teach.

OU officials at the time came to an agreement that the picketing was an acceptable form of protest. Since the pickets left the classroom before the OUPD arrived, the police were not able to make an arrest.

OU members all had different responses to the event. Some supported the strike from the beginning while others saw it as unacceptable.

Sharon Howell, a communication professor, was in full encouragement of what the protest stood for. She saw this as a way for them to receive public forum on campus. The only thing she didn’t like about that day was the way the police allowed the pickets to get away with barging into a classroom.

The protesters were standing up for what they felt strongly about. While some people saw this as an invasion, others saw it as a right they had.