Given the fact that I’ve been urging faculty and students to contact you for about two months, it’s ironic that I’m only now writing to you myself. However, as I was prepping a session for my “Literature of the Enlightenment” class on the Declaration of Independence, I was struck by its characterization of oppressed people trying to free themselves from an unjust government. Even more, I was struck by how it was a last effort by a group of people to get an authority figure, George III of England, to come to a fair agreement with them.
Though I don’t want to push the analogy between the colonists and our current contract negotiations too far (analogies are always tricky), I think parts of it are apt here. The colonists considered themselves on the same team as King George: they thought of themselves as British. We hope that the PASSHE Chancellor and the PASSHE faculty have the same goals: success for our students. Colonists had tried to work out their differences with the government in Britain, such as asking for representation in Parliament and resenting oppressive measures from afar, but each attempt was met with inaction and disdain: “Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury.” Further, King George had stalled the colonists, “for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.” Sadly, faculty feel similarly.
They began to set deadlines, which the King ignored. Your state faculty find themselves in the same position: our contract provides deadlines, and you have ignored them, as faculty have been ready to negotiate at least a year before our contract expired. Faculty tell students they must meet deadlines all the time. Our institutions kick students out if they miss certain or too many deadlines. So the other irony of our current situation is that you are insisting that students do something that you have not done yourself. Students are suffering because those who should know better are not meeting basic professional responsibilities.
Tomorrow, a huge deadline approaches. You have the fate of our state system “nation” in your hands. Will you negotiate fairly? Will you provide a reasonable, fair contract that does not take away governance from faculty and treats them all equally, with dignity and respect?
The faculty’s declaration is clear: we are standing up for our students, our colleagues, and the future of the state system of higher education. We hope that you will do the same.