Photo courtesy of Amandalynne Perzyk
Dearest Friends and Colleagues,
I have taken some time to think about the current situation regarding the financial “negotiations” for the up and coming school year at Oakland University. I find myself at a loss for words to adequately describe my severe disappointment for the administration that I hail from as an alumni. The recent news this morning has those feelings doubled, as the pending union strike will be overlooked due to a University bastardizing the fight for proper terms, benefits, and financial stability required to function. Unfortunately, I am not surprised. Teachers are often overlooked, underpaid, and disrespected, yet expected to teach the future generations under any circumstance…pandemic and school shootings included. I am appalled to see the magnitude to which this has escalated, that will ultimately affect the livelihood of the faculty, their families, and the overall success for the students who have been caught in the middle of this disastrous administrative failure.
Administrative failures that seem to have progressed since my time at the University. I had my fair share of serious turmoil dealing with an administration that has proven time, and time again, they care more about money, than the community to which they are intended to support.
This is OU? On The contrary..I think not.
I am a firm believer that you are a product of the company and environment one is surrounded by, both positive and negative. It is part of the growing experience in life.
To put my story into perspective; I was accepted to both OU and Eastman School of Music. It was expected of me to choose Eastman, however I chose OU. For many reasons, but mainly just one…my voice teacher, Dr. Alta Dantzler. I can proudly and honestly say with my whole being, that I would not be the person, musician, student, friend, wife etc, if not for the undying love and support that this wonderful being has for her students. Dr. Drake Dantzler, who gave me the chance to express myself in opera workshops and the yearly Opera. Showing my classmates a true experience on how shows should be run, with organization and proper schedules, and how the biggest part about being a great performer besides presentation, is being prepared. Professor Shively, who always pushed and encouraged my academics, discovering my learning disability, and assisting other personal hardships. How personal musicianship is directly linked to music theory and history and how that can transcend into performance. Must I forget Dr. Mitchell, who conducts his choirs with dedication and passion unrivaled by any conductor I have worked with since. Dr. Hoag, whom I did not personally have a class with, but her reputation and genius in the theory community always found a way into the classroom. Professor Soroka and her MacGamut woes, and office hour sessions. Dr. Kidger and his vast and brilliant library of historical knowledge. The entire faculty, accompanist, and production staff that did absolutely everything in their power to make things run. A community of teachers who personally saw to the success of students willing and able to learn through advocating and encouragement. To which lengths I could never fully express my gratitude, and it continues to humble me to this day. A family that took my passion for music, and made it burn even more.
This is OU. This is what OU means to me and my classmates.
I cannot speak for other departments. But I can speak about my department that is dedicated to the preservation of art, culture, music history and performance. These individuals are absolutely invaluable to the music community and the future of this culture in our society. My teachers help students become quality musicians and people for the world to see. There was never a moment when we did not work. It was tough. You show up, do the work, succeed or fail. And if you did happen to fail, which I admit I failed Theory 1 and 4, I was not then met with a closed door and cold shoulder. I was met with positive reinforcement and confidence that I could return and pass tenfold…which I did. Even in my darkest hours, where I felt all was lost and I would never be enough, this group of exceptional individuals time and time again proved to me that I am enough. As a community of departments working together as a family. I have continued to carry this work ethic, and high standard for education and advocating for myself and others into all of my future endeavors.
When applying to this university for my Bachelors degree, I did not know this structure and community was something I needed. Now it is something I strive for.
The idea, or rather fact that the teachers I look up to are being treated with such classless disrespect is unbearable. In recent days many of my former classmates and current students have come forward from multiple departments discussing the effects their educators have and continue to have on their education and development. It truly breaks my heart to imagine all of this dedication to one’s craft and risks involved during the pandemic that teachers across the globe have risen above to meet. The extra work that already goes off the financial books that is being desecrated. Benefits that should be a given, now stripped. A clear lack of disposition among administrators who seem to have forgotten that without teachers, there are no students, to which there is no establishment.
Some of the terms that have been in place for forty years, are having a direct effect on the livelihood of both students, teachers and their families. I know many of my teacher’s children. Some I sang at their christening, worked with, or I have known since their infancy and assisted with childcare. It is heartbreaking to think about the repercussions this catastrophe will cause possible future students to this establishment.
All of this must not have been under consideration during board meetings for the fiscal year, to which the teachers and their student body must suffer. Consequence that could have been avoided, if a portion of empathy and togetherness was considered in addition to making financial advancements. What a shame. Do better. It is imperative to the future of education at this university, to be not only the voice of change, but the force of change. Maintain a level of respect and dignity, that does not require undue stress and disgrace on all parties involved in the pillars of success required in education.
To the administration: It never ceases to amaze me, the level of disappointment and shame you continue to bring forth upon this establishment. My Uncle attended your school. My husband’s father attended your school along with his brother, and my friends. My husband is also a graduate from Oakland University circa 2015, and now serves in the United States Military Band. He stated today, after this abomination of “negotiations”, that he will no longer consider donating to this institution. An institution that we love, that has officially lost what little respect that we once had. I would love to send my children to our alma mater, but I cannot allow an administration as degrading as this one, to affect anymore lives that it already has.
To my mentors:
It pains me, in an already difficult time of pandemic and political uncertainty, that you now find yourselves in a worse position than last year. Your efforts to maintain a higher standard, and healthy learning environment have not gone unnoticed. The risks you have taken during the pandemic to do your job appropriately, have not gone unnoticed to those who do support you. I apologize for the disrespect upon what you have worked so hard to build, during a time that requires more togetherness and understanding. I am not a teacher, nor am I directly involved in this crisis. However, we will never forget the value of your impression on our journey’s as young artists in this big world. I will never forget your value, and what you have taught me. Thank you for everything you have done for us…for me.
Know your worth and fight. We stand with you.
This is OU.