Photo courtesy of Felicia Krol
To President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, Joshua Merchant, Britt Rios-Ellis, and the Board of Trustees:
I’m writing to express my disappointment and horror at the treatment of Oakland University faculty in regards to the recent contract negotiations. I am an OU alum and take a great deal of pride in being so; I remain connected to the campus community and have readily sung the praises of this institution to anyone who has expressed interest in enrolling. My own experiences as an OU student overwhelmingly form the basis for this. During my time at the university, I was consistently encouraged, inspired, and challenged in the best of ways. I felt an unparalleled sense of belonging and a reginited faith in myself. I discovered, after years of uncertainty, the foundation upon which I wanted to build the rest of my life. My enrollment at this school was the single best decision I have made to date, and everything that has happened since–my graduate degree, my career, my writing and publications and confidence in my work–is a direct result of my time there.
I want to be clear: This is not a commendation of you, the recipient of this letter. My debt of gratitude for the aforementioned life-changing gains is not owed to the President, the Provost, or the Board of Trustees. The people who are granted the most superfluous salaries played no role in helping me to envision or secure my future. The people who did–the professors I had–are, I’m sure you’re aware, presently engaged in a standoff over the most basic, bare-minimum compensation for their labor. This is unconscionable.
Having experienced the rise of Covid through the lens of my own position in academia, I am intimately familiar with the enormous strain these past couple years have put on educators. The administration should be offering their faculty more, not less. They form, not only the backbone, but the entire skeletal system of this school. The work they do is the whole point. The sacrifices they make–and there are many–are what keep the money pouring in for the rest of you. On the best of days, they are not compensated nearly enough. And yet, their’s is a labor of love–they carry on regardless, investing more time and energy into their students than most people can imagine. If you subtract that from the equation, what do any of us have left?
This issue does not cast Oakland University in a favorable light. And to be blunt, it’s not the first time this school has raised eyebrows in regards to misdirection of profits. People still haven’t forgotten about that lavish 2016 trip to Florida that, incidentally, followed a tuition hike. I’d think that this administration would prefer to set itself apart from President Hynd’s, rather than repeat the same outrageous mistakes.
I am still–and probably forever–paying for my education at Oakland. The student loans that allowed me to get through school, at this point, far exceed what I’m even capable of envisioning. The amount of money this university siphons from its students is astronomical–and I’m well aware that the very people who are directly responsible for my education, and that of countless others, will never see it. We’ve been societally conditioned to accept this, in spite of its sheer absurdity. But even by those standards, this is crossing a line. This is greedy and exploitative. It’s insulting–not just to our educators, but to the student body you claim to serve. A vital wire of trust has snapped. And you, the ones in power, must begin the work of rebuilding it. There is no alternative.
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