Letter to the editor: thoughts on contract negotiations, Labor Day


Photo courtesy of Eileen Johnson

Oakland University Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Organizational Leadership Eileen Johnson.

Eileen Johnson, Contributor

As a long-time faculty member, I am relieved that our negotiations with administration have been temporarily resolved. We faculty want nothing more than to commence with the fall 2021 semester and the courses we have planned for our students, the programs we have developed, and the initiatives we have begun. Our work never ceases because we love what we do. So that leads me to want to address my opinion on something I think has been lost in the media campaigns that have been launched from one camp to the other. Let’s be clear about one thing: no one is living large at OU. We are and have always been and hopefully always will be a non-profit organization that is dedicated to higher education. Our administrators do work hard and long hours and for far less compensation than they could receive in the private sector.

What was at stake and that was perhaps lost in all of the social media frenzy is the fact that OU has consistently and repeatedly, for fifteen years, bemoaned the anticipated loss of incoming students due to population decreases in college-aged students and shortages of labor in lucrative vocational/technical fields along with slashed state-funding for higher education. These concerns were and are valid. The point is that it was the administration’s duty and primary purpose to plan for this expected enrollment issue. Yet the administration failed to plan appropriately as it should have, and this was used against the faculty as if we somehow could control any of these variables. It was the administration of OU that failed to properly address this known looming issue and it was the OU administration that continued to increase student tuition while simultaneously increasing administrative bloat. The solution was apparently to attempt to balance the budget on the backs of OU faculty and staff.

What was also at stake were issues of shared governance in the very fabric of our beloved OU. Administrators tend to come and go, and the average time of their stay is, I believe, something on the order of 4-5 years. But it is the faculty, the students, the alumni, and the surrounding community who are the beating hearts and soul of Oakland University. We exist in perpetuity. Without us, there is no Oakland University. Without us, the vision and mission of our original benefactor, Matilda Dodge Wilson, would have been lost long ago.

Therefore, on this Labor Day weekend, let us all take a moment to reflect on what the holiday means, what fair labor relations require, and of what one would think should be one of the final bastions of egalitarianism, equity, and shared governance: the public university.