Letter to the editor: regarding contract negotiations and the treatment of OU faculty

Oakland+University+student+Iyla+Miller.

Photo courtesy of Iyla Miller

Oakland University student Iyla Miller.

Iyla Miller, Contributor

To President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, Chief of Staff Joshua Merchant, Provost Britt Rios-Ellis, and the Board of Trustees:

I am writing this to express my grave disappointment in the actions of Oakland University. The treatment of the faculty during the ongoing negotiations is quite appalling, and as a current student, I feel incredibly betrayed and disheartened. After reading the articles and letters in the Oakland Post, the AAUP Bargaining Diary, and hearing about the negotiations from the faculty themselves, I became extremely concerned about the wellbeing of my professors and for the upcoming academic year. Many of the professors I know have been excited to teach again, and want nothing more than to be there for their students. On top of this, many students have been eagerly waiting for the semester to begin, myself included. It breaks my heart to see the spirits of both students and faculty alike dwindle due to the disturbing actions the university is taking.

When I officially decided to start my academic career at Oakland University in 2017, it was due to the experiences I had with the faculty while I was still in high school. As an aspiring music student, I met many different faculty members. I took private lessons from them, observed classes run by them during the Music Major for a Day event, attended concerts they put together, and even had music faculty come to my high school as guest artists. Every interaction I had with the faculty from here was positive, and it sealed my decision to attend this school. The professors in the music department demonstrated brilliance as educators, musicians, and as people; the faculty were who inspired me to pursue a degree in Music Education and Music Performance at this institution in the first place.

All four years I have attended Oakland University have been full of amazing experiences and opportunities because of the support and dedication from the professors I have had. As with many other students and alumni have already stated, I attribute the phenomenal education and compassionate treatment I have received to the faculty of Oakland University, not the Board of Trustees, the President, nor any of the Provosts. The faculty work incredibly hard to ensure the quality of our education and are who make the learning environment at Oakland University so special. Students don’t attend a university because of the administration. However, students, faculty, and the community will stop supporting a university because of the actions of their administration. The foundation of this institution is built from the dedication and hard work of the faculty, and without them, the infrastructure will crumble underneath us. 

The nature of the negotiations between the AAUP and the Board of Trustees has been made clear to the public. We have observed the impact of these negotiations and bore witness to the strain on the relationship between the faculty and the university, and we stand with our professors. The terms that Oakland University and its Board of Trustees have offered to the AAUP and the professors are insulting and blatantly disrespectful. Oakland University has forgotten one of the pivotal aspects of what a university is, and they have lost sight of what is most important: providing education. A university should be a place that harbors quality education and allows students and faculty to flourish. A university should not be a business that is used to line the pockets of the administration. However, Oakland has not only been raising tuition rates for students who have lost tremendously throughout the global pandemic, but is now demanding to strip faculty of the benefits and pay they need in order to support their families.

The longer the Board of Trustees fights against respecting the faculty of Oakland University, the more respect they will lose from the community. This has already begun; people have started to advise prospective students and those searching for collegiate teaching opportunities to avoid applying to Oakland University. People are noticing how appalling the actions of the Board of Trustees have been, and how deep their lack of compassion is. Students, alumni, the faculty, and members of the communities around Oakland University are severely disappointed in what has happened thus far. The majority of us refuse to support and be associated with this type of behavior. With everything they have done for me and this community, I will stand in solidarity with my professors without a second thought. I sincerely hope that the university will do the same.

Thank you for your time and understanding,

Iyla Miller

Letters to the editor can be submitted to [email protected]