Honoring my Father

img_5524

Hello after a day in Harrisburg,

While the state capitol of Pennsylvania is certainly different than most capitol cities I have wandered around, I enjoy it as the political junkie I am and because of the faculty union of which I am proud to be a member. It has been a sort of change for me because, in spite of growing up in a union family ~my father was a strong and adamant supporter of the union movement in the United States and a member of @IBEW231, I understood the reasons for labor unions, but I had a relatively benign attitude. There were times when I struggled to understand his commitment to this labor movement. I remember while in high school, there was a pretty violent strike in my town between the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and Iowa Beef Processors (IBP) packing plant, which was the largest beef meat packing plant in the country at the time. This included brick throwing, fire bombing and other serious harassment. I remember asking him why supporting the union and standing up was such an important thing. He was passionate about those who would have crossed a picket line. I had never really witnessed an angry tone, but it was clearly there in what he had to say at that time.

What I know now, some 43 years later was that he had a reason to stand up for the fairness and appropriateness of a contract and what it meant to be treated with equity and fairness. While I certainly understand that there are two sides to every argument, and there are certainly two positions from which to begin when viewing this argument about our teaching contract (or perhaps there are five -the state system, who desire to be known as the SS, the faculty, including both permanent and adjunct, the students, including current, future, and former, parents of said students, and tax payers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania). I am sort of stunned by some of what is happening, but that is because I still believe in logic and the collective good will of people. This is no longer unfettered idealism, but the simple believe that when people sit and speak appropriately and respectfully, things can be accomplished. However, I guess you need to begin from a place where there is some logic for that to happen. When I look at all of the pieces of our current labor situation, there are certainly some illogical pieces. This is why my father was so unwavering about the need for union protection. When management has power, the purse strings, and sees everything in terms of the bottom-line, there is an unequitable situation from the outset. I have been accused of having a problem with authority in the past, and those of you who have read this blog know that has been a statement that I have noted more than once. However, as I have continued to age, what I realize is that I have a problem with the abuse of power. This is what is happening in our current situation, that abuse and what seems to be an unwillingness to negotiate in good faith, as is easily argued. Today as I sit and write this, we are actually 10 days from going on strike and there have been no negotiation for the last 10 days, and none currently scheduled for at least four more. Yet administrators have received their yearly raises. All of this is while the faculty have worked for almost 16 months without a current contract. The state system negotiating team has refused to come to the table during the last 10 days. Yet we have a Chancellor who is willing to readily take his $8,000.00+ raise, and when asked by students about that raise this past week, standing face-to-face with these students, had little he could provide in response, but in a FB live meeting with students claims to be working diligently to avoid a strike.

This is the same Chancellor who has done work within the Florida system to create a business model of education. On the surface it seems to be a good plan, but when little is done to promote faculty leadership or support advancement in building that enhances life in the classroom, there is an issue. He is a 5th grade teacher who, from all the research I have done, has done little or no teaching since he became an administrator and has never been in the college classroom as an actual professor. Yet, he seems to be able to understand what it means to be a college professor. The foolishness of such a possibility is unconscionable. It is stunning to me that he can in good conscious argue some of the things he has about our work or our classrooms. Again, I understand the need to be fiscally responsible, but for him to fail to ask the state legislature for any additional money, especially when we were gutted by the previous administration, is beyond wrong. I did not know that I could be so passionate about all  of this, but I am infuriated by the smugness with which he faced us this past week. There as so much more I wanted to say, but I wanted to be appropriate and professional as I stood in front of the Board of Governors, the Chancellor, the University Presidents, and my own provost. I will say that I have a significant amount of respect for those offices, and in the case of my two administrators, in spite of being turned down for sabbatical this past week, I still believe in their integrity. I know that some of my colleagues will shake their heads by my stating this, but I will try to stand up and yet be respectful. I would like to believe that is age and a sense of growing wisdom. I will say that the sabbatical rejection was a bit of a shock and a sort of kick in the teeth, but there are certainly worse things. To the President’s credit, he has asked me to sit up and appointment with him, and, for that, I am grateful. . . .

It is a week later and I am just getting back to this I had not saved it on my tablet and I did not want to begin again. I am in Jim Thorpe and grading, which I have been doing for about the last 5-6 hours, but I need to let the other computer charge a bit, so I am back to the blog, and, as is usually the case, that might be a good think to clear my head out before I get to the next task. I should note that we are now four days from a strike and there is little progress in our negotiations. I should also note  that both sides have declared a moratorium on commenting about the effectiveness or where they are in the process as of later today. This was because there was little accomplished in yesterday’s negotiations, and in the 16 day hiatus since the last bargaining, the state merely returned with the same offer we had turned down. I will leave up to you as a reader to ascertain what such a move might indicate. I will admit that I am concerned in ways I have never been because of the ominous tone of a system and their seeming total disregard for students. I cannot imagine how the very university president, of whom I spoke appreciatively, can be a major player in this position. If it is merely because he does not need to worry about the consequences because he is going to retire, I would be deeply disappointed.

This past week it seems that every day brings out something in our political landscape that can only create more disillusionment and a pondering that is summed up by the acronym of “what the French toast?” I have said more than once this past week that it causes me embarrassment to be an American. I find myself agreeing with people on both sides of the aisle at time. However as I noted in a Facebook posting earlier this today, yesterday, or I have no clue as it seems that everything is crashing in at once.  The New York Times has some amazing columnists and op/ed writers. Their ability to get to the core of a situation and say some of the things most are thinking, but seem incapable of verbalizing, or writing, astounds me. In two different pieces today, For my colleagues, friends, former students, and present students who struggle with Hillary Clinton, I can understand some of that struggle, but the issue is more complex than you might know without some serious consideration. Amy Chozick has an outstanding piece in today’s NYT laying out some of this as well as any piece I have read. In another article, Ezra Klein, writing for Vox, does a fantastic job of asking what the consequences of ignoring the stories about Donald Trump say about us as a nation. I should note that both pieces are implicated related and worth your consideration. If you have an Apply phone you can find them easily on your news feed.

This coming week it will be difficult for a number of reasons. There is the issue of a potential labor action and what the consequence of actually having that a reality does to all involved. Yet, there is a time to stand up, this is what my father told me back in high school when I questioned the labor situation as noted in the early part of this post. There is standing up for something more important than myself. This past week I had the opportunity to sit down with someone I have taken to task more than once in this blog. I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. James Sachetti at the Fog and Flame. He agreed to an invitation to have coffee and I must say that my understanding and perception of him has been wrong. That is not to say that we do not see some important things in the same way, but my conversation and interaction with him was completely cordial and enjoyable. He was attentive to what I shared and willing to share his viewpoint and his background. I walked away from that hour-plus conversation with a  respect and appreciation that has been before missing. While I will not agree with everything he might write, nor will he with me, I can say that I respect and appreciate his position in ways I would not have imagined before our meeting. I am grateful that he took the time. It is another place where I believe I have made my father proud. He often said, “Speak to the person rather than about them.” He, as usual, was (and continues to be) correct. On another front, I will be standing up for myself in a manner that is hard for me. I am generally a giving and generous person, but too many have taken advantage of that generosity. It is time for me to stand up and ask them to be accountable. That is difficult, but it needs to be done.

As we move toward Wednesday, I am uncertain of what will occur. As we move toward an election, I am unsure of what will occur, and even when we have spoken at the ballot box, I am unsure what will happen. We have become a nation of whiners, of selfish and self-centered idiots. We fail to think critically and analyze thoroughly. We are content to allow others to think for us. The consequence has been devastating. Those with money and power have taken over our country and the average person seems powerless to make a difference. We have abdicated our responsibility because of our unwillingness to think. We have allowed those like the recently retired CEO of Wells Fargo to make decisions that affect so many of the common folk while they line their own pockets. This is just one example of how the powerful screw the other 99%. In spite of my background as a former Lutheran pastor, I am more universalist than some might find comfortable, but there is something to be said for respecting others and living a tolerant lifestyle. I do not think this is a far reach from the Biblical words that admonish us to love God with our heart and soul and mind and our neighbors as ourselves. And on that note, I think there is enough to ponder for this posting. If you are reading this or found it because of a tag or handle, please share it to those who stand up for quality education in this Commonwealth.

To all who take the time to read my thoughts, please know I am grateful. Thank you, Dad, for teaching me so well.

Your grateful son,

Michael

 

 

 

Wondering how . . . 

work-expected

Hello on a Sunday evening where I am working to organize my jumbled thoughts (life, existence, viewpoints or),

I can only try to begin comprehending he array of thoughts, concerns, and yes, perhaps, degree of fear that might overwhelm me unless I take some time to think about it and compose some of those thoughts in this blog. I am a bit shocked because, certainly within my memory, for the first time in my life I might be more pessimistic than optimistic. Lydia would be shocked (or maybe happy that she had converted me from the optimistic she seemed to have such disdain for upon occasion). When she would ask me, “Michael, how are you”(In her Austrian accent)? I would generally answer, “No complaints.” Her retort would be, “That’s disgusting! You are too happy!” I told her that I was brought into her life to balance out that cynicism. She would scowl and hit me. I miss that give and take to this day. I wonder what she would think about Donald? I am sure she would have opinions. Just when I think I cannot be further amazed by the unpredictability of this election year, a week like this one in the immediate past occurs and I know that certainly truth (or whatever you want to call it) is stranger than fiction. Between the United States Congress wanting to blame President Obama for not explaining the consequences of their own bill to them, to the revelation that Donald Trump claimed to lose almost a $1,000,000,000.00 (that is one billion) in a year. How can you lose that much money and still claim to be an astute business person? From the fallout of the debates and 3:00 a.m. Twitter rants to the misogynistic comments that seem to just keep coming from both the candidate and his surrogates, I can only wonder how??

As I write this blog, it is now the 2nd of October and the potential for a strike among the 5,500 faculty in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is relatively high. I should note that the administration of PASSHE has asked that they no longer be referred to as PASSHE, but they want to be known as the State System. What might taking the word “Education” out of your title signify? Should we be concerned? I think so.  One might have to agree that with the way they have gone about negotiations referring to them as the SS might be apropos. I have written a significant editorial in The Voice, the student paper, this past week. While it is similar to what I have written before, but it is specifically pointed toward students and parents. If you would like to read it, please go to http://buvoice.com. As you are considering what is penned, here are some other facts to consider: Pennsylvania, in spite of having a 14 university system as well as Penn State, Temple and Pitt, three other universities who also receive state appropriations, ranks 47th in the country in terms of how much money they spend on higher education. Yes, you read that correctly: 47th. In addition, for students or parents who continuously seem to pay more, I would also note that Penn State, Temple and Pitt, as three schools, receive an amount approximately equal to the appropriatation as the 14 state schools who are PASSHE counterparts. And yet . . .  our esteemed leader, the former Lt. Governor to Jeb Bush, Chancellor Frank Brogan asked for no additional money during almost 6 hours of hearings before the State Senate Budget Committee. That unfortunate lack seemed to also be present when asked about the faculty might claim to represent. After being asked how much we worked, he had to ask his supporting staff at those hearings. Then when told he had to add the 5 hours of office hours he was asked if we only worked 17 hours a week for our six figure salary (which is also inaccurate and something the local paper loves to use), he did nothing to dispel such a ridiculous notion. That is in spite of the fact that each faculty member is required to send in a report each semester telling the State Legislature how much we work. Does all of this sound absurd to you? It should, but that is the current atmosphere of negotiations with our State System (SS). While they want to impose a number of significant changes to how we would be allowed to teach in our classrooms, they seem to have little sense of the consequences of those requests. They want the unfettered ability  to move me from department to department and location to location at will. Hmmmm? How is that going to work for a chemistry or a math student as I try to exlain carbon bonding or reverse functions? If you think that sounds ludicrous, the President of Bloomsburg University already tried to put an Anthropology faculty person in the Math, Computer Science and Statistics Department this fall. It did not actually come to pass because, at least currently, we can reject such a move, but even the attempt is beyond egregious. Note the word “unfettered” earlier. That does not allow for rejection in the future. Again, I am left to wonder how we got to this point? 

As I have spoken ito groups of students or other, it is apparent that many parents, many towns peopl, and even our own students, have little real understanding of what is at stake. The changes in teaching proposed by the SS will gut the credibility of a PASSHE degree. It will leave students under-prepared and left to wonder why they are caught between the proverbial “rock and hard spot” in their future positions or why they are under-compensated in spite the significant invest of  (approximate for in-state, but substantively more for the out-of-state) 100K they spent on their degree. They have been cheated. They have been stolen from by a bunch of bureaucrats and legislators who somehow believe that higher education is not worth investing in. That credit by tuition keeps them from “lingering in the smorgasbord of classes” to closely paraphrase Chancellor Brogan (March 2016) . What the hell are they thinking? This coming Thursday, I will be in front of the Board of Governors of the System arguing they need to rethink how they are handling this negotiation.we are 16 days from striking and they have refused offers to meet this coming week. 

While my main objections have to do with what they are doing to my classroom, the passion of my argument is also related to what they have done to us financially. I do need to be honest about that piece, but I also want to explain why. In the 8 years (and I am in my eighth year) I have been teaching in the system I have lost 4 steps. That affects my yearly salary; it affects my pension; it affects my morale. Again, I am trying to be as genuine as I can about that. My health insurance is certainly an amazing plan, and I know that. However, we have, like every other part of the country had to give things back (our co-pays increased by 100% in the last contract and our raises were 0, 1,1, and 2 percent), and we will again. I know this. Yet, the other state unions were not asked to give back what they are asking of us. They did not have deductibles added to their plans to my knowledge. They were offered a 7 1/2 percent raise over 4 years with 3 steps included. We were offered that raise only if we will willing to give 70 million dollars in cuts back from the outset. So the 159 million figure the state provided a week ago is a bald faced lie. Otherwise we were offered a total of 1% over four years with one step in the final year of the contract. Again, I am willing to pay more to a degree, and, as noted, I know it is coming, but the people who are asking us to swallow all of this got 3% raises this past year. As a specific example, I appreciate Dr. Soltz, our president. Furthermore, I do not begrudge him his salary, but his raises over the past three years equal about 23%. Or as another example, the governor of the State of Pennsylvania makes $187,000 a year (which I think ranks in the upper third of top state executives) and he does not even take his salary because he has done well as a business person. The Chancellor makes almost $346,000.000 after his over $8,000.00 raise this year. I am pretty sure he was more than willing to take that raise as he has negotiated against us. Again, I do not begrudge what people make, but do not ask me to give up so much when you, yourself, are unwilling to do so. It is about fairness; it is about being equitable. It is an abuse of power to do what they are doing, but then again, such an unfathomable example of this greed can be found in the standard bearer of the Republican party. He brags that he is too smart to pay taxes and then claims that companies that go abroad to do the same are slime balls. As the day has proceeded, the news continues to reveal how he uses the tax code in ways the average person cannot, but then he claims to be on our side? Would he be willing to help the little person do what he does? Does anyone see a disconnect here? He claims that he can be nastier than Secretary Clinton because she has used his own words against him? For the first time in my memory (contrary to things like the Swift Boat issue or even George W Bush’s service record, where people went digging on both sides), no digging is needed to demonstrate the risible reality of the @realDonaldTrump. I am completely stunned as I consider the depth to which we have fallen as a society. Again, I am left to wonder how?

This past week, fortunately, and probably to Lydia.s chagrin, I have been reminded of something a bit more positive. It is related to Congress, but focusing on the President. What I have continued to realize about President Obama is that is perhaps the most principled president i have experienced in my life. As a small person, one from the 50s and 60s, I might have believed that person to be President Kennedy, but what we have learned since about his personal life is more problematic than former President Clinton. I will say that while I appreciate President Clinton’s acumen and ability to make complex political issues understandable, I do not appreciate the digressions that created such problems for his time in office. Yet, other presidencies also seemed to have some significant human struggle. President Ford had family issues in the White House: President Nixon had to resign. Some of the children of former presidents certainly have had issues. The Obamas have had more scrutiny that perhaps any presidency in history, merely because of the social media atmosphere of our present world, but scandal has not been cluttering our headlines; they are an amazing family. Their daughters have grown up in the spotlight, but they are elegant and poised from what I can see. Michele Obama would be an amazing president in her own right. She is articulate, brilliant and also principled. As a first family, I believe they have set the “gold standard” of what we should expect from the occupants of the White House. I am still stunned at the Congress and the degree of obstructionism and racism that permeates both our legislators and the American public. I say this as the White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant male. This morning, I was in the diner for breakfast and heard about a situation where the youngest daughter of the owners stood up for her older sister when her sibling was being mistreated. She said to the rude guest or customer, or just plain dumbass, “That is my sister and you cannot disrespect her.” Good for you Lexi!! Where did we lose what seems to be all sense of decorum necessary for any society to survive? Where did we become such a society of Malcontents? What I know is that I am willing to treat others with the respect I would hope to deserve myself. What I have finally learned to do is to stick up for myself. I have learned what many have told me for so long . . . . if you not do it, nobody else will. It is so true.

So to whomever might read this, as the days are ticking down and a Chancellor is more content to spin on Facebook than negotiate,  I am hoping is that students will stand up for what is fair. If they do not, what is coming will be hurtful for everyone. If you are reading this and a student, CALL THE CHANCELLOR. If you are reading this and a student, CALL YOUR PARENTS with the real facts. If you are a student or an alumnus of the PASSHE system realize the consequence of these proposals and what they do to the value of the degree you already have. This is not  what happens to those still studying, it affects the entire system, the state, and the alumni. Speak out loud and strong. Tell the SS, as they want to be called, to change course and be fair and equitable in what they are doing to your classrooms. I will not back down. I will stand up for the integrity of what I do and the education I believe my students deserve.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

@realDonaldTrump, @POTUS, @FLOTUS, @BloomsburgAPSCUF, @APSCUF,

 

My Response to Faculty Vilification

Stop Writing

Good morning from my office,

I got home at 1:15 this morning and it is before 8:00 and I have been up since 5:30. I was at the diner this morning working the morning crowd to support the faculty of the university who are being confronted with perhaps the most egregious set of proposals in the history of the PASSHE system. As is the case locally, the editor of the paper, who is an alum of the very university and faculty he regularly attacks, has written his usual misrepresentation of the facts (I call it this because he includes only what serves his purpose) and called the faculty on the proverbial carpet yet again. This is the same person who regularly posts all of our salaries with little explanation behind them each year in the paper.

While the coverage in the Press Enterprise have been a little more even-handed, even those articles leave out a number of important points. Is it because of incompetent writing or not knowing how to ask the questions? I am unsure and I want to give a particular reporter the benefit of the doubt because I believe them to be sincere. However, after an editorial yesterday in the local paper, which was ludicrous at best, I have decided to respond. I am pretty sure the paper will not run the entire response because they will tell me it is over their word limit. It is probably impossible to make it to that limit because this editorial was unconscionable in so many ways. Therefore, I offer a copy of what I have written. I have also posted in on my Facebook page and sent it to the Raging Chicken Press.

Dear Bloomsburg University student, towns-person, and the “esteemed” editor of the Press Enterprise,

Indeed, you have heard much about a possible strike by the faculty of the fourteen PASSHE schools of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; you have received emails from Chancellor Brogan’s office assuring you that the System and the Board of Governors are bargaining in good faith to reach a fair and equitable contract; and you have once again heard from the editor of this newspaper that we are merely fear mongering and pretending to sacrifice your education (9/14/2016). Unfortunately, as often seems to be the case in the seven years I have taught here, Mr. Sachetti delights in vilifying the faculty of the university, the very university from where he received his degree. His reasons for doing this and the enormous energy he regularly spends to disparage this university and its faculty baffle me, but that is a topic for another time. Suffice it to say, someone must have hurt his feelings tremendously for him to champion such disdain so routinely.

What he fails to note in his editorial is that the primary reason your faculty, your fellow citizens of this town, have chosen to stand up for a more evenhanded contract is precisely because of you, the student. Some of the major sticking points, contrary to his assertion, are not about health care or salary; those points of contention are about the changes they want to make to the collective bargaining agreement, all 249 of them (yes, you read that correctly), and how those changes affect your education. Let me offer just three of those changes we believe to be most egregious and worth our not accepting their proposal. We will hold out because of what it would do to the quality and credibility of the degree you would receive from Bloomsburg or any of the other PASSHE institutions.

As has been the case in each of the last two or three proposals, they want adjunct faculty to increase their teaching to five sections with more preparatory for different classes added also. All of this with no pay increase, thereby cutting their salaries 20 percent. As important is it would create two-tiers of education within departments because of the increased work load in preparing for classes and grading assignments. The system rationale is they do not have as much to do as tenure track faculty, so it should be easy. What they do not say is that most of those faculty are working to finish their doctoral degrees and are looking for other positions where they have a sense of security because currently as an adjunct, they have no job security. Additionally, it takes away from the quality of instruction and is pedagogically unsound. Second, the administration wants the unfettered ability to move us from department to department and location to location at will. As a tenured faculty, hired specifically to create a Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing program that is now one of the most comprehensive on the East coast, I work hard to support that program as well as teaching four sections a semester. However, you do not want me teaching your Principles of Accounting class or Organic Chemistry class because I do not know enough to provide a substantive learning experience for future CPAs or M.D.s. I, in fact, would feel guilty because I could not do an adequate job, and we should never be simply adequate. In addition, I do not want to drive to East Stroudsburg twice a week to teach a course there. I did not get four degrees to be a substitute teacher, moved around by the whims of those not in the classroom. Students, parents, and certainly future employers need to ask how my instruction in those classes would compromise the quality of the education for which a student (or their parent) has paid good money? Third, the system wants to allow people with no Masters or Doctoral degree to be the instructor of record for a class. I am quite sure you will not pay less tuition for that section than if your PhD-degreed professor is teaching. More significantly, what does this do to the credibility of your degree? How does that provide you the foundation you will need to be successful in your career, and 90% of PASSHE students stay in the Commonwealth so what does that do to the credibility of the workforce for the future?

Those are only three of the proposals that we are fighting against. This has nothing to do with salary or benefits so the majority of Mr. Sachetti’s recent editorial is moot. While he has tossed out figures and claimed a number of things about our intent and what we make, he has misspoken (and that is not surprising). He claims we only work 30 weeks a year, but he fails to mention that we work throughout the summer to publish or we go to conferences to stay current in our scholarship, a requirement if we want to become tenured or promoted. He fails to mention the incredible number of hours we spend outside the classroom advising, supporting undergraduate research, traveling abroad with students, without being paid a faculty wage during the Christmas break, or the amount of time spent each break preparing for the next semester

I do understand that I make a reasonable salary (and he will provide that for you in his yearly chart), but he does not mention that I have four degrees and fourteen years of higher education. He does not mention that I have been teaching college for the last 20 years. He does not mention that the money faculty pour back into this town daily, weekly, and yearly, make a significant difference in what is available here for each and every one of us. I have read his hateful and reproachful commentary on us for seven years and enough is enough. The real story is that the faculty of this university and the faculty across the thirteen other schools want a system that demonstrates a commitment to quality education and does not merely give it lip-service. We desire a fair and equitable contract that illustrates that we work and live in this Commonwealth, a contract that recognizes we have worked 33 months of the last 60 without a current contract, we continued to come to work every day, in spite of losing four steps. We have bargained in good faith and we have stood up for the integrity of providing an education that both our students and the people of this state deserve. I might note that I am still in my office as I write this and it is 11:22 p.m. and I have been on campus since 7:00 a.m. this morning. So while I certainly do not want to strike, I will. So how dare he??!!

Sincerely,

Dr. Michael Martin
Asst. Professor of English
Director of the Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing Program
APSCUF Member
#APSCUF, @RCPress

If you are a parent of a student or a student it is time to stand up and let the chancellor or the local university president know that what they are proposing is unacceptable. Notice, I have said nothing about the health care or benefits. I care first and foremost about the quality of education we provide and the integrity I hold as an educator. If you have questions, please contact me and I will be glad to provide more information. I should also note that for some reason, the copied article has paragraphs in it when I am drafting, but somehow they do not show up in the post. I am working with this and trying to figure it out. I apologize.

Sincerely,

Dr. Martin

A List of Oxymorons:

Hello from the side yard patio and fire pit of the Martin homestead,

There are a variety of reasons for me to use the introduction I have, as well as the title. In spite of the fact that I did take a week to go to the Dominican Republic, and even in spite of the fact I did relax at times, I worked their both on my own writing and on trying to get answers to a myriad of questions, thereby making sure I do not misrepresent anything that might be advertised on the travel website. The fact that I am writing now is related to work because I have learned that blogging clears my head and allows me to focus on the seemingly never ending stream of things to which we all must attend. Today I was in the grocery store. One of the morning regulars at the diner noted that life must be easy now because I had nothing to do. I smiled and answered cordially, “I wish I could explain why that is not the case because I will be doing some kind of work most of the summer.” But then neither she, who is not the sharpest tool in the shed, nor the editor of the local paper, whose only job since graduating from Bloomsburg University since 1974 has been at the Press Enterprise, seem to have a frickin’ clue about how hard faculty work or the hours outside the classroom are given on behalf of the students or the town. Something pretty terrible must have happened to Mr. Sachetti when he was a student to disparage his alma mater and every aspect of her at any available opportunity. And while I certainly realize editorials are opinions as well as the fact that he has a soap box from which he can toss things, the continual trash and “misstated information,” he offers is disingenuous when it is”factually suspect.” What he does is beyond unethical and provides plenty of examples for current students  or writers of what should not be done in a local paper. The biased way he has treated the faculty of the university by the partial and slanted slime he has published in the time I have lived here is unconscionable. I am sure the latest is merely a harbinger of what is to come. Finally, the third on the list is again a view of some who have I have foolishly allowed to put me into a bind on a number of different levels. We are all flawed and I certainly know this from my own shortcomings, but I seem to provide ample opportunity to allow others to prove their shortcomings because I wish to trust first and ask questions later.

Back to summer vacation. As I noted at the beginning of this post, summer vacation for most tenure-track faculty is the time when they can finally focus on research and writing or travel and research, which is necessary for them to move up the ranks to full professor. For some it is still time to teach and try to prepare for classes in the fall. For me, who came to create a program that would provide students with professional writing skills, a great amount of energy has gone into the development of that program. Every year when the above mentioned “journalist” chooses to publish our salaries he fails to explain the number of years the faculty listed labored in college or graduate school. He fails to mention that most faculty spent 40-60 hours a week on all the things that are required by a 4/4 teaching load. He fails to note that we have worked 33 months without a contract in the last 7 years showing up to work daily and working without fail to provide the 9,000+ students with a “quality education” (PASSHE language not mine). While I would like to go and travel again, I have four preps this fall, including a new one, one to help RNs get their BSN. Latest on that class is they want to open it to all healthcare students, which I think would be fine. I will have to rethink some assignments, but I think it is manageable. This past few days, including today, which is Saturday, I was in my office for over 8 hours working on syllabi and the course delivery tool for just one of the classes. It took me about 30 hours and I still have some work to do. Because I teach classes that deal with the use of technology and writing, the course is never the same from the previous iteration. This means new reading, rethinking and revising assignments and trying to keep up with the latest trends or scholarship in the field of professional writing and digital rhetoric. It means scouring data bases and new articles. I wish Mr. Sachetti would watch me for a week or two before school starts. I could hope he might provide a different view of the faculty. Instead, I think he has sold his soul to “el diablo de manga y sensacionalismo” like so many other pretend journalists. Before you think I do not realize some of the benefits and perks or options I have because of being in the academy, I do, but I also commit every ounce of my being to my job. Last week, because I worked with specific summer freshmen, instead of needing grades turned around in four or five days, I had 12 hours. Yet, I had them done. The fall will, undoubtedly demonstrate the bias of our local prince of print as he wields his poison pen or malicious manos on the keyboard to claim that faculty are spoiled, self-centered, and out of touch with reality as we argue about the quality education and demonstrate care for students. I have little doubt that he will again pull things out of context and twist information or facts to serve his own insecure purposes. Again I am forced to wonder what his alma mater did to have him turn such a deaf ear to the very faculty who taught him and conjour such contempt for the very institution that helps the town of Bloomsburg thrive.

Last, but certainly not least, my kindness to so many who I have helped, some in significant ways, had left me disillusioned and, to put it mildly, angry. I must admit that it is much my own fault because I want to help others as I myself have been helped. I certainly would not be where I am without the help of a great-uncle and great-aunt at one point. I would not be where I am if it were not for some people during my internship year or eve when I was first a parish pastor. I would not have made so painlessly if it were not for my seminary classmate, Karsten, to whom I finally have his assistance returned. If it were not for Lydia and how she has helped me that I would be where I am now. Over these past years I tired to give as she gave to me, but people promised so much and have returned so little on their promises. They have put me into a bind. Indeed, it is technically of my own making because I trusted their word. I am tempted to list names, but instead, I will show some class. One of my colleagues noted Ian the worst loan shark in the world. I think he is correct. What it has done has soured me on trusting much of anything or anyone. We’ll see what happens after this next week. . . . As is generally the case, it seems it is taking me longer to write this but I had hoped. Condition I probably need to do some editing because I’ve been a rather tough on people. I had planned to go into the office early this morning, but as the adage says, “best laid plans often go awry.” A detour for fluids took up part in the morning. It seems anything taken orally for hydration seems to play hide and seek with my insides. I am working with my nutritionist again to see if we can come up with a solution. I have worked on restricting the diet once again, and have been for awhile. I guess I am doing better over all, but it is still frustrating to me. Well, more work in the office today and trying to focus on the last pieces of a project. Meetings for the fall seem to have found their way onto the calendar on multiple days already. I think the oxymoron of which I first wrote for this post continues.

Back to playing Sisyphus. As always, thank you for reading.

Michael

You are kidding? What the French Toast? And “Time Passages”

IMG_4979

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.

http://www.apscuf.org/blog/item/366-watch-highlights-from-last-months-budget-appropriations-hearings

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,

Michael