Photo courtesy of Shea Socrates
To President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, Chief of Staff Joshua Merchant, Provost Britt Rios-Ellis, and the Board of Trustees:
My name is Shea Socrates, and I am going into my final year as a proud Music Education & Guitar Performance Major.
At this point, enough graphs and statistical data have been shared through articles, emails, and social media posts. I’m going to focus on the human aspect and human toll of the university’s actions. The greed is obvious—the cruelty is all that’s left to unveil behind Oz’s curtain. The truth is: Oz himself wasn’t as big as he seemed, either.
How do we quantify the work of a professor? How do we place a value on what they do? Can we really give a dollar figure for the time that our professors give us? And the quality of that time?
The lying and the gaslighting from the school’s communications have been corrosive beyond comprehension. I no longer love or trust this institution. The whole is no longer greater than the sum of its parts. Rather, I simply love its parts—the professors.
My professors at Oakland are some of the most compassionate individuals I have ever met in my life. I have endured a lot of personal grief during my time as a student at Oakland, and the most generous and compassionate acts during those humongously low points—in and outside of the classroom—were gifted to me by my professors. The professors, not the administration, gave me the will and the reason to continue taking on debt and spending my money for Oakland. Encouragement, emotional support, money, meals—they gave me all of this, whether I asked for it or not. My professors were there for me. At this point, they are family to me.
I can only hope to be an educator like them, and to—most of all—carry on the kind of resilience that they have demonstrated recently.
By not giving in to the union demands, you are not only literally robbing these professors—unique, talented individuals with families and dreams of retirement—you are saying “we don’t want you.” I would not be where I am and so close to the finish line if not for those individuals. Without them, you are robbing students like me of the opportunity and empowerment to complete their degree. Does the college value students like me or not? The answer, it seems, is a cold and bureaucratic “no.”
I ask you, emphatically: how could you do this to them?
How do you put a value to their actions? By giving them what the union is demanding.
The continued work to commodify education further is not surprising, but it is disappointing. By draining students of funds and drowning them in evergreen debt, while undervaluing the individuals who do the actual labor of educating, you are creating an immediately unfavorable situation for yourselves. This is exactly how to radicalize a workforce and a population, let alone incur damage to the school’s reputation and donor base.
The situation is, at best, disheartening. At worst, it’s dehumanizing.
Am I surprised by the decisions of a Board of Trustees with ties to the previous gubernatorial administration? A government administration that poisoned Flint and tried to bury their responsibility in all of that? An administration that successfully led legislation to weaken worker’s unions in a state that was once considered the union capital of the country? No.
What kind of leadership has been thrust on us?
Oxygen levels decrease the farther we go into the atmosphere—logic, critical thinking, and brain function all diminish the higher one climbs. I wonder how tall the Ivory Tower goes, and if someone should check on the Board of Trustees.
My eye is on September 16th, the add/drop deadline. I pray the college finds some wisdom before that date. I’m sure you can borrow some from your professors.