Hello at almost midnight on a Friday night,
The phrase of “when you least expect it, expect it.” something I used to say to others as a sort of admonishment or a tongue-in-cheek warning per se had come to roost today with an unbelievable vengeance. For the last two years, more off than on, I have had a sensitivity in one my upper molars, but with a tripe root canal and crown was assured that tooth could no longer be a site from which I should experience pain. There was just one issue, I had pain and the pain had become quite unbearable. So an emergency trip to the dentist after hours lead to a trip to an endodontist and an initial cut into my upper gum is leading to another more extensive cut into the gum and a surgery to seal root canals from the top down. However, that is next week’s fun and games. There is so much to manage before then. Yesterday I was speaking with one of my colleagues (one of my closest and longest-known colleagues) and he said when I retired it would take three people to cover what I have been covering. I am not sure that is entirely true, but it was quite a compliment. It does seem that things are only getting busier, they are not slowing down. However, I feel like I am falling short and should be doing more work. I think my reason for such a response is there is always more we can be doing. I also understand the dilemma in that statement, but we are not put on this earth to see how little we can do. That is certainly an option, but when we refuse to do our best, people have not sense of what our best is, and neither do we.
The other day I noted in my Facebook posting that I knew it would all get done, but I had no idea how. It seems the end of every semester is there. I am not sure how it happens, but it does. I wish the misperception that we only are contracted 17 hours a week was really the case sometimes. I do understand that this is the idea that we are only contractually obligated in a certain place at a certain time has a modicum of truthfulness, but that is certainly not how we manage our positions. It is as another colleague noted today (and as Martin Luther noted so eloquently over 500 years ago), there is certainly a difference between a job and a vocation. Dr. John W. Nielsen, with whom I had a wonderful opportunity to speak a few weeks ago, once noted the difference between a professor and a teacher. While teaching is about a classroom and how we impart knowledge, a professor is about a lifestyle and what we do with every ounce of our fiber. It is not what we do, it is who we are. During this past week there was a legislative assembly for the faculty union. While I know the view of unions (and understandably so) is varied, there is a lot a opinions regarding the efficacy of the union structure. If one returns to the reason for the development of unions to begin with, not as much has changed as we might like to believe. The reason for unions was to protect the right and safety of the worker. It was because of the greediness of the corporate structure, and, by extension, the greediness of humanity in general. News Flash!! Humans are still greedy, and more and more, the administrators at the top of educational systems (and the Wisconsin System in which I once worked, which is totally off the rails, and the Pennsylvania System in which I currently work seems to want to follow) have decided that education is a f-ing business. When the chancellor can say we are “leaner and meaner,” when he can tout that we are 900 employees less than 8 years ago, but employees refers to faculty, but he refused to refer to us as such, at least at that point, I am sickened. When he thinks somehow 12 credits a semester is enough before a credit-by-tuition kicks in (and it has worked well), when it takes 15 a semester to get to 12o in four years and so you have just raised tuition on the entire student body with no negative consequence (not just to enrollment or retention, but for additional minors or other programs to help a student be more prepared for the 21st century world), I want to sit him down, buy him a Starbucks, even though I have no contract and continue to work, and probably note, “It seems that you neither majored in math or economics.” While he has a degree in education, it is certainly evident by his latest remarks to the Pennsylvania House Budget-Appropriations Hearing, his move toward being an administrator that seems to focus on cost versus quality of education is painfully evident. I am saddened to hear this particular soliloquy about our system. As a faculty person, when the chief academic person of the system seems to be selling the faculty out, it is hurtful. I will admit he is rhetorically astute and says the right things in front of this committee, but there is so much behind what he is saying that is unspoken. I would also note that Pennsylvania has a legislature that is the least educated in the country. That does not bode well for appreciating a college degree or what it takes in anyway shape of form.
In the meanwhile, as seems to be the case, the faculty will be made out from the local paper to the halls in Harrisburg to be the problem children. I do belong to a faculty union called @APSCUF, and I am proud of that membership. I know from working in Wisconsin where a governor and legislature gutted the teaching ranks what can happen. Many will say, “We want too much. We are the greedy.” We are unwilling to work with the system. I am sorry, but I disagree. In our last contract we did not even get a cost of living raise in any year of the contract. We worked for 19 months without a contract. Now we have worked another 10 months without a contract. Where are we the greedy when we come to work each day and we work hard to educate, to work in and out of the classroom, and to make a difference in the lives of so many students? Illustrate or show me where I am being greedy. In the seven years I have been here, I have lost steps, which affect my retirement in three of them. Has that happened to a single administrator? I dare say, “NO!” I am not asking for the moon. I am not asking for less work. I am not asking for anything, save being treated fairly. Contrary to a chancellor’s or provost’s contention, I work more than 17 hours a week. I am, in fact, required by my State Legislature to fill out a semester report to show that I somehow work full-time and I would love for them to follow me around for a week. I know that there are a number of sides to this issue. I know it is complex, but how can we be called a state system when less than one quarter of our funding comes from the state? Since when and how did education become such a thing that it is vilified and treated as an unwanted or ungrateful step-child? That is what it seems. The local paper editor deems it appropriate to post everyone of our salaries in his paper yearly. Certainly I make more money than many, but I have worked hard for my education and what I make certainly is less than many who have less education than I. Again, I am not complaining. I do not begrudge what anyone makes, but it does call into question our priorities. I am a huge Green Bay Packer fan, and will remain so, in spite of this next comment. I believe Aaron Rogers is a phenomenal quarterback, and he seems to also be a very genuine and good person. Yet, is anyone worth his upcoming salary of $19,250,000.00? Yes, you read that number correctly. Again, he has a contract and that is what he is deemed to be worth. Since when is football worth so much more than education. I am not asking for that kind of salary. In fact, if I made that in one year, I would retire, invest and give to charity. I would buy a college in Blair, Nebraska and reopen it somehow
On Friday we had a second meeting of faculty and President Soltz. I ended up getting quoted in the local paper and as I spoke with a number of faculty at a gathering yesterday, the prevailing attitude was one of cautious optimism. I would like to believe and take him at his word as another colleague noted, at yet, another meeting. If we are about educating students, which I believe the great majority of us are, then let’s get on the same page. I am all about accountability, but micromanaging and response that seems (and when that word is a general belief, there is a problem) capricious or misinformed, at best, the consequence is an atmosphere of mistrust. It is pretty much what I see at the federal level with our elected officials. It is this mistrust that leads to frustration or anger and that is what gives rise to the demagoguery of a particular group of people or a candidate who capitalizes on this fear. I am frustrated by a lack of critical thinking that seems to characterize our American public in general. Today . . . yes more time has past since I had the time to write . . . is the primary in New York. I was up until after 11:00 trying to finish up my own taxes last night. I wonder what tomorrow’s headlines will say if the front-runners on both sides win? What will be the spin for the others? Everything is spun in some manner. Perhaps that is life in general. It is a passage of time we try to understand, and something we spin to feel better about that world around us and ourselves. With that in mind, I share a song I remember and appreciate.
Thanks for reading,