Letter to the editor: President Pescovitz, this is your moment

Oakland University Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice Albert Jay Meehan.

Photo courtesy of American Sociology Association

Oakland University Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice Albert Jay Meehan.

To President Ora Pescovitz,

This is your moment as President of OU.

I am beginning my 34th year as a faculty member at OU. I have witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly at Oakland. I have dedicated my time these many years to be the best professor I could be whether in the classroom, through my research or in service to my department, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the University and community writ large. In sum, I am your typical OU professor.  

You are the 8th President during my time here, not to mention the too numerous to count Provosts and Deans: one year I stopped counting at 20. The administrative class in higher education comes and goes in turn-style fashion, making many promises, sharing their vision of an Oakland that somehow those of us who have been here doing the job can’t see. 

A part of your vision, shared with the university community in your “job talk” and restated numerous times since, was a laudable commitment to the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  One that was rooted in a deeply personal and biographical origin. Like many, I believed you might just be the “real” deal. Maybe, just maybe, our time had come. The implied, if not expressed, promise was that you would not simply talk the talk, but walk the walk. As you recently wrote in your 1/18/21 Keeper of the Dream remarks:

“While we honor the ideals of democracy, we must confront the many racial, social, economic and cultural inequities plaguing our society. That challenge is at the heart of Dr. King’s timeless message. In other words, it’s not enough to share in the common values of justice and fairness, you must be willing to speak out and stand up for what is right and just.”

Indeed.  This is your moment as President of OU.

Your faculty is currently in a labor dispute with our Board of Trustees.  You need look no further than to Dr. King’s words to understand what is happening at OU.  It is an encapsulation of the economic struggle that all workers face, but especially those who would dare form unions to advance civil and job rights. As quoted in an AFL/CIO blog by Berry Craig:

Dr. King saw the civil rights movement and the union movement as natural allies.

“As I have said many times, and believe with all my heart, the coalition that can have the greatest impact in the struggle for human dignity here in America is that of the Negro and the forces of labor, because their fortunes are so closely intertwined,” he said.

Dr. King warned that enemies of racial justice were also enemies of unions: “The labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.”

He denounced “right to work” laws as a scam: “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.

“Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone.…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer, and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”




You are well aware that our current Chair of Oakland’s Board of Trustees is acknowledged as one of the architects of Michigan’s “right to work” law. Make no mistake here. This contract dispute is not just about the dollars. Anyone with a sense of history, knows what time this is. The principled fight here is much larger. It is about respect. It is about fairness and equity. Abstract terms become quite concrete in important moments. Recently the Board of Trustee renewed your contract. You know how that felt–now put yourself in our shoes.

Where is your voice? 

Where is that legacy of Dr. King you have so proudly worn?

What kind of leader will you be now for OU? 

This is your moment.



Albert Jay Meehan

Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice