I graduated from Oakland University for the first time in 2014. I earned my bachelor’s degree there, went on to teach high school, continued teaching while earning my master’s at Michigan State, then decided this past summer to return to Oakland for another degree (just for fun). I truly loved Oakland while I was there: I lived on campus and worked for Housing, worked in the Disability Support Services office, and was greatly involved in the English department through organizations I was on the executive board for, like Sigma Tau Delta. Oakland was my home for years, and a place where I learned so much and became who I am and continue to be.
I’m incredibly disappointed in the lack of commitment administration gives to Oakland University staff and faculty. Oakland University’s professors are the best, and the things I can tell you about how much they have helped me personally and professionally might astound you (or might not – I hope hearing of their excellency doesn’t surprise you. I hope that this is something you already know). When my car was in a fatal accident with two other students in it in 2011, Bailey McDaniel was the rock that guided Sigma through that traumatic year. Whenever there was a possible job opportunity for Teaching ESL, Rebecca Gaydos was in my email letting me know. When I was at the Michigan Council of Teachers of English conference in Lansing after I graduated, guess who I saw there? None other than Amanda Stearns-Pfeiffer, a former professor of mine who I was lucky to catch up with. Even now, as I plan to return to Oakland, Annie Gilson has hopped on multiple calls on weekends or weekday evenings to talk about my unusual schedule with me and offer me assistance; this is only the tip of the iceberg. I could tell you about Jeff Insko, Kevin Grimm, and so many others too.
I am also a teacher: I teach high school for Detroit Public Schools and we are going through our own contract negotiations as one of the historically lowest paid districts in the area. Teachers don’t get enough credit; they don’t get enough support; they don’t get enough pay, so you bet that I support Oakland University’s staff and faculty one hundred percent. There is absolutely no reason Oakland administration should be fighting against these people; they are doing the university’s job. They are building relationships with your students. They are the reason I decided to come back. I don’t have to return. I don’t need a Creative Writing degree. I don’t need to give Oakland another $20,000+ for anything. I’m returning because of the professors. Because of the students. Because of the community they’ve built and how it will enrich my life.
I have fond memories of Oakland University, and I hope that this administration does not continue to low-ball their employees and diminish that. I don’t want to return if the professors are gone. I don’t want to return if it seems that they aren’t important to the school. When I attended Oakland the first time, the thing I loved most about it was the community. I don’t want them to tear that apart.
Ultimately, administration needs to listen to the people who matter and take care of them. That’s largely what students, alumni, faculty, and everyone else is asking, and as an alumna, stakeholder, and returning student, that’s what I ask of them too. I like to hope, deep down inside, that that is what they want as well, and just maybe they are for some reason being misunderstood. If that is the case, I request that they work harder at listening to professors and make them feel appreciated. It seems, however, that this is not the case and administration has different priorities that don’t represent most of the Oakland community.
I truly hope that this ends in everyone’s best interest, which is ultimately taking care of staff and faculty.