Letter to the Editor: UW-W faculty must learn, organize

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April 5, 2016

I would like to respond to Chris Henige’s letter from last week. According to him, there has been a universal failure of faculty governance at every level and at every position for several years. If such dereliction of duties and dismissals of due diligence are indeed true, then I certainly understand his frustrations. However, I find it unfortunate that he did not offer a solution to the problem.

If we don’t take this step, then even an eloquently stated miscarriage of justice may become tarnished. With such a blemish, reactions to the issue may vary widely while missing the point of the initial complaint. For instance, it can be pointed out that after four years of such issues, the professor Chris Henige still has a job at UW-W; the same result, however, can’t be said for a number of university staff who had similar issues.

Such a reaction can lead to more discrepancies among UW-W employees based upon their positions: we custodians at Upham Hall don’t have a break room. We eat wherever we can sit; the same custodians don’t have a computer to do any work such as filling out time sheets, but rather we use whatever computer is available; Academic Department Associates (ADA) start at four dollars more per hour than custodians, so even though I have worked here for nearly a decade there are four ADAs in my building who make three and a half dollars more per hour than I do; in fact, thanks to the extremely biased merit raises from a few years ago, there are several custodians in my own work zone who are paid over a dollar more an hour than I am even though they haven’t worked here half as long as I have.

But where does this get us? It’s true that such reactions may create more conversations about UW-W, which in turn, may lead to more transparency in the hopes of change. But oh yeah, what about Chris?

I do have one solution for the professors: unionize. It has indeed become clear that the governance groups of the past few years do not have enough power to act upon their own. One could argue that governance groups have worked well in the past on UW campuses, but that was when campuses had the strength of unions and pro-labor state laws.

The best solution I see at the moment is to start organizing. At the very least, such an act allows professors – and all employees – to embrace the spirit of the UW System. That is, “that the great State University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.” Start acting, start organizing, start learning, and start searching for that truth which can set us free.

Jeff Ehren

Custodian, UW-W