Letter to the editor: OU community, I’m asking you to continue to fight

Over the past week, I’ve read with great interest what the OU
community has had to say about the recent contract negotiations
between the school and teachers’ union. I love all of the heartfelt
appeals to President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, Provost Britt Rios-Ellis,
Chief of Staff Joshua Merchant, and the Board of Trustees. I truly
hope that these administration leaders read them, as well as this, and
that they take them to heart before doing what’s right and agreeing to
the terms proposed by the AAUP.

As an Oakland University student and as someone hoping to be a teacher
myself one day, I am proud of the eloquence and civility with which
the OU community has called for action. But I’m also angry.

The realities of public negotiations and personal relations mean that
we as a community have been responding to deeply offensive conduct as
if it is an in-class hypothetical for us to either defend or oppose.
Many of the writings I’ve read in The Oakland Post as well as on
Twitter have made stellar points about how the administration’s
proposals would be incredibly harmful to the entire OU community. But
those same writings ultimately give off the impression that this is a
polite disagreement instead of the severe threat to teachers’ lives
that it is. The administration wants to severely reduce employer
contributions to things like retirement benefits in the same week that
CNN reported that Social Security will have to cut benefits by over
20% by 2034. They want to give teachers salaries that increase at
rates slower than the cost of living, as well as cut summer teaching
pay for most faculty, at a time when it’s normal for special lecturers
(of which there are over 250 at OU) to take on more teaching jobs
elsewhere to supplement their low income. They want to cut everyone’s
healthcare during a global pandemic.

This is not a good-faith argument we are getting from the
administration. It’s an act of depravity, and I’m pissed off about it.

Sooner or later, whether it be through compromise or force, the
administration will find a way to come to terms on a new contract. And
it is their complete and total belief that once that happens,
everything will proceed as normal. But the faculty, which students see
working tirelessly and selflessly every semester, will have to move
forward knowing they’re working for an administration that forced them
to fight to be treated with basic human decency. Even if the
administration agreed right now to everything the AAUP has proposed,
it wouldn’t change that we all saw them try to use the grief and
confusion of a global pandemic as a smokescreen they could hide behind
while gutting faculty contracts so they could add to the already
bloated administration payroll. All the while raising the price of

It’s frankly crass, and more than a little nauseating. And it feels
like the kind of thing you should respond to with impassioned,
expletive-laden tirades, not carefully worded letters. Yet here I am,
writing a carefully written letter of my own. I’m not so stubborn that
I can’t understand why it is that we have to keep a level head and act
with care. I’m just frustrated by the indignity of it all.

So in this letter I’m not appealing to the President to do the right
thing—I’ve already done so in a private email. Instead I’m appealing
to all of you in the OU community. I’m asking you to continue to fight
for what’s right, yes, but also to get angry. To take a moment, if you
haven’t already, to become furious about the indecency of it all and
to lose yourself in that anger, if only for a second, so that you can
remember it when all of this is over and the administration would like
nothing more than for you to forget.

Then—once you’re sure you’ll remember—take a breath, focus up, and get
ready for another day on the picket line. I’ll be right there with
you, ready to fight for what’s right with eloquence and civility.


Ivan Martinez