A Wonderful Job and Some Amazing Students

Hello from my little office on the acre.

Many times it seems we have a tendency to only verbalize the negativity we see and feel. I am not sure if it some makes us feel better or if we believe people will somehow feel sorry for us, but I think we are profoundly mistaken on both accounts. I am guilty of this at times also, but I think I generally try to find the positive in most everything I do and in most things I experience. I have a smart ass saying (those of you who know me have undoubtedly heard me say this at times). I believe all learning is positive; when it goes well it is positive; when is sucks, I am positive I do not want to do it again. So there you have it. When I was a seminary student, we were required to do a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and, of course, we were required to take a number of pastoral care and counseling classes. When someone had just finished their upper level pastoral care and counseling course or had finished a unit of CPE, you would hear some specific phrases (known as active listening responses) come out of their mouths (e.g. It seems I heard you say . . .  or did I understand you to say . . .  or when you said this, _________) and we would respond in our best pastoral voices, “Shut the F up!” There you have it: pastoral care at its finest. While that is all true, what it helped us all realize is that we are not really good listeners. Another acronym we came up with, particularly after a really difficult day in clinical or perhaps after failing a Greek or Hebrew exam was that was another AFGE . . . . which stood for Another F-ing Growing Experience, and certainly life is full of those. I smile as I think back on those times because I was fortunate to have some of the most outstanding seminary classmates: Tim Christensen, Karsten Nelson, Steven Blenkush, Kathy Vitalis Hoffman, Tim Quarberg and Sandy Van Zyl, Sue Volden Gunderson, Wilbur and Deborah Holz, and the list could go on. To this day, 30 years later, I am blessed by their presence in my life. Some certainly more than others, but I am still in touch with them. I am amazed that it was 30 years ago (plus a few months) that I found my way to Pennsylvania the first time. It was a bit of a shock for this Midwestern boy, and a much greater shock to my former wife. Being a pastor’s wife was not quite what was expected and I certainly did not always do the best job of being a husband when I was trying to balance being a clergy person to the 3rd largest Lutheran church in the NEPS and being a husband. I had a lot to learn.

It is hard to fathom that I have been back here, but this time in Northcentral Pennsylvania for almost 9 1/2 years. It is the longest I have lived in one place since I graduated from high school. When I left Pennsylvania in 1992, I was pretty sure I would never come back to the Keystone State, not I am not quite sure I will ever leave. Not that this is a bad thing, but it is certainly not where I expected my life to go. However, I am here at Bloomsburg for that long, and I must say it has been the most amazing and wonderful experience of my life – and I think I can say that both personally and professionally. That has been a pleasant surprise. It has also taken some hard work, but anything worth holding on to is worth working for. Sounds too cliché, but it is certainly true in this case. When I came to Bloomsburg the summer of 2009, I was excited and petrified. I was also feeling tremendously guilty for leaving the little tornado in Menomonie. The move was precipitated by both my inexperience as a tenure track professor and a dean who had decided I was the bane of his existence. Nonetheless, because of a wonderful previous Stout colleague, who would become a present colleague, and even more astounding friend, I was given a new lease on my academic career. While there have been moments of doubt and frustration, the overwhelming feeling I have had since coming to Bloomsburg is simply to be blessed. The department is full of incredibly talented and thoughtful people. They are both strong in the classroom, but there are some prodigious scholars in their particular fields, from Renaissance Literature to a Writing Center and from American Literature to Creative Writing. I still feel like a duck out of water sometimes with my Professional Writing and Rhetorical background, but there has been progress. On the larger scale, I have been involved in committees from the department to the college to the university level. I have learned so much and been fortunate to be exposed to so many remarkable scholars across the university. In my work with the union, I have been put in situations where I am asked to look at issues of labor and fairness and learned the complexity of people’s lives. Every day there is something new to consider and ponder . . .  and yet that is not even what I do most of the time.

As with any faculty person at a comprehensive university, the great majority of my time is spent in the classroom, preparing for the classroom, or grading what comes out of the classroom. Yet still there is more . . .  there is advisement, there is more counseling that one might think as a student struggles to figure out more often than not why they are in college in the first place. I am not sure we have done this generation of students much good by insisting that college is the only way to become a happy, successful person. There are some people who either are not ready for college at 18 or others who should consider other options. Many of the students, however, are merely trying to understand and do the best they know how. Most of my students are good people. Most of them feel an almost staggering level of pressure to perform well . . . and understandably so when someone somewhere is ponying up 100K for their undergraduate degree. That is a breathtaking amount of money for a possible piece of paper that might find them a job. Yes, you read that correctly. There is no guarantee. Yet, they come, much like the mantra in the movie, Field of Dreams.

This semester I have five preps and five sections. That is an overload in more ways than one, but the classes are not full, so overall, it is pretty manageable, and two of the classes are distance, which is an entirely different experience. Much more could be said about that, but there is a time and place for those classes and my Technical Writing class this semester is such a time and place as I have primarily nursing students who are in clinical two days a week for most of the day and beyond and then have a full class schedule besides. This semester, even though we are only into the third week, I have been really pleased with the level of engagement and commitment of the students across the board. It has been one of the best semesters I have experienced in that way. Many of the students are “claiming their education,” which is a foundational article I have them all read. I thought about discarding it because I have been using it for a while, but I hear again and again how it makes students rethink their educational process, which is the intent. So for now, it stays as a required reading. The nicer thing of having a few less students this semester is that I have been able to write more thoughtful and insightful response to their blogs and I hope to do the same with the work they will be turning in.

During the Winter Term, I wrote pretty copious comments on their work for my distance technical writing course and people were please with what they heard and what happened in the class. I have found it you will take the time to let students know you are really paying attention to their work, even when you raise the bar, they will generally rise to the occasion. I was able to do that well, while at the same time traveling around Poland, Italy, and Spain. It was really rather enjoyable. I would get up in the morning and have things commented on before they were up. Then when they looked at things there was usually something there on a daily basis. It worked well. Students are complex people, no different than their professors. We have lives outside the classroom also. The difference is that we are supposedly better as we grow older of balancing things. That is not always true. Furthermore, if we think about it logically, when they do not do something, they affect themselves, perhaps a group from time to time, and then there is some disappointment I imagine from the people who have sent them to college, hoping against hope, they will succeed. When we fall on our noses, which does happen at times, we affect 50, 70, 150, 250 people. Failure to answer an email or grade something in a timely manner is much more overwhelming and disconcerting for our students than we sometimes realize.

What I know from just three weeks into the semester, I have been blessed with some extraordinary students this semester, but that is not a one time thing. I have some magnificent students every semester. I have had wonderful students, whose ethnic background is Columbia and speak English as a second language. I have had a student who is has now earned a doctorate in pharmacy, and is Egyptian and Sudanese. I have been blessed with students from rural Pennsylvania with graduating classes of 50, and they come and work hard and conscientiously hoping to make a difference. I have been blessed to travel to Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia, who are studying political science, nursing, biology, business or Russian and they grow up so much in the three weeks they travel. I am blessed to have had students from Spain, Greece, Sudan, Russia, and other countries and I feel sometimes they teach me more than I could ever teach them. I had no idea when I was growing up that I would become a college professor. In fact, I do not think such a thought even crossed my mind until I was in my early thirties. Then when I realized that was where I might actually go, I was probably as petrified as I noted at the beginning of this post. I was not smart enough to be a college professor. At least that is how I saw it. Now I lay awake at night and wonder about why rest is a verb most often even though we call it a noun. I wonder why we cannot do some things that would make life so much easier. I wonder what I can do to merely be better tomorrow than I was today. Why? Because my students deserve that sort of pondering. I am so extraordinarily blessed to be at Bloomsburg in a department of phenomenal colleagues and in classrooms with curious and fundamentally good students. Here is my idea about all of that. I am always trying to imagine things, so in an appropriate way, in spite of the fact I have used it before, I offer this (it is however a re-mastered video from their collection).

I hope you enjoyed pondering and thank you for reading.

Dr. Martin

So Many Thoughts . . .

Hello on a late Sunday evening,

It has been an incredibly busy semester (and it feels like an entire semester had been crammed into 4 weeks and yet, the time has flown by). That is not what is causing this sense of being caught up in the middle of a tornado of sorts, it is what is still on the horizon (a sort of Kansas-twister-in-the making sky from the summer I worked wheat harvest) or merely looking at the calendar and the work to do. Sometimes I wonder if there is actually that much more to do or if this is what is telling me to consider retirement more seriously. I went to bed more than an hour ago, but there seemed to be little chance that my brain was going to slow down enough to allow for any sort of rest to occur. Therefore, much as I have noted at other times here, perhaps writing would allow my brain and body to actually unwind enough to permit for some much needed rest. While I am, to a great degree, mostly caught up with daily work, it will still be a long and busy week. I really do not mind being busy or working hard, but the inability to find any relaxation in the daily process seems to take more of a toll on me than it used to do. None of this is really complaining, but more observing my responses or reactions to life. I hope realizing the difference is both a sign of wanting to take better care of myself and some degree of wisdom. There are certainly more than enough things to keep my little brain to keep going on what seems to be my own personal hamster wheel.

It was a semi-productive weekend. I did meet with or correspond with students, and there are more to respond to, though I think that will occur in the morning (and quite early) versus tonight. I did get a number of household things done this morning and went and hid out at Starbucks in Selinsgrove for a good part of the day. Part of that was merely escaping Bloomsburg because the yearly migration of people intent on raising their Glycated Hemoglobin (A1C), subjecting themselves to mixed sensory messages to their inner ear, eyes, and other sensory receptors (motion sickness), or somehow enamored by looking at cafes of bunnies or chickens has begun. The 10 day gathering that resembles something like Walmart on steroids, turning all the Bloomsburg public school students loose for the week has once again arrived. The traffic is snarled; 487, also know as Lightstreet Road, seems like a pit entrance to Pocono Raceway, and there are already dead critters on the road. If it somehow seems I lack the appropriate appreciation for the annual Bloomsburg Fair, I stand guilty as charged. I think part of it because all that craziness creates more stress than anything else. I found it mildly interesting the first couple years I lived here, but that sense of wonderment quickly waned. I did not even go for a number of years, and then last year in a sort of about face I think I made it there three separate days. Perhaps I OD-ed for a bit. As many say, the apple dumplings with cinnamon ice cream are worth a sort of self-flagellation that I might feel from paying the entrance fee, but with my now needed dietary restriction regarding sugar, that possible hypnotic attraction is not as effective.

The weekend in terms of watching football was incredibly depressing in that Iowa lost to Wisconsin, though the game was closer than the final score indicates, and the Packers looked nothing like a Super Bowl contender against Washington. On a positive note, I was quite excited that Tiger Woods won a tournament today. While I would have spent more time in the past glued to the tube, that was not the case this weekend. I think that change is just one of the many I see in myself of late. In my pondering manner, which is center to my personality, I wonder what it is that causes such changes. I remember at one point having hats of all the NFC central teams, and feeling it was necessary to keep up on each team and try to figure out how the Packers would square up each week. I remember lying on the couch on afternoons, after Sunday morning church and preaching, switching channels between NASCAR and the Packers. I remember trying to follow every Iowa football game in real time. Now I will check my CBS Sports app, but there is no setting for hours needing to know every pass, first down, or who passed who.

I still have things I find necessary, but now it is more about news, global issues, national politics, or trying to merely manage my daily life. Is it because we have 24/7 news or is it because the world seems to be such a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction on a daily basis. As soon as the news broke a week ago about the current nominee for the SCOTUS and an accuser, my mind immediately remembered listening to the testimony of Anita Hill before the Senate Judicial Committee. I wax residing in Pennsylvania the first time and was driving from Lehighton to Pittsburgh area where I was participating in a wedding as a clergy for a family friend from Iowa. The Honorable (though he did not seem quite so) Arlen Specter, who was one of Pennsylvania’s Senators at the time, probably epitomized the old-white-men’s- network in our National Legislature by the way he grilled Ms. Hill than had been illustrated publicly since McCarthyism and probably has not happened since. I did some research today, and while he did express some small degree of remorse to Robert Reich, he never apologized and more often than not basically doubled-down on his conduct in those hearings. What happens this coming Thursday in a very different world than 1991 will be interesting to watch. The stakes are unbelievably elevated for a whole host of reasons. The fact that it will happen only 5-6 weeks before an off-year or midterm election is only another reason for the issue to be more volatile, and the fact that it occurs in the middle of the #metoo movement with a President whose treatment of women is less than stellar creates a sort of “holy s&@t sort of scenario that is hard to ignore. The entire national tenor regarding the treatment of females has so drastically changed that I cannot imagine a return to what was the status quo. Between the Harvey Weinstein response, President Trump’s comments laid out before the election and the revelations of paying off more than one woman since, as well as other accusations, and, for instance, the removal of the CEO of CBS as only the latest example of a change in what an accusation does, America has made a fundamental shift. I read in the past few days that almost 300 women are on the ballot in the election this fall. If we elect half of them, the watershed effect in Washington will be profound. The old-white-men I noted earlier will face a serious reckoning. So will the executive branch of the government.

I read a number of things over the weekend from both sides of the aisle regarding this week’s testimony. There is a lot to consider and it is much more complex than “he said/she said.” I have raised the question in all of my classes and I was somewhat surprised by the number of students (and more evenly split by gender than I anticipated) who believe that Judge Kavanaugh should not be approved to serve on the nation’s highest court. I say I am surprised because this is a seriously conservative area. I was impressed with what students had to say and some of the critical thought that went into their responses. What pleased me most is they were reading and thinking. That is what college is about: learning to think and to analyze.

Well, while I have something substantial posted, I think I will give it a few hours to sit. A clearer-minded look in the morning is in order. For the moment . . . I think I can probably fall asleep now. More in a few hours. . . .  thank you for a few hours of good sleep. I think I got about 3 or 3 1/4, but that will suffice. I have neither ducks nor squirrels as noted in the graphic at the top of my post. However, when I got to my office this morning, and in spite of the mention of some extermination efforts, the little mouse, who has decided to take up residence in my office, was particularly affectionate this morning when he ran across my desk and across my hand. Then it sat on the edge of the desk and seemed to look at me as if I had invaded the space that belonged to it. While I am not really afraid of mice, I will admit that running across my hand did startle me and cause me to question how I am feeling about its presence. Otherwise, the morning has been normal: scads of emails and students questioning options and requirements. I always think I am pretty clear about things, but evidently I need to do a bit more work. As noted, it is the beginning of the fifth week and for many students that first exam is upon them or they are getting it back. That is a stressful time. If they have not taken one yet, there is some serious concern about what to expect. If their study skills are lacking and they have spent more time socializing in that unscheduled time than studying and reading, what they will get back will be a wake-up call, or hopefully it will. There is so much to learn yet, and they are certainly often less than prepared for the expectations that are upon them. The reasons for that are legion, to use the biblical term, and some of them will feel that entire legion is staring them in the face. Back to thinking and analyzing. It is the time that is most important in the semester. It is the time when students, particularly those who are struggling, need to come for help, but all too often they run away and hide. That is for another time. So many thoughts running through my head, but I am off to a College Curriculum Committee meeting. It is a committee I chair, and I continue to learn things about myself and the university at large as I work on this committee. It is amazing how we spend our hours, days, and weeks. It flies by so quickly.

I hope your first week of fall goes well and thanks as always for reading.

Dr. Martin

So Much in Seven Days

Hello from Kraków and from Oświęcim,

Our traveling group has spent a busy week listening intently in classes, learning their bearings around Kraków, and attempting some simple greetings in Polish. At the same time, trips to Wawel Castle, the salt mine in Wieliczka, the Jewish Quarter in Kazimierz, or today to Oświęcim (known to most of the world as Auschwitz) provide each person not only the opportunity to walk through a metaphorical history book, but to come face to face with a side of our humanity that pushes the limits of our very understanding. It is one thing to read about the Shoah (perhaps the more appropriate word for Holocaust) or watch a movie, but it is an entirely different matter and experience to stand in Block 11, enter the gassing showers, or see first-hand the scale and scope of how 1.5 million people were systematically killed over a four year period. It is some quite different to watch the movie, Schindler’s List, and to walk in the very space those events occurred. Tomorrow as students visit the museum, one which provides a stunning, multi-sensory, and unforgettable walking exhibit, most will never forget that 48 hour period of their lives. It is such a profoundly different set of circumstances when you realize that most of what you see, touch, or feel has been in existence long before Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, or America for that matter was founded.

That is what happens for most students when they push the boundaries of their experiences, either geographically or educationally, and, of course, a study abroad allows for both. As we walked 4 kilometers in the Wieliczka Salt mine, Joe Davis, a sophomore Supply Chain Management major and ZCOB LC mentor, noted the mine was the most amazing sight of his life. As we stood in the expansive chapel, which is both 85 meters below the surface of the earth and 50 meters high, students stood speechless and in awe of what they were experiencing. I would encourage you to go online and look at the mine, but be ready to sign up for next year’s trip. Remember that people have been working in the 9 levels of the mine for a millennium. Remember that much of it was excavated and carried out by hand for centuries. Consider the fact that the Nazis used it as an armament factory during the Second World War because no one could see it. Consider the fact that at one point, 70% of Polish national wealth was based on this commodity we pour on our food.

How do you manage 50 people? Dr. Julie Vandivere, professor of English and director of the BU Honors Program, and four student mentors have Telegram down to a science. The group has also done things to enable communication and cohesiveness. The entire group, divided into subgroups, spent part of New Year’s Day attempting to escape game rooms. Some were more successful than others, and for the sake of transparency, the faculty leaders also participated on their own and failed miserably. So having a Ph.D. is no guarantee of success, and having multiple Ph.D. in one room might be a disadvantage, but those of us who had never experienced Escape Rooms before learned a great deal. Each day brings a new experience or challenge, but being someone familiar for at least some of us, makes anything manageable. While I have not personally been to the mecca of NYE experiences in the states, Krakow’s City Centre surely does the last night of the year well. The revelry of 70,000 people from all over Europe is certainly festive and something anyone in attendance will not soon forget. However, you do not have to be out for NYE to experience something very different as you walk the streets of the Middle Ages city. Snippets of conversation overheard have included responses like “They park on the sidewalks; people actually pay attention to the ‘don’t walk’ signs; or the food is amazing.”  . . .  and I can attest to that. Food is flavorful (even street food), well prepared, and very affordable. If you are hungry in Poland, it is your own fault.

Today students have reflection papers as well as outlines for their final papers due in most of their classes. They are working hard, but learning that creating appropriate and thoughtful documentation is more demanding than they expected. I have found this to be a common experience as I have returned for  a fourth year. Focus and critically thinking to synthesize their own majors into what they are being asked to examine takes some work, but analysis and synthesis are critical components of being a global citizen. That might be the most important metamorphosis that is occurring, 24 hours at a time. As I read news back in America and simultaneously glance at the headlines here in Kraków, somehow 140+ characters do not illicit the same importance for the occupants of Eastern/Central Europe. That is not a political statement, merely an observation. As one student noted last year, “It is a big world.” Each day as we travel, the reality of that statement is more completely understood by our varied little group of Bloomsburg students. On Friday, the 5th of January, we will board the bus for a weekend trip to Lviv, Ukraine. In spite of being a somewhat traveled-person, this will be my first time to the Ukraine. I am excited to travel farther eastward in Europe. Central/Eastern Europe has an important historical connection to our immediate area of North Central Pennsylvania. This is also an important learning moment for many students who have those connections. Each day is a new osmotic experience and when we return, the cumulative effect of our shared time will make each of us  thoughtfully different people, but much of that difference will only be realized as we continue our individual journeys in the months and years ahead.

Thanks for reading. More from the Ukraine.

Dr. Martin

A Week of Learning for the Professor

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Good Saturday afternoon,

For those who are wondering about this graphic or picture, I think by the end of the post you will understand it more, but I offer this graphic shout out to all who walked, picketed, shouted, or offered support to the cause of higher education this past week. Since my last post, life has been a whirl-wind of events, requirements, obligations and emotions. As I begin to write this I have been working on my courses because of some required revision and an obligation to following through on what is required because of the events of this past week. When I posted the last time, we were forty-eight hours from the first possible faculty strike in the 30+ year history of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE); it is now about a week later, the weekend following my Monday post and on the other side of a forty-eight+ hour strike where the 5,500 faculty left their classes to stand up for the quality of education we so strive to maintain in our classrooms. Monday and Tuesday were sort of a blur as I prepared for what turned out to be the inevitable. I spent more time preparing and grading so that if Wednesday turned out as it did, I was prepared and I had done as much for my students as possible. Because there had never been a strike, most of the questions asked from others, or even my own self-pondering, were/was answered by the simple three word phrase my mother so detested if she asked questions, “I don’t know.” There was no template; there was no recipe card; and there were too many variables over which I had no control.

So Tuesday night I spent the last hours in my office tidying up, much like what you do before you go on vacation so you come home to a clean house. I also did the things I could to make sure that someone could not come in an easily take over my classes. I made sure to not do anything that would have gone against the admonishments and warnings from our provost. I went into my office one last time about 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning to make sure that I had everything I needed for about 10 days. Again, because I had neither an inkling nor an idea what to expect. I was up by 3:30  and I was nervous. Even though I had a better idea than many what was in place, as a member of both the Public Relations Committee and the Mobilization Committee, I still had little idea what to expect in terms of support on the campus or from the students. We had some indication of wide-spread support because the strike authorization vote that was above 93%, but it is one thing to vote, it is another thing to walk out and have no paycheck and no health insurance. We had also created a strike/picket line sign up with more than 2,000 slots to fill and they were all filled. These things seem to bode well for the chance of wide-spread support among colleagues, but there were other constituencies to consider, the most important being students and their parents. Would they realize our actions were about more than us wanting a raise or no change in our health insurance? The jury was still out on that one. There was the other audience for which there little doubt there would be no convincing or “winning,” if I can use that term, the local 30-second crowd. There is a long history of disenchantment between some of the local people and those “elitists” on the hill (that is the actual term that is regularly used). There is a bit of irony when largest employer of the county brings about 11.00 back into the community for every 1.00 earned. Bloomsburg would not really be much of the only town in Pennsylvania without those of us who work for the university, but also live within the community.

I experienced this disenchantment when a local member of the community named Rob referred to me as an “over-educated asshole” the morning the strike was to begin. When I let him know I was one of those educated assholes who would be striking, he told me “to get the fuck away from him.” Sorry if you are offended by this language, but I am merely repeating the exact quality of his discourse. Long-story-short of our communicative interaction was I did not back down and he got a bit exasperated. I must admit I was also, but I could manage it a bit better than he. What was interesting was Thursday, the following morning, I had breakfast at the diner and Jessica, the owner, asked if I had been involved in a verbal altercation at Dunkin’ Donut the previous morning early. I was stunned. She told me a local came in and noted that someone got in his face when he started smarting off. I should note that the owner and I spoke a second time and he, Bad Hombre, did admit that I spoke passionately, but not crudely. She said she knew it had to be me. What I learned in that moment was simple: there was more of my father in me than I might have realized. I had never stood up so vehemently for the union cause in my life. I had never found myself in a place to stand up for principle and be confronted by such an inappropriately-stated-disdain for what I am so passionate (my teaching). This “somewhat” closed-minded person not only had little idea what I do daily or weekly, he stated in his profanity-laced foolishness that he did not give a shit. Ultimately, it was the tone, his attempt to bully me, and his blatant disrespect that created such a comeback from me, one that not even I expected. I was reminded of what my older brother once told me about the laid-back man I knew as my father. He said on the job or when it was about his union membership, we was a very different person. I guess I have that piece in me also.

Wednesday was an astounding day. As we arrived at Carver Hall to begin picketing that first morning by 5:30 a.m., we were greeted by about 20 students, including two students from my Foundations course, Sam and Eric, to whom I offer this shout-out for coming out so early to support us. I walked at three of the 5 locations that first day and walked from 5:30 in the morning until about noon and then from 2:30-6:00 p.m. The entire day was a bit surreal because of the amazing support we received from so many people. To say that I am gratified and humbled by our amazing students does not come close to what I am feeling within me even today as I am trying to find some sense of normalcy. There were students, signs, bull-horns, chants, a band, drums, the campus radio station, honking horns, music, and a sense of camaraderie that I have never felt on the campus, and perhaps not in my entire life. Throughout that day there were so many people in front of Carver Hall and the energy was infectious.  Thursday I was asked to come in early again, but this time to take a post at the construction site on campus. Four of us stood under the ominous clouds waiting to see what would happen. The foreman for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and for the United Brotherhood of Operating Engineers took the time to speak with us and ask questions about our reason for striking. By 9:00 a.m. that morning pretty much all unionized trades unions had pulled their workers off the site. What a wonderful demonstration of support and union solidarity for us. As I noted in my last posting, my father was correct about the importance of union brothers and sisters standing together. I saw it in action and I hope you are proud of the stance we took this past week, Dad. Thursday was a long day,  but again between colleagues, phenomenal student support and knowing that 13 other universities were also standing strong, we soldiered on whatever the circumstance might be. Throughout the day more pizza, donuts, sandwiches and coffee continued to flow in reminding us of the support that was present for us. Wednesday’s student band and Thursday’s choir and the deaf students on campus, who were told they did not have the right to signing or an interpreter by Disability Services on campus because they had not given 24 hour notice, when they themselves were not given 24 hour notice of the hastily organized meetings on Wednesday by administration, were out in force and their collective voices were deafening. It was fabulous and we are grateful to the local news station, WBRE, for covering their story. By Friday we knew there was more rain coming, but it did nothing to deter our resolve to stand once again. I should note that Kristin Baver, the local reporter for the Press Enterprise, worked tirelessly to cover the changing story from early morning until we ended our picketing around 6:00 or so in the evening. Also on Thursday, more construction workers left the job, and now, in retrospect, there was more going on behind the scenes than we realized. Mid-morning Friday, a group of Bloomsburg students and a couple of faculty boarded a school bus for the Dixon Center in Harrisburg. We were met by colleagues from Shippensburg and Millersville as well as the amazing APSCUF staff. Bloomsburg students wer3e undeterred by the rain and they were outside the Dixon Center chanting loudly and continuously for their education. Once the rain opened with torrents, they went inside and requested an audience with Chancellor Brogan, himself. What they found out was there were two attorney’s ahead of them. Again, in retrospect, it appears, particularly because of what a student overheard, these attorneys were from the State System’s negotiating team and the end was in sight. There are a number of student to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude for their unswerving support. I was fortunate to get to know one in particular who took the time to drive around early in the morning in her little bug to deliver sustenance and a smile. She is small, but mighty. It might be easy to under-estimate her because she is a bit shy, but she is passionate and keenly aware of what is just and right. She also understands why it is so. She knows who she is and I am blessed to know her. As we returned to Bloom from Harrisburg, she spoke about returning on Monday in a business suit to meet with the Chancellor in person. She realized that rhetorically she needed to be taken seriously. Not your typical student. She reminds me of another student who has become such an important part of my life since returning from Poland last year. She sat with me today as I finished this blog. She is a phenomenal student and brilliant young person also. We returned to Bloom and arrived about an hour before we would hear that we had a new tentative contract. There is so much I could say about the three days more descriptively, but what I learned is solidarity and being honest about what matters makes a difference. I learned that standing in solidarity for something bigger than one’s self  matters and makes a difference. I learned once again that people who think about and believe in the value of education, both professors and students, can make a positive difference in the face of what seems to be pretty daunting odds. I learned that some things take more time than I wish they did and that a Governor’s support makes an unbelievable difference. To my former colleagues in Wisconsin, it is such a difference. Indeed, the professor learned a great deal this week. I need to give a shout out also to the wonderful owners and family of the Bloomsburg Diner. They have been more supportive than words will ever explain. I am honored to call the entire family, friends. Thanks John, Jessica, Amara, Luke, Ariel, and Lexi.

Today is the 23rd of October, so I actually am working on this for a second day. In 1988, on this day, and it was a Sunday, I was ordained as a Lutheran pastor at my little Lutheran Church in Sioux City Iowa. At that time, I believed I would spend the rest of my life as a parish pastor, and perhaps eventually a professor in a seminary. Well one of the two plans came to be, sort of. I did not expect to be a writing professor or the director of a digital rhetoric and professional writing program. There is an irony in location also because that first parish was in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, only about and hour and 20 minutes away. When I left the state in 1992 I did not believe I would ever come back. It is now the place I have lived the longest since I graduated from high school. That day, after my ordination service, I was so overwhelmed by what had just happened to me that I had to lie down and sleep. It seems like more than a lifetime ago that all of that happened. That twenty-eight years seems a century ago. I was so much more idealistic then. I believed so much more in the goodness of people. I believed that when one was helped or provided help, people were grateful and would respond in kind. While I am still a giver, I know all too well that people will take advantage of your graciousness. That has been a difficult lesson, but the professor continues to learn. As the day continues, I have a number of things to accomplish, but it is manageable. I sit and write with a sense of gratitude for what has been accomplished and for all the people who made a difference this past week and even, yes, in the past 28 years since I was in a different role.

It is back to work and thanks as always for reading.

Dr. Martin
Present Professor and Former Pastor
Proud Faculty Member of Bloomsburg University
Proud Member of APSCUF

Honoring my Father

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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 . . . 

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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

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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