Chat with the chief: The contract calamity

Like many other students preparing for the first day of the semester, there was a lot on my mind: What time do I have to wake up to make it to class on time? How many textbooks do I need to rent? Will I have any assignments due the first week of class?

However, there was one important thing that I didn’t even factor into my schedule: the possibility of a faculty strike over contract negotiations.

I had four classes canceled on Monday. Initially, I wasn’t too upset about it; it meant that I could sleep in a little bit and I didn’t have to come up with a fun fact for those first day ice-breakers.

However, as the day went on, I realized how many problems this strike was causing for so many students. For instance, I have friends in very rigorous programs, such as pharmacy and clinical laboratory science, that are on intense schedules that really can’t be manipulated. The cancellations caused some of these students to scramble and ponder the consequences of missing these classes, even though it wasn’t their fault.

To make everything more confusing, students received emails from Ferris administration prompting them to go to class. Students were advised to arrive to their lecture and wait 15 minutes before leaving if their professor doesn’t show. Some classes had sign-in sheets for students to prove that they attended. I did not follow this advice and I did not go to my canceled classes. I took my impromptu time off to get things done at work and, personally, I found it pointless to waste 30 minutes of my life going to class and waiting for a professor
who clearly said he wasn’t going to show.

I’d much rather spend this time being productive. After I, as well as many of my peers, did not attend their canceled classes, students received another email titled “IMPORTANT FINANCIAL AID NOTICE.” The message said students must participate in classes to receive financial aid and that professors must take attendance to record “initial participation” for their classes. The message was not overly detailed but what I interpreted was that if I didn’t attend my first lectures of the semester (which, I repeat, were not happening), I would lose my financial aid.

This was all because I didn’t show up and write my name on a damn sign-in sheet to prove that I sat in an empty room for 15 minutes and learned absolutely nothing. This is when I got mad. I tried to remain unbiased. I tried to hear from both sides of negotiations and weigh out the thought processes of both. Trust me, I did. But when the university seemingly threatens to strip me of my financial aid for something that has absolutely nothing to do with me, that’s when I draw the line. Ferris administration later clarified that the comment about initial participation had nothing to do with the strike and that such emails are required by the federal government to be sent out to students. Another email also said the initial participation day will be changed to compensate for class cancellations. However, this information came too long after the original email and students were already stressed and angry about the situation. And really, who can blame them?

This strike caused a lot of confusion and frustration for people on all sides of it but after hearing all of the facts, I support the Ferris Faculty Association. Some of the greatest people I’ve met throughout my college career were my professors. I wouldn’t be half the professional I am today without a group of educated, dedicated professors leading the way. Everyone deserves livable wages. Ferris simply could not function without its faculty and with professors playing such an important role in the lives of students, I find it absurd that the university is so unwilling to negotiate.

The university has money to spend on constructing new residence halls and renovating old buildings, and while these renovations are nice, they likely aren’t necessary. The university claims we need to make renovations to drive new students to campus. However, we’re less likely to get new students if our professors feel pressed to strike and aren’t teaching classes because they aren’t receiving appropriate wages. College is about getting an education, not about living in fancy residence halls.

Not to mention, President Eisler received almost half a million dollars in salary and reimbursement in 2017. I find it hard to believe that the university can manage to afford all of this but they can’t afford to negotiate a fair contract to benefit the faculty.

Instead of negotiating a fair contract with the FFA, the university drove the union to strike, which interrupted the campus community, and sent vague financial aid emails to students that freak them out and cause an uproar. Ferris could not function without its professors and yet the faculty was driven to strike because their requests, which I personally find to be reasonable, are being ignored.

You pay for what you get. If Ferris wants to underpay professors, then they’ll get under qualified professors. This has gone too far and I can’t blame faculty for their response.

I stand with the faculty. I think you should, too.