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Updated 10:00 AM April 12, 2004
 

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  Letters to the editor


'We're all in this together'—An open letter to fellow employees

On April 8, I didn't go to my office in East Quad. Instead, I joined those picketing around campus. I am not a lecturer; I am a staff coordinator in the Residential College.

Before I chose to honor the picket, I understood that the decision to support a strike is not an easy one. Ultimately, everyone has to make his or her own decision, and I respect this.

At the same time, I believe the fundamental issues the Lecturers' Employee Organization (LEO) is struggling for (basic job security, living wages and consistent, affordable health care) are not individual at all—but fundamentally collective in nature. As the saying goes, "We're all in this together."

Indeed, we all work for the same employer, no matter what our specific job title, department, etc., is. How the University chooses to negotiate (or not negotiate) with one set of employees is directly related to how they might negotiate (or not) with another set of employees in the future—whether union or not.

Personally, with a wife and 20-month-old child, I am very concerned about my health care benefits. I think the University is setting a very dangerous precedent by the way it is attempting to explain and handle the problem of increased health care costs. It is not at all unlikely that future raises we may (or may not) secure will be swallowed entirely by increased medical insurance premium costs to employees. With everything else staying equal, this would mean net pay-cuts each year instead of raises.

As well, I am troubled that U-M is one of the few public universities around the country that does not offer tuition discounts to the spouses and dependents of employees. By the time my wife has finished her master's program here, my family will have accumulated enough student loans to greatly exceed my annual income! The University could easily (and quite cost-effectively, when compared to actual monetary compensation) offer tuition discounts to family members of any University employee. This would benefit everyone.

I realize that work-related conflicts are fraught with tension and awkwardness. With everything we have to do for our jobs each day, it is tempting to want to remain neutral. Unfortunately, I don't think this is possible.

We are "all in this together." And by that, I mean working toward the same overarching goal—to create the best possible public learning community. But this community includes us as U-M employees, as much as it does anyone else. We all deserve job security, living wages and guaranteed health care coverage.

I believe—and ask you to join me—the best way to demonstrate our support for this honorable civic goal is to join all efforts by University employees to organize unions and secure fair contracts that represent their interests. Right now, LEO is asking for our support. Who knows, tomorrow we may be asking for theirs.

On 'Diversity: Changing the subject'

I salute J. David Velleman for his piece "Diversity: Changing the Subject" (Record, March 8, p. 6). We have not heard nearly enough lately about the values he reminds us of—besides diversity. He says: "...there are many goods in an academic community, and some of them are far more important than diversity. Access to information, freedom of expression, respect for reason and evidence, sources of inspiration and innovation—goods such as these are essential to a university. Without them, no institution can rightly claim to be a university at all. Diversity enhances the educational benefits derived from these goods, but it is ancillary to them, not essential." Here is a brave voice of sensitivity and sanity. Should we not hold these truths, now that he has enunciated them, as self-evident?

P.S. You might say that what he says above goes without saying. It has gone without saying for some months, even years, now. It seems time once again to say it. All this is not to understate the importance of diversity and affirmative action. Instead it is to restore perspective.

The University Record welcomes letters from members of the University community. Those on topics of broad University interest will be given preference for publication. Letters should be no more than 500 words and must be signed. The editorial staff reserves the right to reject any letter and to edit and/or condense letters for publication. The staff also reserves the right to limit the number of letters submitted by the same individual. Letters may appear in small type. Organizations submitting material must include the name and address of an appropriate officer. Letters must be received by noon Wednesday to receive consideration for publication in the next issue.

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