Letter to the editor: I am genuinely worried for the state of the university

Oakland+University+Associate+Professor+of+Creative+Writing+in+the+English+Department+David+Shaerf.

Photo courtesy of David Shaerf.

Oakland University Associate Professor of Creative Writing in the English Department David Shaerf.

David Shaerf, Contributor

To the members of the OU student community, 

As you may be aware at this point, amidst tense contract negotiations, the Oakland University administration have shown their true, profiteering colors. Their offer to the university faculty, your professors, intends to severely cut our health benefits as well as our ability to self-govern. The package that they have offered is downright insulting and quite a few of my esteemed colleagues have written letters to the Oakland Post detailing the ways in which the administration is doing you a huge disservice in their treatment of faculty. Simply put, if the administration has their way, your degree’s value will diminish as Oakland University’s national reputation spirals downward. 

Allow me to get personal about this: I love being a professor- it’s more than a job; it’s a large part of my identity. I am not alone in this, I am certain. We love what we do and we love seeing students thrive. What this means is that the ‘job’ becomes so much more than a ‘nine-to-five’- professors are committed to academia and to making OU the best university it can be. I cannot stress enough how deeply invested professors are in student success (not just academic success, but often in life-success outside course work). A university, after all, is so much more than just a bunch of classes. The campus environment comes from the students and the faculty working together to make this community thrive. It’s a vocation for so many of us, and we love to do it.  

Regardless of the outcome of this current negotiation, I am genuinely worried for the state of the university moving forward. The administration has made clear their palpable contempt for the faculty of this university, and I am concerned that the negative impact of this moment will be long-lasting if not completely irreparable. Professor morale and commitment to this institution could not be lower. When I accepted a position here at Oakland one of the most striking aspects of this institution was how committed OU professors were to campus life – going far above and beyond what is required to ensure that students thrive. Moving forward, I can imagine professors pulling back, withdrawing from campus life. So many professors have given so much of their time and energy to OU and what is clear is that the administration is willfully blind to this. They may say that the aim is to make OU the “university of choice”, but the administration is actually just concerned with the profits they stand to make. 

The scorn that the administration has shown to the faculty is directly related to you. The marketing department will tell you to “unlock your potential and revolutionize your future” at OU, but what they really seek to do is maximize profit margins through exploiting the people that do the work of the university. 

If you share faculty concerns in this moment and want to preserve all that makes Oakland University a great place to learn, please make your voices heard. You can contact the board of trustees and the office of the president to make sure they know that students and faculty are in this together.

David Shaerf is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing in the English Department. Letters to the editor can be submitted to [email protected]